Over the years I’ve collected quotes from people who are.

I always like quotes, because they are atoms of knowledge, quick and dirty ways to understand the world we only have one life to explore. To some extent, they axioms of life in that they are true and never require an explanation (otherwise they wouldn’t be quotations.)

Here’s a bunch of quotes that I found particularly interesting, starting with my absolute favorite quote comes from the great Paul Valery:

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us. – Paul Valery

On research — trial and error

Basic research is like shooting an arrow into the air and, where it lands, painting a target.
-Homer Burton Adkins

A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.
– Thomas A. Edison

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
– Thomas Edison

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth
– Jules Verne

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
– Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931)

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.
– Niels Bohr

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.
– Sam Levenson

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.
– Jim Horning

A couple of months in the laboratory can frequently save a couple of hours in the library.
– Frank Westheimer

The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another.
– J. Frank Dobie

Nothing can be so amusingly arrogant as a young man who has just discovered an old idea and thinks it is his own.
– Sidney J. Harris

One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
– Andre Gide

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
– Yogi Berra

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
– Goethe

On logic and reason

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
– Aristotle

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.
– Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Saying what we think gives us a wider conversational range than saying what we know.
– Cullen Hightower

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right
– Hunter S Thompson

Anything not worth doing is worth not doing well. Think about it.
– Elias Schwartz

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.
– Richard Feynman

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.
– Thomas H. Huxley

Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful
– George Box

If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people
– David Mitchell

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
– Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Nothing has an uglier look to us than reason, when it is not on our side.
– Halifax

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
— Dr. Seuss

On complexity

There are two ways to slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.
– Alfred Korzybski

The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.
– Frank Herbert

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.
– Poul Anderson

Asking the right questions is more important than answering them
– Cantor

Asking the right questions is as important as answering them
– Benoit Mandelbrot

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.
– Bertrand Russell

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.
– Edwin Schlossberg

Never confuse movement with action.
– Ernest Hemingway

The plural of anecdotes is not data
– Ben Goldacre

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.
– Bertrand Russell

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stones, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.
– Henri Poincare

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
– Albert Einstein

There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.
– Don Herold

On human relations

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.
– Plato

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.
– Bertrand Russell

Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.
– Christopher Lasch

It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.
– Isaac Asimov

Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.
– Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A sense of duty is useful in work, but offensive in personal relations. People wish to be liked, not be endured with patient resignation.
– Bertrand Russell

Charm is a way of getting the answer yes without asking a clear question.
-Albert Camus

Charm is the quality in others that makes us more satisfied with ourselves.
– Henri-Frédéric Amiel

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
– Harry S Truman

Whenever two people meet, there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.
– William James

A compromise is the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece.
– Ludwig Erhard

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
– Voltaire

Against Luddites

I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.
– George Burns

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
– Isaac Asimov

Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.
– James F. Byrnes

The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealised past.
– Robertson Davies

Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science.
– Betrand Russell

To do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.
– Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

On normality

Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.
– Edith Sitwell

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
– Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
– George Bernard Shaw

It is not worth an intelligent man’s time to be in the majority. By definition, there are already enough people to do that.
– G. H. Hardy

When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
– Jonathan Swift

I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.
– Terry Pratchett

The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

The follies which a man regrets most, in his life, are those which he didn’t commit when he had the opportunity.
– Helen Rowland

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled sea of thought.
– John Kenneth Galbraith

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
– Oscar Wilde

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
– Albert Camus

There’s no secret about success. Did you ever know a successful man who didn’t tell you about it?
– Kin Hubbard

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.
– Oscar Wilde

It is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.
– Aristotle

On progress

Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.
– Robert A. Heinlein

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.
– Arthur Koestler

Each problem that I solved became a rule which served afterwards to solve other problems.
– Rene Descartes

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.
– Kurt Vonnegut

The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.
– George Eliot

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
– Arthur Schopenhauer

Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
– Malcolm Forbes

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

On idleness

The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.
– Paul Fix

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.
– Victor Hugo

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
– Bertrand Russell

Doing nothing is very hard to do … you never know when you’re finished.
– Leslie Nielsen

On Humanity

I think that one possible definition of our modern culture is that it is one in which nine-tenths of our intellectuals can’t read any poetry.
– Randall Jarrell

Poetic knowledge is born in the great silence of scientific knowledge.
– Aimé Césaire

My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?
– Charles M. Schulz

People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive.
– Joseph Campbell (The power of myth)

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.
– Eric Hoffer

I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still in a room.
– Blaise Pascal

There are two cardinal sins from which all others spring: Impatience and Laziness.
– Franz Kafka

Le vice fondamental, celui de la paresse deguisee en integrite.
– Hank Harrisson

An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
– H. L. Mencken

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.
– Abraham Lincoln

The world only goes round by misunderstanding.
– Charles Baudelaire

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.
– H. P. Lovecraft