Augustus De Morgan


From A BUDGET OF PARADOXES, 1872 by Augustus De Morgan

In every age of the world there has been an established system, which has been opposed from time to time by isolated and dissentient reformers. The established system has sometimes fallen, slowly and gradually : it has either been upset by the rising influence of some one man, or it has been sapped by gradual change of opinion in the many.   (Vol. I, p. 1)


During the last two centuries and a half, physical knowledge has been gradually made to rest upon a basis which it had not before. It has become mathematical. The question now is, not whether this or that hypothesis is better of worse to the pure thought, but whether it accords with observed phenomena in those consequences which can be shown necessarily to follow from it, if it be true. Even in those sciences which are not yet under the dominion of mathematics, and perhaps never will be, a working copy of the mathematical process has been made. This is not known to the followers of those sciences who are not themselves mathematicians and who very often exalt their horns against the mathematics in consequence. They might as well be squaring the circle, for any sense they show in this particular.   (Vol. I, Page 2.)


[ . . . ] New knowledge, when to any purpose, must come by contemplation of old knowledge in every matter which concerns thought ; mechanical contrivance sometimes, not very often, escapes this rule. All the men who are now called discoverers, in every matter ruled by thought, have been men versed in the minds of their predecessors, and learned in what had been before them. There is not one exception. I do not say that every man has made direct acquaintance with the whole of his mental ancestry ; many have, as I may say, only known their grandfathers by the report of their fathers. But even on this point it is remarkable how many of the greatest names in all departments of knowledge have been real antiquaries in their several subjects.

I may cite, among those who have wrought strongly upon opinion or practice in science, Aristotle, Plato, Ptolemy, Euclid, Archimedes, Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Francis Bacon, Ramus, Tycho Brahé, Galileo, Napier, Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton, Locke. I take none but names known out of their fields of work ; and all were learned as well as sagacious. I have chosen my instances : if any one will undertake to show a person of little or no knowledge who has established himself in a great matter of pure thought, let him bring forward his man, and we shall see.   (Vol. I, pages 5-6)

2nd edition 1872.
Chicago, London : The Open Court 1915.


Selected bibliographic

Author De Morgan, Augustus, 1806-1871. Title Essays on the life and work of Newton, by Augustus De Morgan, ed., with notes and appendices, by Philip E. B. Jourdain ... Publisher Chicago, London : The Open court publishing company, 1914. Description xiii, 198 p. front. (port.) 19 cm. Contents I. Newton (Appeared in the Cabinet portrait gallery of British worthies. 1846)--II. A short account of some recent discoveries in England and Germany relating to the controversy on the invention of fluxions (From the Companion to the almanac. 1852) Appendix on the manuscripts and publications of Newton and Leibniz.--III. Review of Brewster's Memoirs of the life, writings, and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton (From the North British review. 1855) Appendix I. De Morgan's view of Leibniz's character. Appendix II. Note by De Morgan on the character of Newton and on the actions of the Royal Society, written in 1858. Language English
Subject Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727.
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, Freiherr von, 1646-1716.
Brewster, David, Sir, 1781-1868. Memoirs of the life of Sir Isaac Newton.
Added Entry Jourdain, Philip E. B. (Philip Edward Bertrand), 1879-1919.


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Last updated 5 December 2004

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