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quotations about discovery

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

ANDRE GIDE, The Counterfeiters

It is only those who are in constant revolt that discover what is true, not the man who conforms, who follows some tradition. It is only when you are constantly inquiring, constantly observing, constantly learning, that you find truth, God, or love.

JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI, Think on These Things

The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, Parerga and Paralipomena

The real discovery is the one which enables me to stop doing philosophy when I want to—the one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself into question.

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN, Philosophical Investigations

All we discover has been with us since the sun began to roll; and much we discover, is not worth the discovering.


We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring at us in private while we have been making up our world entirely without it.

GEORGE ELIOT, Middlemarch

Strong communities ... embrace change. New discoveries require us to think differently and approach things differently, to think anew.

TOM VILSACK, speech, Jan. 10, 2006

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

MARCEL PROUST, "The Captive," Remembrance of Things Past

Everything that we call Invention or Discovery in the higher sense of the word is the serious exercise and activity of an original feeling for truth, which, after a long course of silent cultivation, suddenly flashes out into fruitful knowledge.

JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE, The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe

Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.

CHUCK PALAHNIUK, Invisible Monsters

Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.


It is easy to discover what another has discovered before.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, attributed, Day's Collacon

Discoveries are always accidental; and the great use of science is by investigating the nature of the effects produced by any process or contrivance, and of the causes by which they are brought about, to explain the operation and determine the precise value of every new invention. This fixes as it were the latitude and longitude of each discovery, and enables us to place it in that part of the map of human knowledge which it ought to occupy. It likewise enables us to use it in taking bearings and distances, and in shaping our course when we go in search of new discoveries.

BENJAMIN GRAF VON RUMFORD, The Collected Works of Count Rumford

They are ill discoverers that think there is no land when they can see nothing but sea.

FRANCIS BACON, Advancement of Learning

As time goes on, new and remoter aspects of truth are discovered, which can seldom or never be fitted into creeds that are changeless.

CLARENCE DAY, This Simian World

Sometimes a clearly defined error is the only way to discover the truth.

BENJAMIN WIKER, The Mystery of the Periodic Table

Often, in great discovery the most important thing is that a certain question is found.

MAX WERTHEIMER, Productive Thinking

Discovery follows discovery, each both raising and answering questions, each enduring a long search, and each providing the new instruments for a new search.

J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER, "Prospects in the Arts and Sciences," Fifty Great Essays

The most valuable discoveries have found their origin in the most trivial accidents.

PLINY, attributed, Day's Collacon

This world of sense, built by the imagination--how fair and foul it is! Like a fairy island in the sea of life, it smiles in sunlight and sleeps in green, known of the world not by communion of knowledge, but by personal, secret discovery!


All great discoveries are made by men whose feelings run ahead of their thinkings.

CHARLES H. PARKHURST, The Pattern in the Mount and Other Sermons

No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.

ISAAC NEWTON, attributed, The Art of Scientific Investigation

History shows that new discoveries are always just over the horizon.

HARRY LEVINE, Medical Imaging

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, its continents, and the ocean was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.

DANIEL BOORSTIN, attributed, Toolkit for College Success

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.

ALBERT SZENT-GYORGYI, Yoga Journal, Sep-Oct. 1987

A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the unsolved ones.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, address at Milwaukee, Wisconson, Sep. 30, 1859

It is a mortifying truth, and ought to teach the wisest of us humility, that many of the most valuable discoveries have been the result of chance, rather than of contemplation, and of accident rather than of design.

CHARLES CALEB COLTON, Lacon; Or, Many Things in Few Words

Although there are discoveries which are said to have been made by accident, if carefully inquired into, it will be found that there has really been very little that was accidental about them. For the most part, these so-called accidents have only been opportunities, carefully improved by genius. The fall of the apple at Newton's feet has often been quoted in proof of the accidental character of some discoveries. But Newton's whole mind had already been devoted for years to the laborious and patient investigation of the subject of gravitation; and the circumstance of the apple falling before his eyes was suddenly apprehended only as genius could apprehend it, and served to flash upon him the brilliant discovery then opening to his sight.


Every symbol, word, concept, discipline and field is only a temporary rest stop on the highway of discovery.

BRYANT MCGILL, Voice of Reason


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