Stevens F. Johnson's
Favorite Quotes

The quotes I have chosen are good indicators of who I am (or strive to be) as an educator and as a private individual. Most of them refer to human interactions and reactions, the balance are observations that agree with my experiences and philosophy. It is an ever expanding catalog of my take on the human condition in which you may find some merit also. (Of course, there are a few outright silly quotes I simply could not ignore.)

Character is what you do in the dark.
Dwight L. Moody

Show me a liar, and I'll show you a thief.
French proverb

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
Andrew Carnegie

It is easy to be brave from a safe distance.

If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
Mark Twain

The test of good manners is to be patient with bad ones.
Solomon Ibn Gabirol

When you make a mistake, admit it. If you don't, you only make matters worse.
Ward Cleaver

One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.
Mark Twain

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Abraham Lincoln

Among other common lies, we have the silent lie -- the deception which one conveys by simply keeping still and concealing the truth. Many obstinate truth-mongers indulge in this dissipation, imagining that if they speak no lie, they lie not at all.
Mark Twain

A lie is not in the words, or lack of words; it's in the intention of the deceiver.

What are the facts? Again and again and again -- what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore devine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" -- what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future, facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
Robert A. Heinlein

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
Aldous Huxley

Every man has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.
Bernard Baruch

Facts are stubborn things.
Tobias Smollen

If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science, it is opinion.
Robert A. Heinlein

If it can't be said as a differential equation, I'm not interested. Everything can be said as a differential equation.
Stevens F. Johnson

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.
Robert A. Heinlein

The important thing is not to stop questioning.
Albert Einstein

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
Albert Einstein

Logic is only the beginning of wisdom, not the end.
Captain Spock, Star Trek VI   The Undiscovered Country

From the errors of others a wise man corrects his own.
Publius Syrus

What physics looks for: The simplest possible system of thought which will bind together the observed facts.
Albert Einstein

Watch the stars, and from them learn
To the Master's honor all must turn
Each in its track, without a sound
Forever tracing Newton's ground.

Albert Einstein

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein

Since we cannot know all that is to be known of anything, we ought to know a little bit about everything.
Blaise Pascal

A house without books is like a room without windows.
Horace Mann

Caution is the eldest child of wisdom.
Victor Hugo

I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.
Abraham Lincoln

Make preparations in advance. You never have trouble if you are prepared for it.
Theodore Roosevelt

Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry. N.B.: Circumstances can force your hand. So think ahead!
Robert A. Heinlein

Chance favors the mind which is prepared.
Louis Pasteur

The development of general ability for independent thinking and judgment should always be placed foremost, not the acquisition of special knowledge.
Albert Einstein

A danger foreseen is half avoided.
Thomas Fuller

The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning, while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
Robert A. Heinlein

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.
Derek Bok

I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.
Chinese proverb

Some students drink at the fountain of knowledge -- others just gargle.

Beware the "Black Swan" fallacy. Deductive logic is tautological, there is no way to get a new truth out of it, and it manipulates false statements as readily as true ones. If you fail to remember this, it can trip you -- with perfect logic. The designers of the earliest computers called this the "Gigo Law," i.e., "Garbage in, garbage out." Inductive logic is much more difficult -- but can produce new truths.
Robert A. Heinlein

Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; the cauliflower is but cabbage with a college education.
Mark Twain

Show me a man who makes no mistakes, and I will show you a man who doesn't do things.
Theodore Roosevelt

One cannot learn so well as by experiencing it oneself.
Albert Einstein

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.
Thomas A. Edison

A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally.
Oliver Herford

A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
Walter Winchell

Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.
James Thurber

Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.
Thomas A. Edison

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
Mark Twain

In time you may perhaps find that most of the work of the world is done by people who aren't feeling well.
Le Baron Russell Briggs

Here's a stubborn truth
On which you can bet:
The harder you work,
The luckier you get.

L. J. Huber

Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.
Robert Balzer

He who waits upon fortune is never sure of a dinner.
Benjamin Franklin

One of the best ways to persuade others is by listening to them.
Dean Rusk

In our home we have a rule: You can disagree with a man's position as much as you want -- after you have been able to state it to his satisfaction.
J. Irwin Miller

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.
African proverb

The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
Albert Einstein

He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves ands sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.
Edmund Burke

Don't panic.
Douglas Adams

Conviction is a good mainspring, but a bad regulator.
Albert Einstein

Strength of conviction exists independent of its validity.
Stevens F. Johnson

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
William James

Evil be he who thinks evil of it.
Knights of the Order of the Garter (circa 1350 CE)

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age 18.
Albert Einstein

There is no such thing as "common sense." What it really means is "common experience," and therein lies its uselessness in debate.
Stevens F. Johnson

The trouble with people is not so much with their ignorance as it is with their knowing so many things that are not so.
William Alanson White

You can't no more teach what you ain't learned than you can come from where you ain't been.
Mark Twain

The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
Robert A. Heinlein

Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.
Albert Einstein

Nine-tenths of wisdom is being wise in time.
Theodore Roosevelt

I can see everything in sight!
Cara Johnson
(age 4, atop a stopped ferris wheel, standing and leaning out past the seat bucket, her father holding on to her with white knuckles)

The best way to know a man is to watch him when he is angry.
Hebrew proverb

Look to the extremes to frame an issue or question.
Stevens F. Johnson

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
Albert Einstein

A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an "intellectual" -- find out how he feels about astrology.
Robert A Heinlein

Big shots are only little shots who kept on shooting.
Dale Carnegie

A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.
George Patton Jr.

Adopt the pace of nature: Her secret is patience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A diamond is a chunk of coal that stuck to its job.

If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force and idea, you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
Robert A. Heinlein

Make hay while the sun shines.
English proverb

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
Robert A. Heinlein

Since the house is on fire let us warm ourselves.
Italian proverb

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.
Dolly Parton

In the long run, the pessimist may be proved right; but the optimist has a better time on the trip.
Daniel L. Reardon

Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.
Robert A. Heinlein

Be suspicious of your sincerity when you are the advocate of that upon which your livelihood depends.
John Lancaster Spalding

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
Mark Twain

Success is to be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
Booker T. Washington

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.
J. MacDonald

Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
Jonathan Swift

One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.
Robert A. Heinlein

One man's "magic" is another man's engineering. "Supernatural" is a null word.
Robert A. Heinlein

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
Albert Einstein

Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small steps.
David Lloyd George

Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx

Nature has given men one tongue but two ears that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.

If you don't like the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Harry S Truman

The great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
Walter Bagehot

I think there is only one quality worse than hardness of heart, and that is softness of head.
Theodore Roosevelt

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Last Updated December 9, 2009.
2009 Stevens F. Johnson and the Dept. of Physics/Science, Bemidji State University. All rights are reserved unless explicitly stated otherwise.