53+ Best Lord Kelvin Quotes: Exclusive Selection

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) was a Scottish engineer, mathematician, and physicist who profoundly influenced the scientific thought of his generation. Inspirational Lord Kelvin quotes will challenge the way you think, change the way you live and transform your whole life.

Famous Lord Kelvin Quotes

The true measure of a man is what he would do if he knew he would never be caught. – Lord Kelvin

Large increases in cost with questionable increases in performance can be tolerated only in race horses and fancy women. – Lord Kelvin

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind. – Lord Kelvin

If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. – Lord Kelvin

If we can’t express what we know in the form of numbers, we really don’t know much about it. – Lord Kelvin

Mathematics is the only true metaphysics. – Lord Kelvin

Quaternions came from Hamilton after his really good work had been done, and though beautifully ingenious, have been an unmixed evil to those who have touched them in any way. – Lord Kelvin

Symmetrical equations are good in their place, but ‘ vector ‘ is a useless survival, or offshoot from quaternions, and has never been of the slightest use to any creature. – Lord Kelvin

The vortex theory [of the atom] is only a dream. Itself unproven, it can prove nothing, and any speculations founded upon it are mere dreams about dreams. – Lord Kelvin

At what time does the dissipation of energy begin? – Lord Kelvin

In physical science a first essential step in the direction of learning any subject is to find principles of numerical reckoning and practicable methods for measuring some quality connected with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be. – Lord Kelvin

Although mechanical energy is indestructible, there is a universal tendency to its dissipation, which produces throughout the system a gradual augmentation and diffusion of heat, cessation of motion and exhaustion of the potential energy of the material Universe – Lord Kelvin

Simplification of modes of proof is not merely an indication of advance in our knowledge of a subject but is also the surest guarantee of readiness for farther progress. – Lord Kelvin

Questions of personal priority, however interesting they may be to the persons concerned, sink into insignificance in the prospect of any gain of deeper insight into the secrets of nature. – Lord Kelvin

To live among friends is the primary essential of happiness. – Lord Kelvin

We all confidently believe that there are at present, and have been from time immemorial, many worlds of life besides our own… [This] may seem wild, and visionary; all I maintain is that it is not unscientific. – Lord Kelvin

I can never satisfy myself until I can make a mechanical model of a thing. If I can make a mechanical model, I can understand it. As long as I cannot make a mechanical model all the way through, I cannot understand. – Lord Kelvin

I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their numerical magnitude. – Lord Kelvin

Nothing can be more fatal to progress than a too confident reliance on mathematical symbols; for the student is only too apt to take the easier course and consider the formula not the fact as the physical reality. – Lord Kelvin

I have not had a moment’s peace or happiness in respect to electromagnetic theory since November 28, 1846. All this time I have been liable to fits of ether dipsomania, kept away at intervals only by rigorous abstention from thought on the subject. – Lord Kelvin

The atheistic idea is so nonsensical that I do not see how I can put it in words. – Lord Kelvin

Scientific wealth tends to accumulate according to the law of compound interest. Every addition to knowledge of the properties of matter supplies the physical scientist with new instrumental means for discovering and interpreting phenomena of nature, which in their turn afford foundations of fresh generalizations, bringing gains of permanent value into the great storehouse of natural philosophy. – Lord Kelvin

Suppose that you could mark the molecules in a glass of water; then pour the contents of the glass into the ocean and stir the latter thoroughly so as to distribute the marked molecules uniformly throughout the seven seas; if then you took a glass of water anywhere out of the ocean, you would find in it about a hundred of your marked molecules. – Lord Kelvin

Vortices of pure energy can exist and, if my theories are right, can compose the bodily form of an intelligent species. – Lord Kelvin

All of science can be divided into physics and stamp-collecting. – Lord Kelvin

I need scarcely say that the beginning and maintenance of life on earth is absolutely and infinitely beyond the range of all sound speculation in dynamical science. The only contribution of dynamics to theoretical biology is absolute negation of automatic commencement or automatic maintenance of life. – Lord Kelvin

Fourier is a mathematical poem. – Lord Kelvin

The only census of the senses, so far as I am aware, that ever before made them more than five, was the Irishman’s reckoning of seven senses. I presume the Irishman’s seventh sense was common sense; and I believe that the possession of that virtue by my countrymen-I speak as an Irishman. – Lord Kelvin

It is conceivable that animal life might have the attribute of using the heat of surrounding matter, at its natural temperature, as a source of energy for mechanical effect . . . .The influence of animal or vegetable life on matter is infinitely beyond the range of any scientific enquiry hitherto entered on. Its power of directing the motions of moving particles, in the demonstrated daily miracle of our human free-will, and in the growth of generation after generation of plants from a single seed, are infinitely different from any possible result of the fortuitous concurrence of atoms. – Lord Kelvin

Science is bound, by the everlasting vow of honor, to face fearlessly every problem which can be fairly presented to it. – Lord Kelvin

There cannot be a greater mistake than that of looking superciliously upon practical applications of science. The life and soul of science is its practical application. – Lord Kelvin

I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning, or of the expectation of good results from any of the trials we heard of. So you will understand that I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society. – Lord Kelvin

Fourier’s theorem is not only one of the most beautiful results of modern analysis, but it may be said to furnish an indispensable instrument in the treatment of nearly every recondite question in modern physics. – Lord Kelvin

There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement. – Lord Kelvin

If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God. – Lord Kelvin

Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. – Lord Kelvin

Can you measure it? Can you express it in figures? Can you make a model of it? If not, your theory is apt to be based more upon imagination than upon knowledge. – Lord Kelvin

In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting. – Lord Kelvin

When you are face to face with a difficulty, you are up against a discovery. – Lord Kelvin

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it. – Lord Kelvin

To measure is to know. – Lord Kelvin

Ether is the only substance we are confident of in dynamics. One thing we are sure of and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminferous ether. – Lord Kelvin

I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism. – Lord Kelvin

There is nothing in science which teaches the origin of anything at all. – Lord Kelvin

Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination, a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been but the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labor in the minute sifting of numerical results. – Lord Kelvin

The fact that mathematics does such a good job of describing the Universe is a mystery that we don’t understand. And a debt that we will probably never be able to repay. – Lord Kelvin

Let nobody be afraid of true freedom of thought. Let us be free in thought and criticism; but, with freedom, we are bound to come to the conclusion that science is not antagonistic to religion, but a help to it. – Lord Kelvin

The more thoroughly I conduct scientific research, the more I believe that science excludes atheism. – Lord Kelvin

The life and soul of science is its practical application, and just as the great advances in mathematics have been made through the desire of discovering the solution of problems which were of a highly practical kind in mathematical science, so in physical science many of the greatest advances that have been made from the beginning of the world to the present time have been made in the earnest desire to turn the knowledge of the properties of matter to some purpose useful to mankind. – Lord Kelvin

Creative Power is the only feasible answer to the origin of life from a scientific perspective. – Lord Kelvin

Do not imagine that mathematics is hard and crabbed, and repulsive to common sense. It is merely the etherealization of common sense. – Lord Kelvin

Do not be afraid of being free thinkers! If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all religion. You will find science not antagonistic but helpful to religion. – Lord Kelvin

We only know God in His works, but we are forced by science to admit and to believe with absolute confidence in a Directive Power-in an influence other than physical, or dynamical, or electrical forces, – Lord Kelvin