Winston Churchill? Ernest Rutherford? Henry Tizard? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: When access to money is restricted it becomes more difficult to accomplish tasks. Deeper and more creative thought is required to make progress. Here are four versions of a pertinent expression:
(1) We have not got any money, so we have got to think.
(2) We haven’t any money so we’ve got to think.
(3) We have run out of money. I guess we’ll have to think.
(4) We are running short of money, so we must begin to think.
This notion has been ascribed to the prominent New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford and to the famous British statesman Winston Churchill. I am skeptical because I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?
Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1952 English chemist Henry Tizard was awarded the Messel Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry. He delivered a speech at a meeting of the organization on July 9th which was reported in the journal “The Chemical Age” on July 19th.Tizard employed the saying in his speech, but he credited colleague Ernest Rutherford. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:1
It was just as easy, Sir Henry said, to waste money on research as on anything else—especially if it were the taxpayers’ money. In this connection he recalled a remark once made by the late Lord Rutherford concerning the advantage held by scientists—‘We have not got any money, so we have got to think.’
Tizard clearly felt that the saying was valuable because he used it twice during his speech:2
It was more important to strengthen our technology than to expand our science. We must avoid the luxury of employing first-class scientists on second-class projects. Science was not enough; and he again quoted Lord Rutherford’s words, ‘We have not got any money, so we have got to think.’
The above passages from 1952 are the earliest matches known to QI. Ernest Rutherford died in 1937. The accuracy of the quotation and its ascription is based upon the memory and veracity of Tizard.
Attributions to Winston Churchill appeared by the 1990s, but he died in 1965. The saying does not appear in the comprehensive reference “Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words” compiled by Richard M. Langworth.3 QI believes that the linkage to Churchill is not substantive.
Additional details and citations are available in the article on the Medium platform which is located here.
Image Notes: Picture of miscellaneous currency from John McArthur at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Jonathan Lighter and Dan Goncharoff who participated in a mailing list thread about old sayings back in 2011 which ultimately led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Goncharoff pointed to the intriguing 1943 citation. Thanks also to Bill Sweetman’s email inquiry which helped to motivate this research. Additional thanks to Barry Popik for his helpful investigation.
 1952 July 19, The Chemical Age: The Weekly Journal of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry, Volume 67, Issue 1723, Article: SCI Chooses American President: Seventy-First Annual General Meeting Held at Aberdeen, Start Page 77, Quote Page 79, London, England. (Verified with scans)
 1952 July 19, The Chemical Age: The Weekly Journal of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry, Volume 67, Issue 1723, Article: SCI Chooses American President: Seventy-First Annual General Meeting Held at Aberdeen, Start Page 77, Quote Page 80, London, England. (Verified with scans)
 2013 (Kindle Edition), Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, (Quotation is absent.) RosettaBooks.