James Gleick

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James Gleick in 2016

James Gleick (born August 1, 1954) is an American author, journalist and biographer whose best-selling books include The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood and Chaos: Making a New Science.


  • Amid the vast modern network of universities, corporate laboratories, and national science foundations has arisen an awareness that the best financed and best organized of research enterprises have not learned to engender, perhaps not even to recognize, world-tuning originality.
    • James Gleick (1992). Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman. Vintage Books
  • Computer programs are the most intricate, delicately balanced and finely interwoven of all the products of human industry to date. They are machines with far more moving parts than any engine: the parts don't wear out, but they interact and rub up against one another in ways the programmers themselves cannot predict.
    • James Gleick (2002). What just happened: a chronicle from the information frontier, p. 19 cited in: George Stepanek (2005), Software Project Secrets: Why Software Projects Fail, p. 10
  • It was God who breathed life into matter and inspired its many textures and processes. ...Rather than turn away from what he could not explain, he plunged in more deeply. ...There were forces in nature that he would not be able to understand mechanically, in terms of colliding billiard balls or swirling vortices. They were vital, vegetable, sexual forces—invisible forces of spirit and attraction. Later, it had been Newton, more than any other philosopher, who effectively purged science of the need to resort to such mystical qualities. For now, he needed them.
    • James Gleick, Isaac Newton (2003)

Chaos: Making a New Science, 1987[edit]

James Gleick (1987) Chaos: Making a New Science. Viking Penguin.

  • Chaotic theory is mathematically based on non-linear propositions, "meaning that they expressed relationships that were not strictly proportional. Linear relationships can be captured with a straight line on a graph"
    • p. 23 as cited in John A. Rush (1996), Clinical Anthropology: An Application of Anthropological Concepts, p. 75
  • Linear relationships can be captured with a straight line on a graph. Linear relationships are easy to think about....Linear equations are solvable... Linear systems have an important modular virtue: you can take them apart, and put them together again — the pieces add up.
    • p. 23 as cited in: James R. Hansen (2004), Trees of Texas: An Easy Guide to Leaf Identification, p. 246
    • Hanssen commented: "Following distinctions between linear and nonlinear systems from James Gleick's 1987 book on chaos theory may be helpful."
  • In the thousands of articles that made up the technical literature of chaos, few were cited more often than "Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow." For years, no single object would inspire more illustrations, even motion pictures, than the mysterious curve depicted at the end, the double spiral that became known as the Lorenz attractor.
  • Science would be ruined if (like sports) it were to put competition above everything else, and if it were to clarify the rules of competition by withdrawing entirely into narrowly defined specialties. The rare scholars who are nomads by choice are essential to the intellectual welfare of the subtle disciplines

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