Albertus Magnus Quotes

Words of wisdom from one of the most learned scholars of the Middle Ages

Albertus Magnus
Detail of a fresco by Tommaso da Modena, Treviso, Italy, 1352. Public Domain

Known as Doctor Universalis ("Universal Doctor") for the extraordinary depth of his knowledge and learning, Albertus Magnus wrote extensively on numerous subjects. Here are some words of wisdom from a variety of his writings, as well as quotations that have been attributed to him.

  • The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature.
    -- De Mineralibus ("On Minerals")

  • The beaver is an animal which has feet like those of a goose for swimming and front teeth like a dog, since it frequently walks on land. It is called the castor from "castration," but not because it castrates itself as Isidore says, but because it is especially sought for castration purposes. As has been ascertained frequently in our regions, it is false that when it is bothered by a hunter, it castrates itself with its teeth and hurls its musk away and that if one has been castrated on another occasion by a hunter, it raises itself up and shows that it lacks its musk.
    -- De Animalibus ("On Animals"). The "Isidore" Albertus refers to is Isidore of Seville, who wrote an encyclopedia that included descriptions of many animals, both real and fabulous.

  • Do there exist many worlds, or is there but a single world? This is one of the most noble and exalted questions in the study of Nature.
    -- Attributed

  • He took over anger to intimidate subordinates, and in time anger took over him.
    -- Attributed

  • I shall not conceal a science that was before me revealed by the grace of God; I shall not keep it to myself, for being afraid of attracting its curse. What worth is a concealed science; what worth is a hidden treasure? The science I have learned without fiction I transmit with no regret. Envy upsets everything; an envious man cannot be fair before God. Every science and knowledge proceeds from God. Saying it proceeds from the Holy Ghost is a simple way of expressing oneself. No one can thus say Our Lord Jesus Christ without implying Son of God our Father, by work and grace of the Holy Ghost. In the same manner this science cannot be separated from the One who has communicated it unto me.
    -- The Compound of Compounds. The science Albertus is talking about is alchemy.

  • In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.
    -- De Vegetabilibus ("On Vegetation")

  • Nature must be the foundation and model of science; thus Art works according to Nature in everything it can. Therefore, it is necessary that the Artist follows Nature and operates according to her.
    -- The Compound of Compounds

  • Now it must be asked if we can comprehend why comets signify the death of magnates and coming wars, for writers of philosophy say so. The reason is not apparent, since vapor no more rises in a land where a pauper lives than where a rich man resides, whether he be king or someone else. Furthermore, it is evident that a comet has a natural cause not dependent on anything else; so it seems that it has no relation to someone's death or to war. For if it be said that it does relate to war or someone's death, either it does so as a cause or effect or sign.
    -- De Cometis ("On Comets")

  • The second great wisdom ... is the science of the judgments of the stars, which provides a link between natural philosophy and metaphysics ... No human science attains this ordering of the universe as perfectly as the judgment of the stars does.
    -- Speculum Astronomiae ("The Mirror of Astronomy")

  • This dumb ox will fill the world with his bellowing.
    -- Attributed. The quote was supposedly in response to students calling Thomas Aquinas a "dumb ox" because he tended to stay so quiet.

  • To say that there is a soul in stones simply in order to account for their production is unsatisfactory: for their production is not like the reproduction of living plants, and of animals which have senses. For all these we see reproducing their own species from their own seeds; and a stone does not do this at all. We never see stones reproduced from stones ... because a stone seems to have no reproductive power at all.
    -- De Mineralibus

  • Whoever believes that Aristotle was a god, must also believe that he never erred. But if one believes that Aristotle was a man, then doubtless he was liable to error just as we are.
    -- Physica

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