Dionysius Lardner

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The beginnings of science have often the appearance of chance.

Dionysius Lardner (April 3, 1793April 29, 1859) was an Irish scientific writer who popularised science and technology, and edited the 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopedia.


  • In this science the illustrations and examples are not confined in their effect merely to the practice they afford in the analytical art, but [...] they also store the mind with independent geometrical and physical knowledge. Besides, it should be considered, that the only effectual method of impressing abstract formulae and rules upon the memory, and, indeed, of making them fully and clearly apprehended by the understanding, is by examples of their practical application.
  • The beginnings of science have often the appearance of chance. A felicitous accident throws a certain natural fact under the notice of an inquiring and philosophic mind. Attention is awakened and investigation provoked. Similar phenomena under varied circumstances are eagerly sought for; and if in the natural course of events they do not present themselves, circumstances are designedly arranged so as to bring about their production. The seeds of science are thus sown, and soon begin to germinate.


  • "Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia."
    • While widely quoted as an example of failed predictions about technological progress and attributed to Lardner, there are no known citations of this line prior to 1980 and it does not seem to appear in his published works.

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