Georg Christoph Lichtenberg Quotes

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, 1742 – 1799

Born: 1 July 1742, Ober-Ramstadt Darmstadt-Dieburg, Hessen
Died: 24 February 1799, G

Lichtenberg was a German satirist and scientist. The youngest of seventeen children, his intelligence was obvious early, so much so that the local Landgrave provided funds to pay for his mathematical studies in 1762. In 1763 he entered Göttingen University and became a professor there in 1769, remaining at that post until his death. Due to a malformation of his spine, Lichtenberg was a hunchback, and his condition worsened with time. Despite his unusual appearance he was one of the most popular and respected figures among the European intellectual elite of his time, and was popular with the ladies.

Lichtenberg is remembered now for his experiments in electricity and for discovering the branching patterns on dielectrics called Lichtenberg figures. He discovered them in 1777, when he created a giant electrophorus to create static electricity, with which he created strange tree-like patterns in fixed dust, demonstrating a principle used in modern xerographic printers and copiers.

He was one of the first people to introduce Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rods to Germany, and introduced the standardized paper sizes used throughout most of the world other than the US and Canada. From his student years until his death, he kept a series of notebooks with quotes, observations and reflections. After his death, his sons and brothers published these notebooks as the Lichtenbergs Vermischte Schriften, and they earned him a reputation as one of the best aphorists in Western literary history. His satiric observations led him into conflict with many well-known contemporaries.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg quotes:

A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook E (1775 – 1776)

A book which, above all others in the world, should be forbidden, is a catalogue of forbidden books.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A good means to discovery is to take away certain parts of a system to find out how the rest behaves.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

A handful of soldiers is always better than a mouthful of arguments.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook E (1775 – 1776)

A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Actual aristocracy cannot be abolished by any law: all the law can do is decree how it is to be imparted and who is to acquire it.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook L (1793-1796)

Affectation is a very good word when someone does not wish to confess to what he would none the less like to believe of himself.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

All mathematical laws which we find in Nature are always suspect to me, in spite of their beauty. They give me no pleasure. They are merely auxiliaries. At close range it is all not true.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

As the few adepts in such things well know, universal morality is to be found in little everyday penny-events just as much as in great ones.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook B (1768 – 1771)

Astronomy is perhaps the science whose discoveries owe least to chance, in which human understanding appears in its whole magnitude, and through which man can best learn how small he is.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook C (1772 – 1773)

Before one blames, one should always find out whether one cannot excuse.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook K (1789-1793)

Brevity: To say at once whatever is to be said.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Courage, garrulousness, and the mob are on our side. What more do we want?
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook E (1775 – 1776)

Delight at having understood a very abstract and obscure system leads most people to believe in the truth of what it demonstrates.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg – Aphorisms – Notebook J (1789)

Don’t judge a man by his opinions, but by what his opinions have made him.
    Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

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