A scientist is no more a collector and classifier of facts than a historian is a man who complies and classifies a chronology of the dates of great battles and major discoveries.
(with Jean Medawar), Aristotle to Zoos: A Philosophical Dictionary of Biology (1985)
The similarity between them is not the taxonomic key to some other, deeper, affinity, and our recognizing its existence marks the end, not the inauguration, of a train of thought.Peter Medawar
Simultaneous discovery is utterly commonplace, and it was only the rarity of scientists , not the inherent improbability of the phenomenon, that made it remarkable in the past. Scientists on the same road may be expected to arrive at the same destination, often not far apart.Peter Medawar
If politics is the art of the possible, research is surely the art of the soluble. Both are immensely practical-minded affairs.Peter Medawar
Scientific discovery is a private event, and the delight that accompanies it, or the despair of finding it illusory, does not travel. One scientist may get great satisfaction from another’s work and admire it deeply; it may give him great intellectual pleasure; but it gives him no sense of participation in the discovery, it does not carry him away, and his appreciation of it does not depend on his being carried away. If it were otherwise the inspirational origin of scientific discovery would never have been in doubt.Peter Medawar
The purpose of scientific enquiry is not to compile an inventory of factual information, nor to build up a totalitarian world picture of natural Laws in which every event that is not compulsory is forbidden. We should think of it rather as a logically articulated structure of justifiable beliefs about nature.Peter Medawar
We shall not read it for its sociological insights, which are non-existent, nor as science fiction, because it has a general air of implausibility; but there is one high poetic fancy in the New Atlantis that stays in the mind after all its fancies and inventions have been forgotten. In the New Atlantis, an island kingdom lying in very distant seas, the only commodity of external trade is light: Bacon's own special light, the light of understanding.Peter Medawar
It is the great glory as well as the great threat of science that everything which is in principle possible can be done if the intention to do it is sufficiently resolute.Peter Medawar
I once spoke to a human geneticist who declared that the notion of intelligence was quite meaningless, so I tried calling him un intelligent. He was annoyed, and it did not appease him when I went on to ask how he came to attach such a clear meaning to the notion of lack of intelligence. We never spoke again.Peter Medawar
Observation is the generative act in scientific discovery. For all its aberrations, the evidence of the senses is essentially to be relied upon provided we observe nature as a child does, without prejudices and preconceptions, but with that clear and candid vision which adults lose and scientists must strive to regain.Peter Medawar
I do not believe indeed, I deem it a comic blunder to believe that the exercise of reason is sufficient to explain our condition and where necessary to remedy it, but I do believe that the exercise of reason is at all times necessary...Peter Medawar
When asked to make the formal declaration that I did not intend to overthrow the Constitution of the United States, I was fool enough to reply that I had no such purpose, but that were I to do it by mistake I should be inexpressibly contrite.Peter Medawar
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