Thirty Years from Now the Big University Campuses Will Be Relics. Universities Won’t Survive

Peter Drucker? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous management guru Peter Drucker apparently made a provocative prediction about education:

Universities won’t survive.

Is this quotation accurate? Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1997 “Forbes” published an interview with Peter F. Drucker under the title “Seeing things as they really are” by Robert Lenzner and Stephen S. Johnson. The interviewers flew to Claremont, California and spent ten hours speaking with Drucker about the future. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Education. Now there’s a subject that interests everyone today. President Clinton says we should pump more money into the present educational establishment. Drucker says the current setup is doomed, at least so far as higher education is concerned.

“Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive. It’s as large a change as when we first got the printed book.

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Notes:

  1. Website: Forbes, Article title: Seeing things as they really are, Article author: Robert Lenzner and Stephen S. Johnson, Date on website: March 10, 1997, Website description: Business news. (Accessed forbes.com on September 17, 2017) link

There is No Reason for Any Individual To Have a Computer in Their Home

Ken Olsen? David H. Ahl? Gordon Bell? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: I was looking through a collection of woefully inaccurate pronouncements delivered by experts, and I saw a remark attributed to Ken Olsen, a prominent computer industry pioneer who founded the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) which built minicomputers. DEC was perfectly positioned to create a personal computer for the home. Yet, the company delayed, and competitors filled the rapidly expanding niche. Ultimately, the IBM PC architecture became dominant.

Apparently, in 1977 during a crucial period for the emergence of the microcomputer Olsen attended a convention of the World Future Society and said:

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.

Is this quotation accurate?

Quote Investigator: The earliest published evidence known to QI appeared in the April 1980 issue of “Creative Computing” magazine which was founded and edited by David H. Ahl who worked at DEC during the 1970s. Ahl was part of a group that was constructing a computer for the home in 1974, but Olsen refused to support the full development and marketing of the system. Ahl later recounted his unhappy experience. In 1980 he published in “Creative Computing” his conversation with Gordon Bell, an important innovator in the computer field employed at DEC. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Dave: Just prior to the time I left DEC in 1974 I remember Ken Olsen (president of DEC) saying that he couldn’t see any need or any use for a computer in someone’s home and, as I recall, at the time you took some issue with that. Then he repeated it several years later at the World Future Society meeting in Boston and some people in the audience took issue with that.

The passage above did not employ quotation marks, but Ahl later presented a verbatim version. The accuracy of the statement and its attribution to Olsen is based on the testimony of Ahl. QI has not yet found a direct citation in the proceedings of the World Future Society.

To understand the mindset of this period it is important to recognize the distinction between a computer terminal and a free-standing computer. Some experts believed that individuals would have terminals at home that communicated with powerful remote computers providing utility-like services for information and interaction. These experts believed that an isolated computer at home would be too under-powered to be worthwhile.

Nowadays, a single person often owns several home computers, e.g., a desktop, a tablet, a cellphone, a game console, a cable-TV box, a watch, a thermostat, and a voice assistant. These devices can connect to a vast network of computers providing myriad services.

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Notes:

  1. 1980 April, Creative Computing, Volume 6, Number 4, Interview with Gordon Bell by David Ahl, Start Page 88, Quote Page 89, Column 1, Creative Computing, Morristown, New Jersey. (Verified with scans at archive.org)

Glamour: Just Stand Still and Look Stupid

Hedy Lamarr? Hedda Hopper? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr was famous for her beauty and intelligence. In the 1940s she and a co-author were granted a patent for a futuristic frequency-hopping communication system whose importance emerged two decades later. Her attitude towards glamor was summarized with a hilarious quotation:

Why, any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.

Could you please help me to find a citation?

Dear Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the newspaper column “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” in April 1941. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Hedy Lamarr’s formula for being a glamour girl: “Just stand still and look stupid.”

Only part of the target quotation occurred between quotation marks in this instance. Later versions occurred as complete sentences.

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Notes:

  1. 1941 April 24, The Los Angeles Times, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood, Section 2, Quote Page 11, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

I Spent a Good Part of Last Evening Laughing at a Very Bad Play

Walter Kerr? Groucho Marx? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Comedies rarely win prestigious awards. Critics are unaccountably hostile to works that make them guffaw. Groucho Marx once described a critic who laughed heartily and repeatedly during the performance of a play, yet crafted and published an excoriating newspaper review the next day using the barbed phrases “tasteless and tatterdemalion” and “very bad play”. Do you know the critic’s name?

Quote Investigator: Walter Kerr was an influential theater critic for the “New York Herald Tribune” in the 1950s and 1960s. After that newspaper closed he continued his efforts at “The New York Times”. In 1958 Kerr evaluated a comedy from Norman Barasch and Carroll Moore: 1

This is not so much a review as a confession. I spent a good part of an evening laughing at a very bad play—”Make A Million.”

. . . tawdry, tasteless, and tatterdemalion as the evening is, “Make A Million” is—as often as not—stubbornly funny.

. . . “Make A Million” isn’t respectable by any standards I can think of; but it does have an unexpected, and just about inexplicable funnybone.

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Notes:

  1. 1958 October 30, The Cincinnati Enquirer, This Is No Review; It’s a Confession by Walter Kerr, Quote Page 9B, Column 1 to 4, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

You Are Never Too Old To Set Another Goal or To Dream a New Dream

C. S. Lewis? Les Brown? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous fantasy author C. S. Lewis has been credited with an encouraging statement aimed at seniors:

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

I haven’t been able to find a citation. Is this ascription accurate?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence supporting the linkage to C. S. Lewis.

The first match found by QI occurred in the 1992 book “Live Your Dreams” by the motivational speaker and author Les Brown within a section titled “Never Too Old to Be Bold”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

And please note this: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. A gentleman nearing retirement age once approached me after I’d given a speech to his corporation. He said, “You know, that was real great motivation for the young guys, but I’ve done all my work. There is nothing else for me to do.”

I replied, “Oh yes, you have a lot to give. The fact that you are still here on this planet means that your business is NOT DONE.”

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Notes:

  1. 1992, Live Your Dreams by Les Brown, Chapter 3: The Power To Change, Quote Page 75, William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

It Spills Its Seed Upon the Ground

Dorothy Parker? Corey Ford? John Keats? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Apparently, the famous wit Dorothy Parker was once asked why she had selected the curious name Onan for her pet canary. She replied:

Because he spills his seed on the ground.

What is the veracity of this tale?

Quote Investigator: The biblical figure Onan appeared in the Book of Genesis. He disobeyed God by refusing to impregnate his brother’s widow and spilling his seed on the ground. This behavior irked the Deity and proved fatal to Onan.

The earliest version of the Parker anecdote located by QI occurred within a chapter profiling her in the 1934 book “While Rome Burns” by Alexander Woollcott who helped to build her reputation for clever banter. Woollcott’s statement was elliptical. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

Of her birds, I remember only an untidy canary whom she named Onan for reasons which will not escape those who know their Scriptures.

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Notes:

  1. 1934, While Rome Burns by Alexander Woollcott, Chapter “Some Neighbors IV: Our Mrs. Parker”, Quote Page 152, Viking Press, New York. (Verified on paper)

There Are Three Things Extreamly Hard, Steel, a Diamond and To Know One’s Self

Benjamin Franklin? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, I came across an insightful saying about psychology:

Three of the hardest entities are steel, a diamond, and self-knowledge.

Would you please help me to determine the originator?

Quote Investigator: In 1750 statesman Benjamin Franklin included an instance in “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. The word “extremely” was spelled “extreamly”. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

There are three Things extreamly hard, Steel, a Diamond and to know one’s self.

Some the sayings propagated by Franklin were selected from previously published books and periodicals. For example, Franklin is often credited with “Time is money”, but that proverb was circulating decades earlier. Nevertheless, QI has not yet found a precursor for the saying under examination and would provisionally credit Franklin.

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Notes:

  1. 1750 January, Poor Richard Improved: Being An Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon for the Year of Our Lord 1750, (Poor Richard’s Almanac), Benjamin Franklin, Month: January, Column: 2, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Images from Historical Society of Pennsylvania; accessed at rarebookroom.org on August 30, 2017) link

If a Cluttered Desk Is a Sign of a Cluttered Mind, We Can’t Help Wondering What an Empty Desk Indicates

Albert Einstein? Truman Twill? Lyndon B. Johnson? Laurence J. Peter? Paul A. Freund? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many sayings attributed to the scientific genius Albert Einstein concern the mind. Here is a funny example:

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?

I haven’t been able to find a solid citation. Would you please help me to determine whether Einstein said this?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein made this quip. It was attributed to him in the 2000s many years after his death in 1955. The most comprehensive reference about the physicist’s pronouncements is the 2010 book “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press, and the expression is absent. 1

This comical riposte was inspired by a family of admonishments about messy desks, and this website has a pertinent entry here: “A Cluttered Desk Produces a Cluttered Mind”.

The earliest match in this family known to QI appeared in 1911. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Orderliness and cleanliness are two important factors in efficiency. A disordered desk is an evidence of a disordered brain and a disordered character.

In 1941 a newspaper in East Liverpool, Ohio printed a column titled “Confession” by Truman Twill who was critical of the common adage extolling well-organized desks: 3

A neat desk, they always say, is the sign of a well ordered mind. Important executives make it a point of pride never to have any clutter on their desks. Finally, the desk is immaculate. It is free of clutter as a bald head.

Yet, Twill thought that the cleanliness advice was inherently flawed:

There is a man who has cleaned himself out of the wherewithal to work with, whose empty desk reflects his empty mind, a man who won’t be worth his social security till his desk gets cluttered up again.

So, Twill articulated the idea of the quotation under examination. He employed two concise counterpoint phrases, but the overall column was prolix.

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Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not By Einstein, (No page number because statement is absent), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1911 December, The Mediator, Volume 3, Number 12, Editor: J. K. Turner, Section: Editorial, Two Men and a Pin, Quote Page 34, The Mediator Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  3. 1941 April 9, East Liverpool Review (The Evening Review), Confession by Truman Twill, Quote Page 4, Column 7, East Liverpool, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)

A Cluttered Desk Produces a Cluttered Mind

J. K. Turner? Newton A. Fuessle? Edward Earle Purinton? William C. McCraw? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Office workers whose desks are covered with a jumble of papers are criticized with the following adage. Here are three versions:

  1. A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind.
  2. A messy desk is evidence of a messy mind.
  3. A disordered desk indicates a disordered brain

World you please investigate this saying?

Quote Investigator: This maxim is difficult to trace because it can be expressed in many ways. The earliest close match located by QI appeared in “The Mediator” in 1911. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Show me a man’s tool-box, his bench, or his desk, and I will tell you what manner of man he is. Orderliness and cleanliness are two important factors in efficiency. A disordered desk is an evidence of a disordered brain and a disordered character.

The author of the above passage was not specified, but it appeared in the editorial section. The masthead listed J. K. Turner as editor and Newton A. Fuessle as managing editor.

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Notes:

  1. 1911 December, The Mediator, Volume 3, Number 12, Editor: J. K. Turner, Section: Editorial, Two Men and a Pin, Quote Page 34, The Mediator Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio. (HathiTrust Full View) link

The Face of Venus, the Figure of Juno, the Brains of Minerva, the Memory of Macaulay . . . Above and Beyond All, the Hide of a Rhinoceros

Ethel Barrymore? Madge Kendal? J. H. Ellis? Lilian Braithwaite? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous actress Ethel Barrymore was asked to list the requirements for success in the theater. She specified remarkable qualities such as the beauty of Venus and the intelligence of Minerva. The final crucial precondition was an ability to ignore criticism. Would you please trace this quotation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest close match known to QI revealed that this statement was employed by the prominent English actress Madge Kendal before it was used by Ethel Barrymore. In 1933 Kendal published her autobiography “Dame Madge Kendal, By Herself” which was reviewed in newspapers such as “The Leeds Mercury” in England 1 and the “Dundee Courier and Advertiser” in Scotland. 2 These papers reprinted the following entertaining remark. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

She sums up the qualifications of a young woman for a successful career on the stage as “The face of Venus, the figure of Juno, the brains of Minerva, the memory of Macaulay, the chastity of Diana, the grace of Terpsichore, but, above and beyond all, the hide of a rhinoceros.”

Ethel Barrymore received credit for a very similar statement by 1937 as shown further below. Interestingly, many years earlier in 1900 Madge Kendal employed a comparable trope although she listed a somewhat different set of requirements for an actress.

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Notes:

  1. 1933 October 31, The Leeds Mercury, Dame Madge Kendal: How She Chose Her Epitaph, Quote Page 6, Column 4, County: West Yorkshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)
  2. 1933 October 31, Dundee Courier and Advertiser, 80 Years of the Stage: How Madge Kendal Chose Her Own Epitaph, Quote Page 6, Column 4, County: Angus, Scotland. (British Newspaper Archive)