Human knowledge is but an accumulation of small facts, made by successive generations of men, the little bits of knowledge and experience carefully treasured up by them growing at length into a mighty pyramid. Though many of these facts and observations seemed in the first instance to have but slight significance, they are all found to have their eventual uses, and to fit into their proper places. Even many speculations seemingly remote, turn out to be the basis of results the most obviously practical. In the case of the conic sections discovered by Apollonius Pergaeus, twenty centuries elapsed before they were made the basis of astronomy — a science which enables the modern navigator to steer his way through unknown seas and traces for him in the heavens an unerring path to his appointed haven. And had not mathematicians toiled for so long, and, to uninstructed observers, apparently so fruitlessly, over the abstract relations of lines and surfaces, it is probable that but few of our mechanical inventions would have seen the light. — Samuel Smiles, Self-Help

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Last modified 6 July 2014