Arthur C. Clarke? Isaac Asimov? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The famous science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke believed that proclamations of impossibility were too readily dispensed by blinkered elderly scientists. Would you please help me to find a citation for Clarke’s First Law?
Quote Investigator: In 1962 Arthur C. Clarke published a forward-looking book filled with predictions titled “Profiles of the Future”. The second chapter discussed the failure of imagination that lead to some deeply flawed prognostications. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Too great a burden of knowledge can clog the wheels of imagination; I have tried to embody this fact of observation in Clarke’s Law, which may be formulated as follows:
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Clarke further suggested that in the domains of physics, mathematics, and astronautics elderly meant over the age of thirty. In other areas of science the label of elderly may postponed into the forties. Clarke also admitted that there were glorious exceptions to his rather harsh ageism.
- 1972 (First publication 1962), Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke, Chapter 2: Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, Quote Page 14, Bantam Books, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩