Isaac Asimov quotes

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Isaac Asimov

Birthdate: 1920
Date of death: 6. April 1992

Isaac Asimov was a Jewish-American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer, and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.

Asimov wrote hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the "Big Three" science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov's most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are explicitly set in earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation series. Later, beginning with Foundation's Edge, he linked this distant future to the Robot and Spacer stories, creating a unified "future history" for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and previously produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction novelette "Nightfall", which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.

Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery, as well as works on astronomy, mathematics, history, William Shakespeare's writing, and chemistry.

Asimov was a long-time member and vice president of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs". He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, a crater on the planet Mars, a Brooklyn elementary school, and a literary award are named in his honor.

Works

I, Robot
I, Robot
Isaac Asimov
Foundation
Isaac Asimov

Quotes Isaac Asimov

„The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.“

—  Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), edited with Jason A. Shulman, p. 281
General sources

„Properly read, it is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.“

—  Isaac Asimov

As quoted in Notes for a Memoir : On Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing (2006) by Janet Jeppson Asimov, p. 58
General sources
Variant: Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
Context: If you suspect that my interest in the Bible is going to inspire me with sudden enthusiasm for Judaism and make me a convert of mountain‐moving fervor and that I shall suddenly grow long earlocks and learn Hebrew and go about denouncing the heathen — you little know the effect of the Bible on me. Properly read, it is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.

„Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.“

—  Isaac Asimov, book Foundation

Part IV, The Traders, section 1; originally published as “The Wedge” in Astounding (October 1944)
Source: The Foundation series (1951–1993), Foundation (1951)

„If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.“

—  Isaac Asimov

Variant: If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster. Časopis LIFE, január 1984

„The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."“

—  Isaac Asimov

"A Cult of Ignorance", Newsweek (21 January 1980) http://media.aphelis.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ASIMOV_1980_Cult_of_Ignorance.pdf
General sources
Context: There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

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„The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny …“

—  Isaac Asimov

Attributed in the "quote of the day" source code of the “Fortune” computer program (June 1987); more at "The Most Exciting Phrase in Science Is Not ‘Eureka!’ But ‘That’s funny …’" at Quote Investigator https://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/03/02/eureka-funny/
General sources

„Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.“

—  Isaac Asimov

As quoted in The Mammoth Book of Zingers, Quips, and One-Liners (2004) edited by Geoff Tibballs, p. 299
General sources

„He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve".“

—  Isaac Asimov

p. 308
Context: He always pictured himself a libertarian, which to my way of thinking means "I want the liberty to grow rich and you can have the liberty to starve". It's easy to believe that no one should depend on society for help when you yourself happen not to need such help.

„How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection.“

—  Isaac Asimov

Source: The Roving Mind (1983), Ch. 25
Context: How often people speak of art and science as though they were two entirely different things, with no interconnection. An artist is emotional, they think, and uses only his intuition; he sees all at once and has no need of reason. A scientist is cold, they think, and uses only his reason; he argues carefully step by step, and needs no imagination. That is all wrong. The true artist is quite rational as well as imaginative and knows what he is doing; if he does not, his art suffers. The true scientist is quite imaginative as well as rational, and sometimes leaps to solutions where reason can follow only slowly; if he does not, his science suffers.

„It is better to know — even if the knowledge endured only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder.“

—  Isaac Asimov

The New Hugo Winners: Award-winning Science Fiction Stories Vol. 1 (1989)<!-- Afterword to "Speech Sounds" -->, p. 215
General sources
Context: We are meant to know, or we are amoebae.
Suppose that we are wise enough to learn and know — and yet not wise enough to control our learning and knowledge, so that we use it to destroy ourselves?
Even if that is so, knowledge remains better than ignorance. It is better to know — even if the knowledge endured only for the moment that comes before destruction — than to gain eternal life at the price of a dull and swinish lack of comprehension of a universe that swirls unseen before us in all its wonder. That was the choice of Achilles, and it is mine, too.

„Stories grow by accretion. Tales accumulate — like dust.“

—  Isaac Asimov

Source: The Foundation series (1951–1993), Foundation’s Edge (1982), Chapter 17 “Gaia” section 5, p. 361
Context: “Stories grow by accretion. Tales accumulate — like dust. The longer the time lapse, the dustier the history — until it degenerates into fables.”
Pelorat said, “We historians are familiar with the process, Dom. There is a certain preference for the fable. The falsely dramatic drives out the truly dull.”

„When the twenty-seven independent Trading Worlds“

—  Isaac Asimov

Source: The Foundation series (1951–1993), Foundation and Empire (1952), Chapter 16 “Conference”
Context: “When the twenty-seven independent Trading Worlds, united only by their distrust of mother planet of the Foundation, concert an assembly among themselves, and each is big with a pride grown of its smallness, hardened by its own insularity and embittered by eternal danger — there are preliminary negotiations to be overcome of a pettiness sufficiently staggering to heart-sicken the most persevering.”

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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