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Bennett, Arnold

He knew not how to look at a landscape nor at a sky. Of plants and trees he was as exquisitely ignorant as of astronomy. It had not occurred to him to wonder why the days are longer in summer, and he vaguely supposed that the cold of winter was due to an increased distance of the earth from the sun. Still, he had learnt that Saturn had a ring and sometimes he unconsciously looked for it in the firmament, as for a tea-tray.

Clayhanger Book I

Chapter II, Section III (p. 14)

Bichat, Xavier

To say that physiology is made up of the physics of animals, is to give a very inaccurate idea of it; as well might we say that astronomy is the physiology of the stars.

Physiological Researches on Life and Death

Chapter VII Section I (p. 81)

Bronowski, Jacob

Astronomy is not the apex of science or of invention. But it is a test of the cast of temperament and mind that underlies a culture.

The Ascent of Man Chapter 6 (p. 190)

Burnham, Robert Jr

No one can date that remote epoch when astronomy "began"—we can say only that the fascination of the heaven is as old as man's ability to think; as ancient as his capacity to wonder and to dream. And in company with most of the special enchantments of human life, the unique appeal of astronomy is incommunicable; easily understood through direct experience, but not to be precisely defined or explained. Nor should any explanation be thought necessary. The area of astronomy is both intellectual and aesthetic; it combines the thrill of exploration and discovery, the fun of sight-seeing, and the sheer pleasure of firsthand acquaintance with incredibly wonderful and beautiful things.

Burnham's Celestial Handbook Chapter 1 (p. 5)

Chargaff, Erwin

Thus, astronomy was probably the first exact science, practiced long before the concept of science as such had been formulated. (Mathematics may have been earlier, but I do not consider it a natural science: the mother of many kings is not necessarily a queen.)

Serious Questions Nature (p. 153)

Clerke, Agnes M.

[Astronomy] is a science of hairbreadths and fractions of a second. It exists only by the rigid enforcement of arduous accuracy and unwearying diligence. Whatever secrets the universe still has in store for man will only be communicated on these terms.

A Popular History of Astronomy during the Nineteenth Century


Conrad, Joseph

The demonstration must be against learning-science. But not every science will do. The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression, it would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. But that is impossible. ..What do you think of having a go at Astronomy?

The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale Chapter II (p. 38)

Emerson, Ralph Waldo

It is noticed, that the consideration of the great periods and spaces of astronomy induces a dignity of mind, and an indifference to death.

Essays and Lectures The Conduct of Life Culture (p. 1030)

Emerson, William

Astronomy is the science which treats of the motions of the heavenly bodies, and all the phenomena arising therefrom.

A System of Astronomy Astronomy (p. 1)

Huxley, Julian

I turn the handle and the story starts: Reel after reel is all astronomy, Till life, enkindled in a niche of sky, Leaps on the stage to play a million parts.

The Captive Shrew Evolution: At the Mind's Cinema

Keill, John

Among all the mathematical sciences which have been continually improved, and are daily improving in the world, the first place has, as it were, by general consent, been always given to Astronomy.

An Introduction to the True Astronomy To His Grace Jones Duke of Chandos

Laplace, Pierre Simon

Astronomy, from the dignity of the subject, and the perfection of its theories, is the most beautiful monument of the human mind—the noblest record of its intelligence. Seduced by the illusions of the senses, and of self-love, man considered himself, for a long time, as the centre about which the celestial bodies revolved, and his pride was justly punished by the vain terrors they inspired. The labour of many ages has at length withdrawn the veil which covered the system. And man now appears, upon a small planet, almost imperceptible in the vast extent of the solar system, itself only an insensible point in the immensity of space. The sublime results to which this discovery has led, may console him for the limited place assigned to the Earth, by showing him his proper magnitude, in the extreme smallness of the base which he made use of to measure the heavens.

The System of the World Volume II Book V, Chapter VI (p. 342)

Long, Roger

Astronomy is a science which, in all ages and countries flourishing in arts and politeness, has engaged the attention of the curious: it has not only employed the pens of the most eloquent orators and embellished the writings of poets of the most elevated genius; but has also been cultivated by the greatest princes, the ablest statesmen, and the wisest philosophers...

Astronomy, in Five Books Volume I Preface (p. iii)

Mitchell, Maria

But star-gazing is not science. The entrance to astronomy is through mathematics.

In Phebe Mitchell Kendall Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals Chapter IX (pp. 184-5)

Murdin, Paul

The aims of astronomy are nothing less than to search for the origins of the Universe and of its constituent stars and galaxies.

In Derek McNally The Vanishing Universe The Aims of Astronomy in Science and the Humanities: Why Astronomy Must Be Protected (p. 16)

Newcomb, Simon

[astronomy] seems to have the strongest hold on minds which are not intimately acquainted with its work. The view taken by such minds is not distracted by the technical details which trouble the investigator, and its great outlines are seen through an atmosphere of sentiment, which softens out the algebraic formulae with which the astronomer is concerned into those magnificent conceptions of creation which are the delight of all minds, trained or untrained.

Harper's Magazine February 1885

Penrose, Roger

Yet nature does not always prefer conventional explanations, least of all in astronomy.

Scientific American Black Holes (p. 46) Volume 226, Number 5, May 1972

Penzias, Arno

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say 'supernatural') plan.

In H. Margenau and R.A. Varghese Cosmos, Bios, and Theos Chapter 16 (p. 83)


...astronomy tells us about the motions of the stars and sun and moon, and their relative swiftness.

Gorgias Section 451 astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ problems, and let the heavens alone if we would approach the subject in the right way and so make the natural gift of reason to be of any real use.

The Republic Book VII, 530c

Sagan, Carl

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Pale Blue Dot Chapter 1 (p. 9)

Shapley, Harlow

...the most interesting feature of this science astronomy (and of all science) is our eager ignorance.

Scientific American Astronomy (pp. 25-6) Volume 183, Number 3, September 1950

Sherrod, P. Clay

Above us, the sparkling stars of the night skies stretch out like thousands of diamonds suspended on the curtain of space. Unfolding through the beauty and the mysteries of this seemingly endless expanse are patterns and answers familiar to those willing to study them...There is an affinity for the eternity of space experienced by all mankind, a kind of motherhood in the stars to those who study space.

A Complete Manual of Amateur Astronomy Introduction (p. 1)

Sillman, Benjamin

Astronomy is not without reason. Regarded, by mankind, as the sublimest of the natural sciences. Its objects, so frequently visible, and therefore familiar, being always remote and inaccessible, do not lose their dignity.

Elements of Chemistry Volume I Introduction (p. 11)

Struve, Otto

Astronomy has had three great revolutions in the past four hundred years: The first was the Copernican revolution that removed the earth from the center of the solar system and placed it 150 million kilometers away from it; the second occurred between 1920 and 1930 when, as a result of the work of H. Shapley and R.J. Trumpler, we realized that the solar system is not at the center of the Milky Way but about 30,000 light years away from it, in a relatively dim spiral arm; the third is occurring now, and, whether we want it or not, we must take part in it. This is the revolution embodied in the question: Are we alone in the universe?

The Universe Chapter VI (p. 157)

Twain, Mark

I love to revel in philosophical matters—especially astronomy. I study astronomy more than any other foolishness there is. I am a perfect slave to it. I am at it all the time. I have got more smoked glass than clothes. I am as familiar with the stars as the comets are. I know all the facts and figures and I have all the knowledge there is concerning them. I yelp astronomy like a sun-dog, and paw the constellations like Ursa Major.

Letter from Mark Twain San Francisco Alta California August 1,1869


It may indeed appear extraordinary that no mention should yet have been made of the great desiderata of astronomy,—those questions which have exercised the curiosity and employed the time and attention of astronomers ever since the science has assumed its present character— such as the parallax of the fixed stars, their proper motion, the motion or rest of our own system, and its connection with the rest of the universe. But these and many other points are too obviously suggested by their importance to need any distinction which this society can bestow:

the applause of the human race attends his labours; and no additional stimulus can be offered to those by which he is impelled.

Memoirs of the Astronomical Society of London Report to the First Annual General Meeting 9 February 1821 (pp. 24-5) Volume 1, 1822-25


Give me the ways of wandering stars to know, The depths of heaven above, and earth below; Teach me the various labours of the moon, And whence proceed the eclipses of the sun.

Georgics Book 2

Whitehead, Hal

Studying the behavior of large whales has been likened to astronomy. The observer glimpses his subjects, often at long range; he cannot do experiments, and he must continually try to infer from data that are usually inadequate.

Scientific American Why Whales Leap (p. 86) Volume 252, Number 3, March 1985

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