Mathematical Quotations -- T

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Thales (CA 600 BC)

I will be sufficiently rewarded if when telling it to others you will not claim the discovery as your own, but will say it was mine.
In H. Eves In Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1969.

Thompson, D'Arcy Wentworth (1860-1948)

Cell and tissue, shell and bone, leaf and flower, are so many portions of matter, and it is in obedience to the laws of physics that their particles have been moved, moulded and conformed. They are no exceptions to the rule that God always geometrizes. Their problems of form are in the first instance mathematical problems, their problems of growth are essentially physical problems, and the morphologist is, ipso facto, a student of physical science.
On Growth and Form, 1917.

Thomson, [Lord Kelvin] William (1824-1907)

Fourier is a mathematical poem.


He is not a true man of science who does not bring some sympathy to his studies, and expect to learn something by behavior as well as by application. It is childish to rest in the discovery of mere coincidences, or of partial and extraneous laws. The study of geometry is a petty and idle exercise of the mind, if it is applied to no larger system than the starry one. Mathematics should be mixed not only with physics but with ethics; that is mixed mathematics. The fact which interests us most is the life of the naturalist. The purest science is still biographical.


The story was told that the young Dirichlet had as a constant companion all his travels, like a devout man with his prayer book, an old, worn copy of the Disquisitiones Arithmeticae of Gauss.
In G. Simmons Calculus Gems, New York: McGraw Hill Inc., 1992.

Tillotson, Archbishop

How often might a man, after he had jumbled a set of letters in a bag, fling them out upon the ground before they would fall into an exact poem, yea, or so much as make a good discourse in prose. And may not a little book be as easily made by chance as this great volume of the world.
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.

Titchmarsh, E. C.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about mathematics is that it is so surprising. The rules which we make up at the beginning seem ordinary and inevitable, but it is impossible to foresee their consequences. These have only been found out by long study, extending over many centuries. Much of our knowledge is due to a comparatively few great mathematicians such as Newton, Euler, Gauss, or Riemann; few careers can have been more satisfying than theirs. They have contributed something to human thought even more lasting than great literature, since it is independent of language.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

It can be of no practical use to know that Pi is irrational, but if we can know, it surely would be intolerable not to know.
In N. Rose Mathematical Maxims and Minims, Raleigh NC:Rome Press Inc., 1988.

Todhunter, Isaac (1820 - 1910)

[Asked whether he would like to see an experimental demonstration of conical refraction]
No. I have been teaching it all my life, and I do not want to have my ideas upset.

Tolstoy, [Count] Lev Nikolgevich (1828-1920)

A modern branch of mathematics, having achieved the art of dealing with the infinitely small, can now yield solutions in other more complex problems of motion, which used to appear insoluble. This modern branch of mathematics, unknown to the ancients, when dealing with problems of motion, admits the conception of the infinitely small, and so conforms to the chief condition of motion (absolute continuity) and thereby corrects the inevitable error which the human mind cannot avoid when dealing with separate elements of motion instead of examining continuous motion. In seeking the laws of historical movement just the same thing happens. The movement of humanity, arising as it does from innumerable human wills, is continuous. To understand the laws of this continuous movement is the aim of history . Only by taking an infinitesimally small unit for observation (the differential of history, that is, the individual tendencies of man) and attaining to the art of integrating them (that is, finding the sum of these infinitesimals) can we hope to arrive at the laws of history.
War and Peace.

A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator the smaller the fraction.
In H. Eves Return to Mathematical Circles, Boston: Prindle, Weber and Schmidt, 1989.

Truesdell, Clifford

This paper gives wrong solutions to trivial problems. The basic error,however, is not new.
Mathematical Reviews 12, p561.

Turgenev, Ivan Sergeievich (1818 - 1883)

Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: `Great God, grant that twice two be not four'.

Turnbull, H.W.

Attaching significance to invariants is an effort to recognize what, because of its form or colour or meaning or otherwise, is important or significant in what is only trivial or ephemeral. A simple instance of failing in this is provided by the poll-man at Cambridge, who learned perfectly how to factorize a^2 - b^2 but was floored because the examiner unkindly asked for the factors of p^2 - q^2 .
In J. R. Newman (ed.) The World of Mathematics, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1956.

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