Exact science

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Fragment of a Greek papyrus from the 2nd century C.E., scanned from The Exact Sciences in Antiquity by O. Neugenbauer.

An exact science is any field of science capable of accurate quantitative expression or precise predictions and rigorous methods of testing hypotheses, especially reproducible experiments involving quantifiable predictions and measurements.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

  • The subjective element in geological studies accounts for two characteristic types that can be distinguished among geologists. One considering geology as a creative art, the other regarding geology as an exact science.
  • Founder of exact modern science though he was, Kepler combined with his exact methods and indeed found his motivation for them in certain long discredited superstitions, including what it is not unfair to describe as sunworship.
    • Edwin Arthur Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (1925)
  • Anthropology is never an exact science; the observer never experiences the same culture as the participant.
  • Never mind what two tons refers to. What is it? How has it entered in so definite a way into our experience? Two tons is the reading of the pointer when the elephant was placed on a weighing machine. Let us pass on. … And so we see that the poetry fades out of the problem, and by the time the serious application of exact science begins we are left only with pointer readings.
    • Arthur Eddington The Nature of the Physical World, (1928), p. 252: Ch. 7 Pointer Readings
  • The whole subject-matter of exact science consists of pointer readings and similar indications.

G - L

  • Whatever Hitler may ultimately prove to be, we know what Hitlerism has come to mean, It means naked, ruthless force reduced to an exact science and worked with scientific precision. In its effect it becomes almost irresistible.
    Hitlerism will never be defeated by counter-Hitlerism. It can only breed superior Hitlerism raised to nth degree. What is going on before our eyes is the demonstration of the futility of violence as also of Hitlerism.
    What will Hitler do with his victory? Can he digest so much power? Personally he will go as empty-handed as his not very remote predecessor Alexander. For the Germans he will have left not the pleasure of owning a mighty empire but the burden of sustaining its crushing weight. For they will not be able to hold all the conquered nations in perpetual subjection. And I doubt if the Germans of future generations will entertain unadulterated pride in the deeds for which Hitlerism will be deemed responsible. They will honour Herr Hitler as genius, as a brave man, a matchless organizer and much more. But I should hope that the Germans of the future will have learnt the art of discrimination even about their heroes. Anyway I think it will be allowed that all the blood that has been spilled by Hitler has added not a millionth part of an inch to the world’s moral stature.
    • Mahatma Gandhi Harijan (22 June 1940), after Nazi victories resulting in the occupation of France.
  • The invention of logarithms and the calculation of the earlier tables form a very striking episode in the history of exact science, and, with the exception of the Principia of Newton, there is no mathematical work published in the country which has produced such important consequences, or to which so much interest attaches as to Napier’s Descriptio.
  • Logic is not only an exact science, but is the most simple and elementary of all sciences; it ought therefore undoubtedly to find some place in every course of education.
  • In reality, there is no such thing as an exact science.
  • The Pythagorean dream of musical harmony governing the motion of the stars never lost its mysterious impact, its power to call forth responses from the depth of the unconscious mind. ...But, one might ask, was the "Harmony of the Spheres" a poetic conceit or a scientific concept. A working hypothesis or a dream dreamt through a mystic's ear? ...Even Aristotle laughed "harmony, heavenly harmony" out of the courts of earnest, exact science. Yet... Johannes Kepler became enamoured with the Pythagorean dream, and on this foundation of fantasy, by methods of reasoning equally unsound, built the solid edifice of modern astronomy. It is one of the most astonishing episodes in the history of thought, and an antidote to the pious belief that the Progress of Science is governed by logic.
    • Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe (1959, 1963)

M - R

  • And is there no possibility that there was a period, and several periods, when man existed, and yet was not an organic being — therefore could not have left any vestige of himself for exact science? Spirit leaves no skeletons or fossils behind, and yet few are the men on earth who doubt that man can live both objectively and subjectively. At all events, the theology of the Brahmans, hoary with antiquity, and which divides the formative periods of the earth into four ages, and places between each of these a lapse of 1,728,000 years, far more agrees with official science and modern discovery than the absurd chronological notions promulgated by the Councils of Nice and Trent.
  • I do hate sums, There is no greater mistake than to call arithmetic an exact science. There are Permutations and Aberrations discernible to minds entirely noble like mine; subtle variations which ordinary accountants fail to discover; hidden laws of Numbers which it requires a mind like mine to perceive. For instance, if you add a sum from the bottom up, and then again from the top down, the result is always different.
    • Maria Price La Touche, The Letters of a Noble Woman (1908), ed. Margaret Ferrier Young, letter dated July 1878, p. 49 (quoted in Mathematical Gazette, Vol. 12, 1924)

S - Z

  • Conditions are admittedly such that we can always manage to make do in each concrete individual case without the two different aspects leading to different expectations as to the result of certain experiments. We cannot, however, manage to make do with such old, familiar, and seemingly indispensable terms as "real" or "only possible"; we are never in a position to say what really is or what really happens, but we can only say what will be observed in any concrete individual case. Will we have to be permanently satisfied with this...? On principle, yes. On principle, there is nothing new in the postulate that in the end exact science should aim at nothing more than the description of what can really be observed. The question is only whether from now on we shall have to refrain from tying description to a clear hypothesis about the real nature of the world. There are many who wish to pronounce such abdication even today. But I believe that this means making things a little too easy for oneself.
    • Erwin Schrödinger, "The Fundamental Idea of Wave Mechanics", Nobel lecture, (12 December 1933)

See also

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