Albert Szent-Györgyi

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A. Szent-Györgyi, 1948

Albert Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápolt (September 16, 1893October 22, 1986) was a Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937. He is credited with discovering vitamin C and the components and reactions of the citric acid cycle. He was also active in the Hungarian Resistance during World War II and entered Hungarian politics after the war.


  • Mi è impossibile cingere i fianchi di una ragazza con il mio braccio destro e serrare il suo sorriso nella mia mano sinistra, per poi tentare di studiare i due oggetti separatamente. Allo stesso modo, non ci è possibile separare la vita dalla materia vivente, allo scopo di studiare la sola materia vivente e le sue reazioni. Inevitabilmente, studiando la materia vivente e le sue reazioni, studiamo la vita stessa.
    • It is impossible to encircle the hips of a girl with my right arm and hold her smile in my left hand, then proceed to study the two items separately. Similarly, we can not separate life from living matter, in order to study only living matter and its reactions. Inevitably, studying living matter and its reactions, we study life itself
    • The Nature of Life, Academic press, 1948.
  • [When I joined the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton] I did this in the hope that by rubbing elbows with those great atomic physicists and mathematicians I would learn something about living matters. But as soon as I revealed that in any living system there are more than two electrons, the physicists would not speak to me. With all their computers they could not say what the third electron might do. The remarkable thing is that it knows exactly what to do. So that little electron knows something that all the wise men of Princeton don't, and this can only he something very simple.
  • When I received the Nobel Prize, the only big lump sum of money I have ever seen, I had to do something with it. The easiest way to drop this hot potato was to invest it, to buy shares. I knew that World War II was coming and I was afraid that if I had shares which rise in case of war, I would wish for war. So I asked my agent to buy shares which go down in the event of war. This he did. I lost my money and saved my soul.
  • 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.
    • Attributed to Szent-Györgyi by w:Gerald Holton (1978); cited in: Robert Cohen (1985) The Development of spatial cognition. p. 363.
  • "Research is to see what everybody has seen and think what nobody has thought."
    • Albert Szent-Györgyi (1957), Academic Press. Bioenergetics Part II: Biological structures and functions, p. 57
  • Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.
    • Attributed to Szent-Györgyi in: IEEE (1985) Bridging the present and the future: IEEE Professional Communication Society conference record, Williamsburg, Virginia, October 16-18, 1985. p. 14.
  • I am not religious, but I am a pious man... A religious man has a definite religion. He says "God is there" or "God is there," "God is there." "Your god is not my god, and that's all." But the pious man, he just looks out with awe, and says, "where is God?" And "well, I don't understand it and I would like to know what this creation really means." That is a pious man, who is really touched by the greatness of nature and of the creation.

The Crazy Ape (1970)


: Written by a Biologist for the Young A Source.

  • It is probably this dual code of morals which underlies the break in... many leading politicians who begin their political efforts with the desire to improve the lot of their fellow men. Once they reach the top they tend to exchange their individual code of morals for the collective one... to serve abstract ideas, which have little to do with their people's well being, and they make war.
  • Collective human suffering easily becomes an abstraction... being unable to multiply death or suffering by 100,000. This... is a number, an abstraction. One death is a tragedy. 100,000 deaths are statistics. So it must also seem to men in high offices.
  • From on high a human life must look very small, a notion that moved Walt Whitman to sing about the arrogance and audacity of elected government officials. ...Unfortunately, this collective code of morals... [w]e all share... as soon as... we participate in government... when we go to the polls to elect hawks and vote the endless billions for war and... formidable machines for killing and destruction, and then go to church and ask for God's blessing.
  • Between the two world wars, at the heydey of Colonialism, force reigned supreme. ...[I]t was natural for the weaker to lie down before the stronger. ...Gandhi, chasing out of his country... the greatest military power on earth... taught the world that there are higher things than force, higher even than life... [H]e proved that force had lost its suggestive power... information which did not reach the Pentagon or the government: we cannot win in win in Viet Nam because the people are willing to die faster than we can kill them.
  • DNA... is the most wonderful thing in the world... Mankind went through epidemics, famine, and...trials, yet nature kept this... intact, because all life depends on it. ...[M]an has found a means to damage it. High energy radiation does so. ...There may survivors after after an atomic war, but those... will be unable to produce a healthy progeny. Their progeny will be beset by abnormalities, monstrosities and diseases... and there will be no way back.
  • The primary aim of science is to find... new truth. The search is the more successful the more it is directed towards... truth for its own sake, regardless of... possible use or application. ...If everything given to us by research were to be taken away, civilization would collapse and we would stand naked, searching for caves again.
  • Even pure truth, which has no application... elevates life.
  • Science is life-oriented. ...[A]rmies and armaments are death-oriented. Armies are instruments of organized manslaughter... All its tools are the tools of death... instruments of killing. ...[A] society dominated by the military is death-centered, as pointed out by George Wald in his famous Moratorium Speech.
  • Out children came into this world with "clean and empty minds." What they learn... is markedly different from... children of the pre-War world. Today's adults look... through glasses of pre-War and pre-scientific values. They think... all the world needs a little bit of patching... The result... we get deeper... into trouble. The modern scientific revolution had made all human institutions age faster... as a consequence we have a hypocritical world... Our youth rejects this anachronism wholesale. ...They find everything a lie. The great political parties... out for profit and power, the military for domination, fattening itself with their young bodies... churches preaching love but raising no voice against the slaughter of undeveloped people... driving the world toward overpopulation... resisting family planning... always on the side of power. And they see while half of the children of the world go to sleep hungry... we spend hundreds of billions to raise our stack of nuclear bombs and missiles... They see... most political leaders... mindful only of... re-election... keeping power... with arguments which should be rejected by the simplest logic, refuting the great ideals on which our country was built.
  • [T]here is only one medicine that will be effective against drug use: a livible, a restoration of faith in life—its dignity, value and longevity. Police raids and jail terms are not the answer.
  • I am not dreaming of a Utopia, only of a world in which problems are not resolved by force but by intelligence, good will and equity; a world in which killing, no matter the reason, and the destruction of a fellow man's life or home, is a crime; a world in which our youth in which our youth will not have to spend their years studying organized manslaughter, in which neither force nor megatons nor poison gases will decide a nation's standing but the sum of its knowledge, its ethics, the gifts it makes to mankind, the happiness it gives to men, the measure in which it lifts human life.
  • The battle... is for the minds of men; the outcome... does not depend on numbers of missiles, but on the question of which system can raise life higher, give more happiness... and raise the great undeveloped masses out of their misery. ...Now there are two parties: democracy and communism. Why not embark on a noble competition by showing which... can create a better, freer, happier life?
  • [B]rutalizing wars and military life... are capable of turning decent fellows into mass murderers who can shoot women and children down in cold blood.
  • Psalmus Humanus
    My Lord, Who are You? ...
    Are you the Universe itself?
    Or the Law which Ruled it? ...
    Are you the maker, or did I shape You,
    That I may share my loneliness and shun my responsibility?
    God! ...I am calling to You, for I am in trouble,
    Frightened of myself and my fellow men! ...
    • Written 1964, subsequently recorded to musical accompaniment composed and played by Agi Jambor.

Quotes about Albert Szent-Györgyi

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