Abraham Flexner Quotes

Abraham Flexner (November 13, 1866 – September 21, 1959) was an American educator, best known for his role in the 20th century reform of medical and higher education in the United States and Canada

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Abraham Flexner


Mathematicians, like cows in the dark, all look alike to me.

Abraham Flexner


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Medical education is not just a program for building knowledge and skills in its recipients... it is also an experience which creates attitudes and expectations.

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We must not overlook the role that extremists play. They are the gadflies that keep society from being too complacent or self-satisfied; they are, if sound, the spearhead of progress. If they are fundamentally wrong, free discussion will in time put an end to them.

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A patient had a 50-50 chance of benefiting from visiting a physician as of 1910. Medicine was more like voodoo than science until the 20th Century.

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We feel strongly that the spirit characteristic of America at its noblest, above all the pursuit of higher learning, cannot admit of any conditions as to personnel other than those designed to promote the objects for which this institution is established, and particularly with no regard whatever to accidents of race, creed, or sex.

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Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.

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“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education... no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.”

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Science, in the very act of solving problems, creates more of them.

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There are men that teach best by not teaching at all.

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Curiosity, which may or may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the most outstanding characteristic of modern thinking ... Institutions of learning should be devoted to the cultivation of curiosity, and the less they are deflected by the consideration of immediacy of application, the more likely they are to contribute not only to human welfare, but to the equally important satisfaction of intellectual interest, which may indeed be said to have become the ruling passion of intellectual life in modern times.

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The real enemy is the man who tries to mold the human spirit so that it will not dare to spread its wings.

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The student is to collect and evaluate facts. The facts are locked up in the patient.

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The new naval treaty permits the United States to spend a billion dollars on warships-a sum greater than has been accumulated by all our endowed institutions of learning in their entire history. Unintelligence could go no further! ... In Great Britain, the situation is similar. ... Until the figures are reversed, ... nations deceive themselves as to what they care about most.

Abraham Flexner


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You have had your last bad meal. But, you have also heard your last honest compliment, and you have lost your last true friend.

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At no period of [Michael Faraday's] unmatched career was he interested in utility. He was absorbed in disentangling the riddles of the universe, at first chemical riddles, in later periods, physical riddles. As far as he cared, the question of utility was never raised. Any suspicion of utility would have restricted his restless curiosity. In the end, utility resulted, but it was never a criterion to which his ceaseless experimentation could be subjected.

Abraham Flexner


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