Over 30 years ago, physicist Larry Shaw celebrated the first Pi Day on March 14. The date, 3.14, was meant to signify the first three digits of pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. In a bit of serendipity, March 14 is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.
The first Pi Day celebration took place at the Exploratorium (Shaw’s place of work), a San Francisco-based interactive science museum, and featured a circular parade and the eating of fruit pies. The festivities have gotten larger each year, and now include webcasts and a virtual party in Second Life (an online virtual world). It wasn’t until 2009, however, that it became an official national holiday when the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation.
This year, people all over the country will celebrate Pi Day by making pies, reciting digits of pi and telling pi-themed dad jokes. But perhaps the best way to honor the day is to consider the wisdom of mathematicians and other scientific minds. You might be surprised how their advice translates to your career, even if your job has nothing to do with math.
31 Pi Day Inspirational Quotes From Mathematicians, Physicists and Scientists
- “Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” – Isaac Newton
- “Understand well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand.” – Ada Lovelace
- “Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men.” – Katherine Johnson
- “Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all.” – Charles Babbage
- “The apex of mathematical achievement occurs when two or more fields which were thought to be entirely unrelated turn out to be closely intertwined. Mathematicians have never decided whether they should feel excited or upset by such events.” – Gian-Carlo Rota
- “Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals — the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned, if at all.” – Martin Gardner
- “The Analytical Engine has no pretensions whatever to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform. It can follow analysis; but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths. Its province is to assist us to making available what we are already acquainted with.” – Ada Lovelace
- “‘Contrariwise,’ continued Tweedledee, ‘if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’” – Lewis Carroll
- “Mathematicians are like managers – they want improvement without change.” – Edsger Dijkstra
- “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.” – Grace Hopper
- “On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.” – Charles Babbage
- “In each action we must look beyond the action at our past, present, and future state, and at others whom it affects, and see the relations of all those things. And then we shall be very cautious.” – Blaise Pascal
- “In my school, the brightest boys did math and physics, the less bright did physics and chemistry, and the least bright did biology. I wanted to do math and physics, but my father made me do chemistry because he thought there would be no jobs for mathematicians.” – Stephen Hawking
- “Many who have had an opportunity of knowing any more about mathematics confuse it with arithmetic, and consider it an arid science. In reality, however, it is a science which requires a great amount of imagination.” – Sofia Kovalevskaya
- “Mathematicians stand on each other’s shoulders.” – Carl Friedrich Gauss
- “The isolated man does not develop any intellectual power. It is necessary for him to be immersed in an environment of other men, whose techniques he absorbs during the first twenty years of his life. He may then perhaps do a little research of his own and make a very few discoveries which are passed on to other men. From this point of view the search for new techniques must be regarded as carried out by the human community as a whole, rather than by individuals.” – Alan Turing
- “What is imagination?…It is a God-like, a noble faculty. It renders earth tolerable, it teaches us to live, in the tone of the eternal.” – Ada Lovelace
- “You are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is better than you.” – Katherine Johnson
- “Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything.” – Blaise Pascal
- “Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.” – Albert Einstein
- “It is often easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” – Grace Hopper
- “Mathematicians aren’t satisfied because they know there are no solutions up to four million or four billion, they really want to know that there are no solutions up to infinity.” – Andrew Wiles
- “The mathematician does not study pure mathematics because it is useful; he studies it because he delights in it and he delights in it because it is beautiful.” – Henri Poincaré
- “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” – Alan Turing
- “People tend to think that mathematicians always work in sterile conditions, sitting around and staring at the screen of a computer, or at a ceiling, in a pristine office. But in fact, some of the best ideas come when you least expect them, possibly through annoying industrial noise.” – Edward Frenkel
- “No matter how correct a mathematical theorem may appear to be, one ought never to be satisfied that there was not something imperfect about it until it also gives the impression of being beautiful.” – George Boole
- “It matters little who first arrives at an idea, rather what is significant is how far that idea can go.” – Sophie Germain
- “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” – Pythagoras
- “’Obvious’ is the most dangerous word in mathematics.” – E.T. Bell
- “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.” – Grace Hopper
- “Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.” – Albert Einstein
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