Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

John Charles Polanyi

Canadian Chemist, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

"In education the appetite does indeed grow with eating. I have never known anyone to abandon study because they knew too much."

"Though we explore in a culturally-conditioned way, the reality we sketch is universal."

"Better to die in the pursuit of civilized values, we believed, than in a flight underground. We were offering a value system couched in the language of science. "

"For science must breathe the oxygen of freedom. "

"For scholarship - if it is to be scholarship - requires, in addition to liberty, that the truth take precedence over all sectarian interests, including self-interest. "

"Human dignity is better served by embracing knowledge. "

"Our assessment of socio-economic worth is largely a sham. We scientists should not lend ourselves to it - though we routinely do. We should, instead, insist on applying the criterion of quality."

"If we treasure our own experience and regard it as real, we must also treasure other people's experience. "

"The respect for human rights, essential if we are to use technology wisely, is not something alien that must be grafted onto science. On the contrary, it is integral to science, as also to scholarship in general."

"Science exists, moreover, only as a journey toward truth. Stifle dissent and you end that journey. "

"The eye searches for shapes. It searches for a beginning, a middle, and an end. "

"Faced with the admitted difficulty of managing the creative process, we are doubling our efforts to do so. Is this because science has failed to deliver, having given us nothing more than nuclear power, penicillin, space travel, genetic engineering, transistors, and superconductors? Or is it because governments everywhere regard as a reproach activities they cannot advantageously control? They felt that way about the marketplace for goods, but trillions of wasted dollars later, they have come to recognize the efficiency of this self-regulating system. Not so, however, with the marketplace for ideas. "

"It is folly to use as one's guide in the selection of fundamental science the criterion of utility. Not because (scientists)... despise utility. But because. .. useful outcomes are best identified after the making of discoveries, rather than before."

"What makes the Universal Declaration an epochal document is first of all its global impetus and secondly the breadth of its claims, a commitment to a new social contract, binding on all the Governments of the world. "

"When, as we must often do, we fear science, we really fear ourselves."

"The time has come to underscore the fact that our and others' rights are contingent on our willingness to assert and defend them."

"Science never gives up searching for truth, since it never claims to have achieved it."

"[Intellectual courage is] the quality that allows one to believe in one's judgement in the face of disappointment and widespread skepticism. Intellectual courage is even rarer than physical courage. "

"Science is an enterprise that can only flourish if it puts the troth ahead of nationality, ethnicity, class and color. "

"Authority in science exists to be questioned, since heresy is the spring from which new ideas flow. "