Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the recording of data via the use of instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during the scientific activity.
- Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author
A - F
- From my close observation of writers... they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.
- Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.
- Supervision is also part of the process of building capacity and transferring knowledge. The five steps in teaching an employee new skills are preparation, explanation, showing, observation and supervision.
- Bruce Barton, in Marelize Görgens-Albino, Jody Zall Kusek Making Monitoring and Evaluation Systems Work: A Capacity Development Toolkit, World Bank Publications, 2009, p. 347
- The great extension of our experience in recent years has brought light to the insufficiency of our simple mechanical conceptions and, as a consequence, has shaken the foundation on which the customary interpretation of observation was based.
- Niels Bohr, "Atomic Physics and the Description of Nature" (1934)
- Perceptual reality is different for different species. In certain species it is a mode of observation, so what we call scientific fact is actually not ultimate truth, it is perceptual experience, and it's a mode of observation.
- Deepak Chopra, in Exclusive: Deepak Chopra Explores the Evolution of God, Forbes.com
- Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality. I have been for many years a teacher of languages. It is an occupation which at length becomes fatal to whatever share of imagination, observation, and insight an ordinary person may be heir to. To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot.
- The way our group or class does things tends to determine the proper objects of attention, and thus prescribe the directions and limits of observation and memory.
- John Dewey (1916), Democracy and Education Section 2: Education as a Social Function
- The philosopher forms his principles from an infinity of particular observations. Most people adopt principles without thinking of the observations that have produced them, they believe the maxims exist, so to speak, by themselves. But the philosopher takes maxims from their source; he examines their origin; he knows their proper value, and he makes use of them only in so far as they suit him.
Truth is not for the philosopher a mistress who corrupts his imagination and whom he believes to be found everywhere; he contents himself with being able to unravel it where he can perceive it. He does not confound it with probability; he takes for true what is true, for false what is false, for doubtful what is doubtful, and probable what is only probable. He does more, and here you have a great perfection of the philosopher: when he has no reason by which to judge, he knows how to live in suspension of judgment...
The philosophical spirit is, then, a spirit of observation and exactness, which relates everything to true principles...
- A battle lost or won is easily described, understood, and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it.
- Frederick Douglass, in Philip Sheldon Foner, Robert J. Branha Lift Every Voice: African American Oratory, 1787-1900, University of Alabama Press, 1998, p. 424
- It is also a good rule not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory.
- For the truth of the conclusions of physical science, observation is the supreme Court of Appeal. It does not follow that every item which we confidently accept as physical knowledge has actually been certified by the Court; our confidence is that it would be certified by the Court if it were submitted. But it does follow that every item of physical knowledge is of a form which might be submitted to the Court. It must be such that we can specify (although it may be impracticable to carry out) an observational procedure which would decide whether it is true or not. Clearly a statement cannot be tested by observation unless it is an assertion about the results of observation. Every item of physical knowledge must therefore be an assertion of what has been or would be the result of carrying out a specified observational procedure.
- Arthur Eddington, The Philosophy of Physical Science (1938), p. 9
- To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
- Elliott Erwitt, in Jill Charlotte Stanford, Robin L. Corey You Might Be a Cowgirl If . . .: A Guide to Life on the Range, Globe Pequot, 4 September 2012, p. 111
- Strategy requires thought, tactics require observation.
- Max Euwe, in Henry C. (Sandy) Waters III Sales - What A Concept!: A Guidebook for Sales Process Performance Improvement, Lulu.com, 2011, p. 11
- The philosophy behind much advertising is based on the old observation that every man is really two men - the man he is and the man he wants to be.
- It is a trite but true observation, that examples work more forcibly on the mind than precepts.
- At any one time there is a natural tendency among physicists to believe that we already know the essential ingredients of a comprehensive theory. But each time a new frontier of observation is broached we inevitably discover new phenomena which force us to modify substantially our previous conceptions. I believe this process to be unending, that the delights and challenges of unexpected discovery will continue always.
- Val Logsdon Fitch Nobel Prize Autobiography (1981).
- It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.
- Henry Ford, in The Speaker's Quote Book: Over 5,000 Illustrations and Quotations for All Occasions, Kregel Academic, 2009, p. 545
G - L
- Rhetoric and dialectics can't change what I have learned from observation and experience.
- When people endure a traumatic event, they are either defeated or made stronger. On Sept. 11, I told New Yorkers, 'I want you to emerge stronger from this.' My words were partially a hope and partially an observation that people in New York City handle big things better than little things. I could not be more proud of the way my city responded.
- Science is simply common sense at its best, that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
- Reason, observation, and experience; the holy trinity of science.
- Early in life I learned, just through observation, that right always wins out over wrong. If a person has good intentions in his heart and wants to do the right thing, then there are certain ways that any obstacle can be overcome.
- Monte Irvin, in Monte Irvin Nice Guys Finish First: Chapter One: A Mission in Life, The Washington Post, 1996
- It's my observation that gardeners and gardening for a very long time have had to take a back seat. Architects are very famous; they've got huge projects. What goes on in and around them has been relegated to a very minor role.
- Robert Irwin, in The California Garden :At the Getty, roots hold fast, Los Angeles Times, 24 July 2008|
- Even scientific knowledge, if there is anything to it, is not a random observation of random objects; for the critical objectivity of significant knowledge is attained as a practice only philosophically in inner action.
- Not observation of a duty but liberty itself is the pledge that assures fidelity.
- Ellen Keym, in Quotes about Fidelity, Quotations Book, p. 3
- We must trust to nothing but facts: these are presented to us by nature and cannot deceive. We ought, in every instance, to submit our reasoning to the test of experiment, and never to search for truth but by the natural road of experiment and observation.
- And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
- Gospel of Luke, 17:21
- Science is the observation of things possible, whether present or past; prescience is the knowledge of things which may come to pass, though but slowly.
M - R
- Scientists believe that nature is orderly and measurable— that natural laws, such as the law of gravity, do not change with time, and that a natural event, or phenomenon,can be understood more fully through observation. Scientists use all of their senses in making observations.
- Sylvia S. Mader, Biology (10th ed., 2010), Ch. 1. A View of Life
- It has become extremely questionable whether, in the flux of life, it is a genuinely worthwhile intellectual problem to seek to discover fixed and immutable ideas or absolutes. It is a more worthy intellectual task perhaps to learn to think dynamically and relationally rather than statically... When the empirical investigator glories in his refusal to go beyond the specialized observation dictated by the traditions of his discipline, be they ever so inclusive, he is making a virtue out of a defense mechanism which insures him against questioning his presuppositions.
- Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia (1929)
- It seems to me, when I see nature, that I see it ready made, completely written — but then, try to do it! All this proves that one must think of nothing but them [impressions]; it is by dint of observation and reflection that one makes discoveries.
- Everything is literally entangled, it can all be communicated with and affected 'at a distance' because there is no distance, only a simulation of apparent separation which our limited consciousness feeds us second by second at 11 bits. The 'telepathy' which brings people together is no more or less supernatural or unlikely than the 'telepathy' which brings two of your fingers together when you think about it. Patience, participation and constant close observation of what's going on, on the inside and on the outside will soon make you a fine sorcerer, if that's what you want to be.
- Even if it had not been possible to reproduce the disease in animals and consequently to verify the hypothesis, this simple observation would have been sufficient to demonstrate the way in which the disease was propagated.
- My observation is that after one hundred and twenty years of modernisation since the opening of the country, present-day Japan is split between two opposite poles of ambiguity.
- Kenzaburo Oe, in Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature: Lagerkvist-Pontoppidan, Thomson Gale, 2007, p. 370
- Dans les champs de l'observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.
- In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.
- Louis Pasteur Lecture, University of Lille (7 December 1854)
- Alternate translations of this or similar statements include:
- Chance favors the prepared mind.
- Fortune favors the prepared mind.
- In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.
- Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.
- The only possible way of accounting for the laws of nature and for uniformity in general is to suppose them results of evolution. This supposes them not to be absolute, not to be obeyed precisely. It makes an element of indeterminacy, spontaneity, or absolute chance in nature. Just as, when we attempt to verify any physical law, we find our observations cannot be precisely satisfied by it, and rightly attribute the discrepancy to errors of observation, so we must suppose far more minute discrepancies to exist owing to the imperfect cogency of the law itself, to a certain swerving of the facts from any definite formula.
- Charles Sanders Peirce, The Architecture of Theories, (1891)
- One man's observation is another man's closed book or flight of fancy.
- Willard Van Orman Quine, in Andrew Bailey First Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality: Fundamental Problems and Readings in Philosophy, Broadview Press, 6 August 2004, p. 300
- Facts have to be discovered by observation, not by reasoning
- Art that means anything in the life of a community must bear some relation to current interpretations of the mystery of the universe. Our rigid separation of the humanities and the sciences has temporarily left our art stranded or stammering and incoherent. Both art and science ought to be blended in our early education of our children's emotions and powers of observation, and that harmony carried forward in later education.
- Dora Russell The Right to Be Happy (1927) Ch. V, p. 235
S - Z
- Most, if not all, of the great ideas of modern mathematics have had their origin in observation. Take, for instance, the arithmetical theory of forms, of which the foundation was laid in the diophantine theorems of Fermat, left without proof by their author, which resisted all efforts of the myriad-minded Euler to reduce to demonstration, and only yielded up their cause of being when turned over in the blow-pipe flame of Gauss’s transcendent genius; or the doctrine of double periodicity, which resulted from the observation of Jacobi of a purely analytical fact of transformation; or Legendre’s law of reciprocity; or Sturm’s theorem about the roots of equations, which, as he informed me with his own lips, stared him in the face in the midst of some mechanical investigations connected (if my memory serves me right) with the motion of compound pendulums; or Huyghen’s method of continued fractions, characterized by Lagrange as one of the principal discoveries of that great mathematician, and to which he appears to have been led by the construction of his Planetary Automaton; or the new algebra, speaking of which one of my predecessors (Mr. Spottiswoode) has said, not without just reason and authority, from this chair, “that it reaches out and indissolubly connects itself each year with fresh branches of mathematics, that the theory of equations has become almost new through it, algebraic 31 geometry transfigured in its light, that the calculus of variations, molecular physics, and mechanics” (he might, if speaking at the present moment, go on to add the theory of elasticity and the development of the integral calculus) “have all felt its influence.
- James Joseph Sylvester. "A Plea for the Mathematician, Nature," Vol. 1, p. 238; Collected Mathematical Papers, Vol. 2, pp. 655, 656.
- Much of my work in this period was concerned with exploring the logic of economic models, but also with attempting to reconcile the models with every day observation.
- The Artist is he who detects and applies the law from observation of the works of Genius, whether of man or Nature. The Artisan is he who merely applies the rules which others have detected.
- My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty... it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.
- The gap between our feelings and our social observation is dangerously wide.
- Raymond Williams Realism and the Contemporary Novel (1961): The Long Revolution
- Surely it is time to examine into the meaning of words and the nature of things, and to arrive at simple facts, not received upon the dictum of learned authorities, but upon attentive personal observation of what is passing around us.