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Justus von Liebig on Sir Robert Peel

October 25, 2014

“Like most English statesmen he was an opponent of the notion that the state should do something because, he said, everything goes quite splendidly with the manufacturers producing innovations, which science has done nothing for. This point of view is unacceptable to me, who understands the inner processes of progress; but this only caused the great man of whom I thought so highly to smile. I told him that the very manufacturers that he thought of so highly, instead of being able to exploit all knowledge and new procedures as a matter of course, would have to purchase this knowledge from younger people who had learned something. Manufacturing was like searching for gold. So long as it lay on the surface, anyone could find it; but once mining operations were required, then what was needed was knowledge learned and great dexterity.”

(from a letter to an unknown correspondent, 24 January, 1853; quoted in William H. Brock, Justus von Liebig)

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