Great Throughts Treasury

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

Benjamin Collins Brodie, fully Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet

English Chemist, Physiologist and Surgeon

"Nothing in this world is so good as usefulness. It binds your fellow-creatures to you, and you to them; it tends to the improvement of your own character; and it gives you a real importance in society, much beyond what any artificial station can bestow."

"Humility leads to the highest distinction, because it leads to self-improvement. Study your own characters; endeavor to learn and to supply your own deficiencies; never assume to yourselves qualities which you do not possess; combine all this with energy and activity, and you cannot predicate of yourselves, nor can others predicate of you, at what point you may arrive at last."

"The failure of the mind in old age is often less the results of natural decay, than of disuse. Ambition has ceased to operate; contentment bring indolence, and indolence decay of mental power, ennui, and sometimes death. Men have been known to die, literally speaking, of disease induced by intellectual vacancy."

"Our minds are so constructed that we can keep the attention fixed on a particular object until we have, as it were, looked all around it; and the mind that possesses this faculty in the highest degree of perfection will take cognizance of relations of which another mind has no perception. It is this, much more than any difference in the abstract power of reasoning, which constitutes the vast difference between the minds of different individuals. This is the history alike of the poetic genius and of the genius of discovery in science. “I keep the subject,” said Sir Isaac Newton, “constantly before me, and wait until the dawnings open by little and little into a full light.” It was thus that after long meditation he was led to the invention of fluxions, and to the anticipation of the modern discovery of the combustibility of the diamond. It was thus that Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, and that those views were suggested by Davy which laid the foundation of that grand series of experimental researches which terminated in the decomposition of the earths and alkalies."

"It is attention, more than any difference between minds and men.—In this is the source of poetic genius, and of the genius of discovery in science.—It was this that led Newton to the invention of fluxions, and the discovery of gravitation, and Harvey to find out the circulation of the blood, and Davy to those views which laid the foundation of modern chemistry."

"You must feel and act as a gentleman... But let there be no misunderstanding as to who is to be regarded as a gentleman. It is not he who is fashionable in his dress, expensive in his habits, fond of fine equipages, pushing himself into the society of those who are above him in their worldly station that is entitled to that appellation. It is he who sympathizes with others, and is careful not to hurt their feelings even on trifling occasions; who, in little things as well as in great... assumes nothing which does not belong to him, and yet respects himself; this is the kind of gentleman which a medical practitioner should wish to be. Never pretend to know what cannot be known; make no promise which it is not probable that you will be able to fulfill; you will not satisfy everyone at the moment, for many require of our art that which our art cannot bestow."