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Quotations: powerful and concise thoughts of the giants

25 September 2011, Last Updated: November 2019

Common, skip the sections that seem less important, I consoled myself while frantically preparing for the final board exams of Class XII. The syllabus for Physics and Chemistry were huge. Therefore, my study pattern got more careless as the shadow of the exam conspired for a war with my ignorance. I stayed in the student hostel during Class XI/XII study at DPS (Dharan, Nepal). Frequent study breaks were a good way to recharge during those days of intensive exam preparation. During one such study break, I noticed the following anonymous quotation written on one of my friends study desk:

Skipping steps gives the illusion of speed.

It was like a traffic sign warning me of the consequences of my frantic exam preparation. Now I realize that I would also have been a casualty of "skipping steps" had I not seen this quotation. In this blog post, I plan to keep a record of all such powerful and concise thoughts -- without the related background story :)

I feel that quotations are the best way to convey wisdom. I will keep adding more interesting quotations to this blog post. Visit wikiquote if you want to explore this powerful medium of conveying wisdom.



  1. Organizers didn't make any money; their poverty was proof of their integrity. - Barack Obama
  2. Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. - T. S. Eliot
  3. There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness. - Josh Billings
  4. He was ignorant of the commonest accomplishments of youth. He could not even lie. - Mark Twain
  5. If I have been able to see further, it was only because I stood on the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton
  6. The world seems full of randomness but everything is planned. - Anonymous
  7. I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. - Bill Cosby
  8. If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. - Abraham Lincoln
  9. Fatigue is the best pillow. - Benjamin Franklin
  10. By the time a man realizes that his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong. - Charles Wadsworth
  11. Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. - John Betjeman (From Movie: The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas)
  12. You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill
  13. I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. - Blaise Pascal
  14. The moderns do not realize modernity. - G.K.Chesterton
  15. First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win. - M. K. Gandhi
  16. If there is one 'scientific' discovery I am proud of, it is the discovery of the habit of writing without publication in mind. - E. W. Dijkstra
  17. Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do. - Voltaire
  18. Necessity first mothered invention. Now invention has little ones of her own, and they look just like grandma. - E. B. White
  19. The only thing that we know is that we know nothing — and that is the highest flight of human wisdom. - Leo Tolstoy
  20. The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience. - Leo Tolstoy
  21. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - Kelly Clarkson's Song
  22. Sometimes you have to go up really high to see how small you are - Felix Baumgartner
  23. You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometime ... You just might find you get what you need - Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
  24. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -- Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina/Part One/Chapter 1)
  25. There is nothing that pleases me more than a beautiful sentence ... It is something that satisfies me -- Arundhati Roy (BBC Face to Face July 07, 1999, 15:40)
  26. It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things -- Leonardo Da Vinci (source: David Heathcock)
  27. Hands which serve are holier than the lips that pray -- Mother Teresa (source: Dr. Devi Shetty)
  28. Everything comes to him who knows how to wait -- Wolfgang Pauli (source: Project Poltergeist)
  29. Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend. -- William Shakespeare (Hamlet - Act 1, Scene 3)
  30. I am better off than he is,—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know. -- Socrates (conveyed by Plato in Apology)
  31. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. -- Malala Yousafzai (source: speech delivered at the UN on July 12, 2013)
  32. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. -- Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird
  33. "There is an enormous inertia that prevents people from change. You must always remember that it is impossible to make something better if you don't make it different -- the converse is not true, of course. You cannot make something better unless it is different. And different scares the life out of so many people ..." -- Dr. Amar G. Bose (skip to 35min 40sec of this MIT Distinguished Lecture Series)
  34. The man who dies rich, dies disgraced -- Andrew Carnegie (quotation inscribed at the Peace Palace)
  35. During the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out. If we have once seen, "the day is ours, and what the day has shown." -- Helen Keller (Chapter I: The Story of My Life)
  36. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. -- Abraham Lincoln
  37. [TRANSLATED] Love cannot be seeded into someone. It is a fire that is difficult to kindle but once it takes on, it is equally difficult to extinguish.
  38. Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan - [proverb]
  39. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link - [proverb]
  40. I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it - [Evelyn Beatrice Hall]
  41. The more you read, the better you write. - [Abhishek Dutta :-) ]
  42. Trips to fairly unknown regions should be made twice; once to make mistakes and once to correct them. – John Steinbeck (Chapter 28: The C++ Programming Language by Bjarne Stroustrup)
  43. The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. -- Bertrand Russell (in Mortals and Others)
  44. Our pleasure is significantly enhanced when we accomplish something with limited tools. -- D. Knuth (Pg. 10 of Literate Programming)
  45. Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers  worry about data structures and their relationships. -- Linus Torvalds (on git mailing list)
  46. "I have some guiding principals: (a) Don't run with the pack; (b) Partner with wonderful and outstanding people ... Lead them with your own efforts ... or partner with people smarter than you ... but have good choice with partners; (c) Be guided by beauty; (d) Don't give up ... persistence [or, perseverance] has a lot of value; (e) Hope for good luck" - James Simons, AMS and the MSRI event on 30 Oct. 2014 (source)
  47. "Aim for the sky and your arrow shall cross the highest tree" - Anonymous
  48. "People with influence and power have a moral duty to ensure that the powerless never feel helpless." - [Abhishek Dutta :-) ]
  49. "... he addressed a room full of many of the same mathematicians who had rejected his graduate school application a year earlier."-- A Path Less Taken to the Peak of the Math World, Quanta Magazine
  50. "My work, which I've done for a long time, was not pursued in order to gain the praise I now enjoy, but chiefly from a craving after knowledge, which I notice resides in me more than in most other men. And therewithal, whenever I found out anything remarkable, I have thought it my duty to put down my discovery on paper, so that all ingenious people might be informed thereof." -- Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
  51. "... he has overcome two of the greatest obstacles to the acquisition of knowledge—inasmuch as he possesses the consciousness that he does not know—and he has the moral courage to avow it." -- Charles Babbage (in Chapter V : Difference Engine NO. I., Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, 1864)
  52. "If you tell me precisely what it is a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that" -- John von Neumann (encountered while reading this research paper)
  53. "I am concerned that neither of you are appreciating the gravity of this situation.", said a US official interrogating Albert Einstein and Elsa Einstein to which Einstein replied, "I dare say that I know a bit more about gravity than you ..." -- (Chapter 8, Genius)
  54. "Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud." - @thereaIbanksy (tweet on Oct. 07, 2017)
  55. "Age is usually accompanied by wisdom but sometimes it comes alone" -- (I am not sure about the source but I may have read this in one of Bertrand Russel's essays)
  56. "You are only ever as happy as your unhappiest child" -- Tim Lott (Guardian, 3 Nov. 2017)
  57. "Sometimes its the very people who no one imagines anything off, who do the things no one can imagine" -- Alan Turing's friend's dialogue (at 26m 15s) in the movie The Imitation Game
  58. "Life is complex -- it has both real and imaginary parts." -- Anonymous (noted from chapter 2 of this book)
  59. "The ideal engineer is a composite ... He is not a scientist, he is not a mathematician, he is not a sociologist or a writer; but he may use the knowledge and techniques of any or all of these disciplines in solving engineering problems." -- Nathan W. Dougherty
  60. "As gold which he cannot spend will make no man rich, so knowledge which he cannot apply will make no man wise." - Samuel Johnson: The Idler No. 84 (noted from the following book: Queueing System, Volume II: Computer Application by Leonard Kleinrock)