Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quote verification?

Last week at the APS, Lars Samuelson closed his nano-related talk with the following quote, reportedly from Albert Einstein: "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction." Can anyone tell me the primary source of this quote, and whether it's legitimate? I've googled a bit, and all I've found are lists of quotes that appear to have circulated online since the mid 1990s, with no primary source attribution. Since a number of fake quotes propagate online, I want to check this one out. Thanks....

11 comments:

Incoherent Ponderer said...

Look at books.google.com:

http://books.google.com/books?q=Any+intelligent+fool+can+make+things+bigger%2C+more+complex%2C+and+more+violent.&btnG=Search+Books&as_brr=0

I would be real careful with Einstein quotes - there is so many misattributions! If you are not sure who the author of some quote is, tell the audience it was Einstein (or someone similarly smart) who said it.

It appears that the quote is attributed both to Einstein and E.F. Schumacher. In all likelihood it was the latter.

Dan M said...

To provide a few potentially relevant quotations:

"Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously the words of another" - Ambrose Bierce, somebody famous

"People will accept your ideas much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first." - David H. Comins, somebody nobody has ever heard of

Doug Natelson said...

Google vote tally: when searching on '"any intelligent fool" einstein', google turns up 38500 hits. When searching on '"any intelligent fool" schumacher', google turns up 590 hits. I suspect the Schumacher origin is correct. I came upon an interview transcript with an ecology group where he uses a similar turn of phrase, though not that exact one.

Bernard said...

Nah. As anyone knows, if it's a worthwhile quote, it came from Mark Twain.

Or William Shakespeare. Could be Shakespeare.

:)

Beth said...

Or Oscar Wilde.

Mike Bethany said...

I believe it was Aristotle who said, "Google is never wrong. Don't believe me? Look it up on Wikipedia."

rajuda said...

I guess, it makes far more sense to attribute that quote to Michael Schumacher the German Formula One racing driver and seven-time World Champion.

j said...

It was E.F. Schumacher. Primary source here:
http://justinknoll.posterous.com/things-einstein-never-said-any-intelligent-fo

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