Gallery of Heroes (In No Particular Order)

A small gallery of great creative minds born in the 20th century.

Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001)

  • "I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans. And I am rooting for the machines."
    — C. E. Shannon, Omni Magazine, 1987.

John Wilder Tukey (1915-2000)

  • "Far better an approximate answer to the right question, which is often vague, than an exact answer to the wrong question, which can always be made precise."
    — J. W. Tukey, The Future of Data Analysis, Annals of Mathematical Statistics, vol. 33, no. 1, p. 13, 1962.
  • "Statistics is a science in my opinion, and it is no more a branch of mathematics than are physics, chemistry and economics; for if its methods fail the test of experience—not the test of logic—they are discarded."
    — J. W. Tukey, The growth of experimental design in a research laboratory. In Research Operations in Industry, pp. 303-313, 1953.
  • "One can Fourier transform anything—often meaningfully."
    — J. W. Tukey, In D. R. Brillinger, John W. Tukey: His Life and Professional Contributions, The Annals of Statistics, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 1535-1575, 2002.

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918-1988)

  • "We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers... one saying to the other: 'you don't know what you are talking about!'. The second one says: 'what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?'"
    — Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Volume I, 8-2, 1964.
  • "Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
    — Richard Feynman, The Physics Teacher, vol. 7, issue 6, 1969.
  • "Since then I never pay attention to anything by "experts". I calculate everything myself."
    — Richard Feynman, Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character, editor Ralph Leighton, 1986.

Richard Wesley Hamming (1915-1998)

  • "In science if you know what you are doing you should not be doing it. In engineering if you do not know what you are doing you should not be doing it. Of course, you seldom, if ever, see the pure state."
    — Richard Hamming, The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn, p. 5, 1997.
  • It is better to solve the right problem the wrong way than to solve the wrong problem the right way.
    — Richard Hamming, Attributed.
  • Probability is too important to be left to the experts. […] The experts, by their very expert training and practice, often miss the obvious and distort reality seriously. […] The desire of the experts to publish and gain credit in the eyes of their peers has distorted the development of probability theory from the needs of the average user. The comparatively late rise of the theory of probability shows how hard it is to grasp, and the many paradoxes show clearly that we, as humans, lack a well grounded intuition in the matter. Neither the intuition of the man in the street, nor the sophisticated results of the experts provides a safe basis for important actions in the world we live in.
    — Richard Hamming, The Art of Probability for Scientists and Engineers, p. 4, 1991.

Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996)

  • "We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads. But to find the truth, we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact. The cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths; of exquisite interrelationships; of the awesome machinery of nature."
    — Carl Sagan, The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean, in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, episode 1, 1980.
  • "What counts is not what sounds plausible, not what we would like to believe, not what one or two witnesses claim, but only what is supported by hard evidence rigorously and skeptically examined. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
    — Carl Sagan, Encyclopedia Galactica, in Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, episode 12, 1980.

Donald Ervin Knuth (1938- )

  • "An algorithm must be seen to be believed."
    — Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming , vol. I, Fundamental Algorithms, Section 1.1, 1968.
  • "Premature optimization is the root of all evil (or at least most of it) in programming."
    — Donald Knuth, Computer Programming as an Art, p. 671, 1974.
  • "Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it."
    — Donald Knuth, in memo 'Notes on the van Emde Boas construction of priority deques: An instructive use of recursion', 1977.

Edsger Wybe Dijkstra (1930-2002)

  • "Simplicity is a great virtue but it requires hard work to achieve it and education to appreciate it. And to make matters worse: complexity sells better."
    — Edsger W. Dijkstra, EWD 896: On the nature of Computing Science.
  • "It is not the task of the University to offer what society asks for, but to give what society needs."
    — Edsger W. Dijkstra, EWD 1305: Answers to questions from students of Software Engineering.

John von Neumann (1903-1957)

  • "I think that it is a relatively good approximation to truth — which is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations — that mathematical ideas originate in empirics."
    — John von Neumann in "The Mathematician", in The Works of the Mind, edited by R. B. Heywood, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1947.