Quote of the day, Nov. 29

Charles Babbage, on education and innovation

“If we look at the fact, we shall find that the great inventions of the age are not, with us at least, always produced in universities. The doctrines of ‘definite proportions,’ and of the ‘chemical agency of electricity,’—principles of a high order, which have immortalized the names of their discoverers,—were not produced by the meditations of the cloister: nor is it in the least a reproach to those valuable institutions to mention truths like these. Fortunate circumstances must concur, even to the greatest, to render them eminently successful. It is not permitted to all to be born, like Archimedes, when a science was to be created; nor, like Newton, to find the system of the world ‘without form and void’; and, by disclosing gravitation, to shed throughout that system the same irresistible radiance as that with which the Almighty Creator had illumined its material substance. It can happen to but few philosophers, and but at distant intervals, to snatch a science, like Dalton, from the chaos of indefinite combination, and binding it in the chains of number, to exalt it to rank amongst the exact.”

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