The overwhelming majority of authors have very little to say. If we suppose, rather charitably, that in a typical book of fifteen chapters there are only eight passages worthy of quotation, then simple mathematics will convince us that in short order there will be no original quotations left for chapter headings. The implication is obvious. . .

Armand Blague How to Write

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of ages may be preserved by quotations.

Disraeli, Isaac Curiosities of Literature

Somewhere we had read, "How often we rake in the litter of the printing press whilst a crown of gold and rubies is offered us in vain". It has been our concern that a great amount of the gold and rubies, the wit and wisdom that is published will, after being read once, end up on the library shelf and be heard of no more. While we in no way claim to have found all of this wit and wisdom we have, at least, captured some of it so that it will not become lost.

People generally buy a dictionary of quotations for one of two reasons—either to help in locating the source for wording of some half-remembered saying or else to better express themselves.

Astronomically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations on Astronomy and Physics is the largest compilation of astronomy quotations published to date. There are many books of quotations. A large number of these books have small sections about astronomy and astronomy-related topics. Astronomically Speaking is a quotation book that is devoted to the topic of astronomy.

With so many well-written books of quotations on the market is it necessary that another book of quotations is needed? We and our publisher agreed that there was a need since the standard dictionaries of quotations, for whatever cause, are sorely weak in providing entries devoted to quotations on astronomy. Astronomically Speaking fills that need.

The understanding of the history, the accomplishments and failures, and the meanings of astronomy requires a knowledge of what has been said by the authoritative and the not so authoritative philosophers, novelists, playwrights, poets, scientists and laymen about astronomy. Because of the multidisciplinary interrelationships that exists it is virtually impossible for an individual to keep abreast of the literature outside of their own particular specialization. With this in mind, Astronomically Speaking assumes a particularly important role as a guide to what has been said in the past through the present about astronomy.

Astronomically Speaking was designed as an aid for the general reader who has an interest in astronomical topics as well as for the experienced scientist. The general reader with no knowledge of astronomy who reads Astronomically Speaking can form a pretty accurate picture of what astronomy is. Students can use the book to increase their understanding of the complexity and richness that exists within the scientific disciplines. Finally, the experienced scientist will find Astronomically Speaking useful as a source of quotes for use in the classroom, in papers and in presentations. We have striven to compile the book so that any reader can easily and quickly access the wit and wisdom that exists and a quick glance through the table of contents will show the variety of topics discussed.

A book of quotations, even as restricted in scope as Astronomically Speaking is, can never be complete. Many quotations worthy of entry have, no doubt, been omitted because we did not know of them. However, we have tried to make it fairly comprehensive and have searched far and wide for the material. If you are aware of any quotes that should be included please send them in for the second edition.

Quite a few of the quotations have been used frequently and will be recognized while others have probably not been used before. All of the quotations included in Astronomically Speaking were compiled with the hope that they will be found useful. The authority for each quotations has been given with the fullest possible information that we could find so as to help you pinpoint the quotation in its appropriate context or discover more quotations in the original source. When the original source could not be located we indicated where we found the quote. Sometimes, however, we only had the quote and not the source. When this happened we listed the source as unknown and included the quotation anyway so that it would not become lost in time.

How to Use This Book

A quotation for a given subject may be found by looking for that subject in the alphabetical arrangement of the book itself. This arrangement will be approved, we believe, by the reader in making it easier to locate a quotation. To illustrate, if a quotation on ideas is wanted, you will find 23 quotations listed under the heading IDEA. The arrangement of quotations in this book under each subject heading constitutes a collective composition that incorporates the sayings of a range of people.

To find all the quotations pertaining to a subject and the individuals quoted use the SUBJECT BY AUTHOR INDEX. This index will help guide you to the specific statement that is sought. A brief extract of each quotation is included in this index.

It will be admitted that at times there are obvious conveniences in an index under author's names. If you recall the name appearing in the attribution or if you wish to read all of an individual author's contributions that are included in this book then you will want to use the AUTHOR BY SUBJECT INDEX. Here the authors are listed alphabetically along with their quotations. The birth and death dates are provided for the authors whenever we could determine them.


It is never superfluous to say thanks where thanks are due. First, we want to thank Jim Revill and Simon Laurenson, of IOP Publishing, who have assisted us so very much with our books. Next, we have been very fortunate to have our books reviewed by some people who gave us page-by-page comments. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for their time and energy. We also thank the following libraries for allowing us to use their resources: The Jesse H. Jones Library and the Moody Memorial Library, Baylor University; the main library of the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor; the main library of the Central Texas College; the Undergraduate Library, the Engineering Library, the Law Library, the Physics-Math-Astronomy Library and the Humanities Research Center all of the University of Texas at Austin. Again, we wish to thank all of the librarians of the Perry- Castaneda Library for putting up with us when we were checking out the hundreds of books.

A great amount of work goes into the preparation of any book. When the book is finished there is then time for the editors and authors to enjoy what they have written. It is our hope that this book stimulated your imagination and interests in matters about astronomy, physics or mathematics and this hope has been eloquently expressed by Helen Hill:

If what we have within our book Can to the reader pleasure lend, We have accomplished what we wished, Our means have gained our end.

In Llewellyn Nathaniel Edwards A Record of History and Evolution of Early American Bridges (p. xii)

Carl Gaither Alma Cavazos-Gaither

6 February 2003

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