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Almost in the beginning was curiosity.
Every hour a scientist spends trying to raise funds is an hour lost from
important thought and research.
"Research" means "to search again." Why not? Sometimes, a
new interpretation emerges that is of vast importance.
The quick harvest of applied science is the usable process, the medicine, the
machine. The shy fruit of pure science is Understanding.
Lincoln Barnett, Life (January 9, 1950)
Truth is the aim of all research, no matter how sharply this truth may
conflict with our social, ethical, and political conditions. This is the
unifying bond of the modern university.
Christian Albert Theodor Billroth
Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.
Wernher von Braun
In research the front line is almost always in a fog.
Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal
View of Scientific Discovery (1988)
When I was a medical student, and a patient came to the hospital with a heart
attack, things were mostly up to God. Today, there's a better than 95 percent
chance to survive. Now that all comes from research.
The unfortunate things is that there are people, even some scientists, who look at the money that goes to NASA and say, you know, we could use that money to support out work. That's very shortsighted. The more research that's done in any area of science, the better off everyone is going to be. The more that's done in physics, the better off I am in cardiology. There's no better investment for a society than research.
Michael E. DeBakey, "Surviving in Space"
(National Geographic, January 2000)
Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand
things that won't work.
If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would
The final results [of his work on the theory of relativity] appear almost
simple; any intelligent undergraduate can understand them without much trouble.
But the years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels, but cannot
express; the intense effort and the alternations of confidence and misgiving,
until one breaks through to clarity and understanding, are only known to him who
has himself experienced them.
The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its
solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To
raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle
requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.
In this fashion, knowledge begets questions which beget new technology which
provides answers — which in turn beget questions. This is the implacable
carousel of research.
Richard Fortey, Earth: An Intimate History (2004)
If we want an answer from nature, we must put our questions in acts, not
words, and the acts may take us to curious places. Some questions were answered
in the laboratory, others in mines, others in a hospital where a surgeon pushed
tubes in my arteries to get blood samples, others on top of Pike's Peak in the
Rocky Mountains, or in a diving dress on the bottom of the sea. That is one of
the things I like about scientific research. You never know where it will take
J. B. S. [John Burdon Sanderson] Haldane
Whoever, in the pursuit of science, seeks after immediate practical utility,
may generally rest assured that he will seek in vain.
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz,
Academic discourse (1862)
Who never walks save where he sees men's tracks makes no discoveries.
J. G. Holland
Why think? Why not try the experiment?
John Hunter, letter to Edward Jenner
Research! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, and will never
achieve any results of the slightest value.
The best person to decide what research shall be done is the man who is doing
the research. The next best is the head of the department. After that you leave
the field of best persons and meet increasingly worse groups. The first of these
is the research director, who is probably wrong more than half the time. Then
comes a committee which is wrong most of the time. Finally there is a committee
of company vice-presidents, which is wrong all the time.
Charles Edward Kenneth Mees, Biographical Memoirs
of Fellows of the Royal Society 1961, 7, 182
Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research.
For God's sake, stop researching for a while and begin to think.
Sir Walter Hamilton Moberly, The Crisis in the University (1949)
It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking
after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.
Scientific discovery and scientific knowledge have been achieved only by
those who have gone in pursuit of them without any practical purpose whatsoever
I didn't think; I experimented.
We haven't the money, so we've got to think.
Ernest Rutherford, in R. V. Jones, Bulletin of
the Institute of Physics 1962, 13, 102
You can create life in the bathtub, easy. Mix twelve dozen cartons of Jell-O
in your bathtub, run 220 volts of electricity through it, and there you are.
Science even has a hunch that this is probably how all life itself began. . . .
Psychologists might waste their time and ours by wondering why anyone in his
right mind would want to electrocute a gelatinous blob, but it is only by saying
no to the rules and yes to the impulse that real beginnings are made.
Dr. Science (with Dan Coffey and Merle Kessler),
Dr. Science's Book of Shocking Domestic Revelations
Research is fundamentally a state of mind involving continual reexamination
of doctrines and axioms upon which current thought and action are based. It is,
therefore, critical of existing practices.
The joy of research must be found in doing, since every other harvest is
The really important breakthroughs are always unpredictable. It is their very
unpredictability that makes them important: they change our world in ways we
didn't see coming. ... There is nothing wrong with goal-oriented research as a
way of achieving specific feasible goals. But the dreamers and the mavericks
must be allowed some free rein, too. Our world is not static: new problems
constantly arise, and old answers often stop working. Like Lewis Carroll's Red
Queen, we must run very fast in order to stand still.
Ian Stewart, Nature's Numbers: The Unreal
Reality of Mathematics (1995)
If any student comes to me and says he wants to be useful to mankind and go
into research to alleviate human suffering, I advise him to go into charity
instead. Research wants real egotists who seek their own pleasure and
satisfaction, but find it in solving the puzzles of nature.
Research means going out into the unknown with the hope of finding something
new to bring home. If you know in advance what you are going to do, or even to
find there, then it is not research at all: then it is only a kind of honourable
Albert Szent-Györgi, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine (1971)
In science in general, one characteristic feature is the awareness of error
in the selection and pursuit of a problem. This is the most commonplace of
criteria: if a scientist is going to engage in research of any kind, he has to
have it on his mind, from the outset, that he may be on to a dud. You can tell a
world-class scientist from the run-of-the-mill investigator by the speed with
which he recognizes that he is heading into a blind alley. Blind alleys and
garden paths leading nowhere are the principal hazards in research.
Lewis Thomas, Late Night Thoughts on Listening
to Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1983)
This example illustrates the differences in the effects which may be produced
by research in pure or applied science. A research on the lines of applied
science would doubtless have led to improvement and development of the older
methods — the research in pure science has given us an entirely new and much
more powerful method. In fact, research in applied science leads to reforms,
research in pure science leads to revolutions, and revolutions, whether
political or industrial, are exceedingly profitable things if you are on the
Sir Joseph John Thomson, quoted in
Lord Rayleigh, J. J. Thomson (1943)
If a research project is not worth doing at all, it is not worth doing
Unknown, Journal of Irreproducible Results 1961, 9, 43
The outcome of any serious research can only be to make two questions grow
where only one grew before.
Thorstein Veblen, The Place of Science in Modern
Civilization and Other Essays (1919)
Lost in a gloom of uninspired research.
William Wordsworth, The Excursion, Book 4