The Author’s Favourite Quotes
Here is a selection of quotes showing
humor, wit and even phylosophical digressions. I have included, among other things,
forecasts that turned out to be wrong. They are so fascinating …
1. Those Who Got It WrongHeavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
[Lord Kelvin, 1895]
The use of electric calculators is coming in to reduce manual labor,
but there is litte hope of doing nearly all that we would like to do.
Satellite vehicles represent a rather fearsome foresight of future
wars of nerves, in which aggressive nations could put their piloteless
missiles into frictionless satellite motion round the earth for all
to see and fear, with the constant threat of guiding them down to a target.
… supersonic aeroplanes have carried men at more than 2,000 miles per hour and
there are reasons to believe that this speed will be doubled by 1960 or so …
… future growth potential looks unlimited … one gross weight doubling, and
possibly two, is predicted by 1985; nuclear power can drive [the aircraft’s]
optimum weight to 5 or 10 million pounds before the year 2000.
I am well convinced that Aerial Navigation will form a most prominent
feature in the progress of civilization.
If there is a possibility of cosmonautics, Man will not hesitate to leave the
Earth to launch himself into interplanetary space at the risk of loosing his
I am the world’s leading aerodynamicist and it wouldn’t need any vortex generators ! [Irv Culver, one time director of Lockheed’s Skunk Works]
Unlike the birth of Venus, new ideas do not burst fully matured
or fully recognized, or even in one place.
One should not have too much reverence for ideas, no matter whose they are.
Ideas are meant to be kicked around, stood upon their heads, and looked through
mirrors. It is only this way that they can grow up in the way that they should,
without excessive self-importance. The ideas of one man are the food for thought
The study of an idea is, of necessity, the story of many things. Ideas, like large
rivers, never have just one source. Just as the water of a river near its mouth, in
its final form, is composed largely of many tributaries, so an idea, in its final form,
is composed largely of later additions.
I came to realize that exaggerated concern about what others are doing can be foolish.
It can paralize effort, and stifle a good idea. One finds that in the history of science
almost every problem has been worked out by someone else. This should not discourage
anyone from pursuing his own path.
4. Science Fiction
A new impetus was given to aviation by the relatively enormous power for weight of
the atomic engine; it was at last possible to add Redmaynes’s ingenious helicopter
ascent and descent engine to the vertical propeller that had hitherto been the sole
driving force of the aeroplane without over-weighting the machine, and men found
themselves possessed of an instrument of flight that could hover or ascend or descend
vertically and gently as rush wildly through the air. The last dread of fliying
The most accurate aerodynamic prediction code available today, FLO-1234.5, is so
complex and expensive that it has never been run. Many other codes, if run to completion,
would require CPU times exceeding the average human lifespan. Most engineers attribute
this situation to the time when the task of writing aerodynamic computer programs was
automated and handed over to computers …
5. Driving progressTechnical progress is made by integration, not differentiation.
[Max M. Munk, 1981]
6. Weird Things
… if we further assume that the atmosphere has been well mixed by turbulent
motion, so that all the molecules have scattered in the course of the last two
thousand years, it follows that every time we breath we inhale at least one molecule
of breath that Julius Caesar exaled when he was murdered in the Roman Senate house in
44 B.C. …
The Air Force called in top scientists today to find out what “flying saucers” really
are, as mysterious objects swept over the capital. Top officials have decided to get to
the bottom of the mystery. It was learned that they have dropped an earlier attitude
there there are no such things, and have decided to enlist op scientists in a major new
study. Maj. Gen. John A. Samford said a study of mysterious object-sightings for six
years revealed “no pattern that shows anything remotely consistent with any menace to the
There is no particular feeling of speed, except that the miles go faster. The sky is
not dark and the horizon is not curved.
Give me an engine big enough and I’ll give you an ironing board that will
8. About the Helicopter
The helicopter appeared so reluctant to fly forward that we even considered turning
the pilot’s seat around and letting it fly backward.
About the Airplane
To design one is nothing,[much quoted verses attributed to Otto Lilienthal]
I think we can build a better plane.
The Boeing 747 is the commuter train of the global village.
The aircraft [replacement of Lockheed SR-71A] has been seen moving at high
supersonic speed, with the resultant sonic ‘bangs’, over Southern California. It is
believed to be powered by a revolutionary new engine which leaves a distinctive
‘sausage-string’ shaped contrail at high altitude, coupled with an unmistakable
… here we are on the tarmac, and here, dear readers, our ways must depart. You are the fortunate ones who will start on the great adventure, whereas I, alas!, must stay on this unhappy earth, consoled only by the thought that I have brought you to this jumping-off point and must now return and endeavour to bring others to the same point. In bidding you good-bye, I can only wish you the best of luck on your journey and hand you over to a much better instructor than myself.
So we’ll open the throttle and gather speed,
[AC Kermode, in Mechanics of Flight, 1956]
Selected ReferencesThere are books I found after I started collecting the quotes above. I strongly recommend reading the following:
Copyright © A. Filippone (1997-2005). All Rights Reserved.