Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Roger Bacon, scholastic accolade Doctor Mirabilis meaning "Wonderful Teacher"

English Franciscan Philosopher, Educational Reformer, Early Advocate of Scientific Method to study nature through empirical methods

"For there are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely, by reasoning and experience. Reasoning draws a conclusion and makes us grant the conclusion, but does not make the conclusion certain, nor does it remove doubt so that the mind may rest on the intuition of truth, unless the mind discovers it by the path of experience; since many have the arguments relating to what can be known, but because they lack experience they neglect the arguments, and neither avoid what is harmful nor follow what is good. For if a man who has never seen fire should prove by adequate reasoning that fire burns and injures things and destroys them, his mind would not be satisfied thereby, nor would he avoid fire, until he placed his hand or some combustible substance in the fire, so that he might prove by experience that which reasoning taught. But when he has had actual experience of combustion his mind is made certain and rests in the full light of truth. Therefore reasoning does not suffice, but experience does. "

"There in fact four very significant stumbling-blocks in the way of grasping the truth, which hinder every man however learned, and scarcely allow anyone to win a clear title to wisdom, namely, the example of weak and unworthy authority, long-standing custom, the feeling of the ignorant crowd, and the hiding of our own ignorance while making a display of our apparent knowledge... there are two modes of acquiring knowledge, namely by reasoning and experience."

"A crowd is not company, and faces are but a gallery of pictures."

"A good name is like a precious ointment; it filleth all around about, and will not easily away; for the odors of ointments are more durable than those of flowers."

"A healthy body is a guest chamber for the soul: a sick body is a prison."

"A little learning is a dangerous thing but none at all is fatal."

"A little science estranges a man from God. A lot of science brings him back."

"A bad man is worse when he pretends to be a saint."

"A man is an ill husband of his honour, that entereth into any action, the failing wherein may disgrace him more than the carrying of it through can honour him."

"A man that is young in years may be old in hours, if he has lost no time."

"A prudent question is one-half of wisdom."

"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds."

"A man finds himself seven years older the day after his marriage."

"A graceful and pleasing figure is a perpetual letter of recommendation."

"A king is one who has few things to desire and many things to fear."

"All sciences are connected; they lend each other material aid as parts of one great whole, each doing its own work, not for itself alone, but for the other parts; as the eye guides the body and the foot sustains it and leads it from place to place."

"All things are admired either because they are new or because they are great."

"Argument is conclusive, but it does not remove doubt, so that the mind may rest in the sure knowledge of the truth, unless it finds it by the method of experiment... but... it does not remove doubt, so that the mind may rest in the sure knowledge of the truth, unless it finds it by the method of experiment. For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns. his hearer's mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it that he might learn by experiment what argument taught."

"As regards authority I so proceed. Boetius says in the second prologue to his Arithmetic, 'If an inquirer lacks the four parts of mathematics, he has very little ability to discover truth.' And again, 'Without this theory no one can have a correct insight into truth.' And he says also, 'I warn the man who spurns these paths of knowledge that he cannot philosophize correctly.' And Again, 'It is clear that whosoever passes these by, has lost the knowledge of all learning.'"

"All science requires mathematics. The knowledge of mathematical things is almost innate in us. This is the easiest of sciences, a fact which is obvious in that no one's brain rejects it; for laymen and people who are utterly illiterate know how to count and reckon."

"A sudden, bold, and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open."

"Acorns were good until bread was found."

"Boldness is ever blind, for it sees not dangers and inconveniences whence it is bad in council though good in execution."

"But concerning vision alone is a separate science formed among philosophers, namely, optics, and not concerning any other sense ... It is possible that some other science may be more useful, but no other science has so much sweetness and beauty of utility. Therefore it is the flower of the whole of philosophy and through it, and not without it, can the other sciences be known."

"But men must know, that in this theater of man"

"But there is another alchemy, operative and practical, which teaches how to make the noble metals and colours and many other things better and more abundantly by art than they are made in nature. And science of this kind is greater than all those preceding because it produces greater utilities. For not only can it yield wealth and very many other things for the public welfare, but it also teaches how to discover such things as are capable of prolonging human life for much longer periods than can be accomplished by nature ... Therefore this science has special utilities of that nature, while nevertheless it confirms theoretical alchemy through its works."

"But we must here state that we should not see anything if there were a vacuum. But this would not be due to some nature hindering species, and resisting it, but because of the lack of a nature suitable for the multiplication of species; for species is a natural thing, and therefore needs a natural medium; but in a vacuum nature does not exist."

"By far the best proof is experience."

"Atheism is rather in the life than in the heart of man."

"By taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over it, he is superior."

"Boldness is a child of ignorance."

"Beauty is as summer fruits which are easy to corrupt and cannot last; and for the most part it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but if it light well, it makes virtues shine and vice blush."

"Certainly, virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed or for prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue."

"Children sweeten labors; but they make misfortunes more bitter."

"Choose the life that is most useful, and habit will make it the most agreeable."

"Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them."

"Custom is the principle magistrate of man"

"Death is a friend of ours; and he that is not ready to entertain him is not at home."

"Discretion in speech is more than eloquence."

"Envy has no holidays."

"Fame, if like a river, beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid."

"For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns. His hearer's mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it that he might learn by experiment what argument taught."

"For my name and memory I leave to men"

"For the things of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics. For this is an assured fact in regard to celestial things, since two important sciences of mathematics treat of them, namely theoretical astrology and practical astrology. The first ... gives us definite information as to the number of the heavens and of the stars, whose size can be comprehended by means of instruments, and the shapes of all and their magnitudes and distances from the earth, and the thicknesses and number, and greatness and smallness, ... It likewise treats of the size and shape of the habitable earth ... All this information is secured by means of instruments suitable for these purposes, and by tables and by canons... For everything works through innate forces shown by lines, angles and figures."

"For the things of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics."

"Friends are thieves of time."

"God never wrought miracles to convince atheism, because His ordinary works convince it."

"Good fame is like fire; when you have kindled you may easily preserve it; but if you extinguish it, you will not easily kindle it again."

"Great riches have sold more men than they have bought."

"Half of science is asking the right questions."