In Science We Should Be Interested In Things, Not Persons

Marie Curie? Pierre Curie? Ève Curie? Marie Mattingly Meloney? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Gossip about people is extraordinarily popular. A famous scientist once criticized this attitude as follows:

In science, we must be interested in things, not in persons.

This statement has been attributed three members of a renowned French family: Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, and Ève Curie. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1923 Marie Curie published a biography of her husband Pierre Curie who had died in 1906. An English translation appeared in the same year. The introduction was penned by journalist Marie Mattingly Meloney who attributed the quotation to Marie Curie. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is with much hesitancy that I venture to write a preface to this book. She once chided me, in her gentle way, for an article in which I had stated facts with some feeling—although the facts praised her. “In science,” she said, “we should be interested in things, not persons.”

Interestingly, Marie Curie attributed the notion under examination to Pierre Curie within the pages of the biography: 2

In his scientific relations he showed no sharpness, and did not permit himself to be influenced by considerations of personal credit or by personal sentiments. Every beautiful success gave him pleasure, even if achieved in a domain where he felt himself to have priority.

He said: “What does it matter if I have not published such and such investigations, if another has published them?” For he held that in science we should be interested in things and not in persons.

QI believes both Marie Curie and Pierre Curie employed the saying, and it is difficult to assign a priority. Perhaps it is best to ascribe the remark to both.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In Science We Should Be Interested In Things, Not Persons

Notes:

  1. 1923, Pierre Curie by Marie Curie, Translated by Charlotte and Vernon Kellogg, Section: Introduction by Mrs. William Brown Meloney (Marie Mattingly Meloney), Quote Page 12, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1923, Pierre Curie by Marie Curie, Translated by Charlotte and Vernon Kellogg, Chapter 4: Marriage and Organization of the Family Life, Quote Page 90, The Macmillan Company, New York. (Google Books Full View) link

All the Love Scenes Had Been Shot Like Murder Scenes, and All the Murder Scenes Like Love Scenes

Alfred Hitchcock? François Truffaut? Grace Kelly? Sam Mendes?

Dear Quote Investigator: Director Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense and horror. For decades his filmmaking techniques have been closely studied by other directors, screenwriters, and critics. One observer uncovered a disquieting connection between Hitchcock’s portrayal of homicide and intimacy:

The murder scenes are filmed like love scenes, and the love scenes are filmed like murder scenes.

This assertion has been attributed to fellow director François Truffaut, popular actress Grace Kelly, and Alfred Hitchcock himself. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1974 a gala honoring Hitchcock was held at the Lincoln Center in New York. A series of film scenes from Hitchcock were shown to attendees during the evening. The clips were arranged into different categories, e.g., chase, love, suspense, catastrophe, and murder. When François Truffaut saw those extracts he developed his thesis connecting scenes of mayhem and amour. In May 1976 the Canadian film magazine “Take One” published a piece by Truffaut. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

What struck me that evening while reseeing all of these little bits of films I know by heart (isolated from their context and put together for a single evening) was the simultaneous sincerity and savagery of the Hitchcockian oeuvre. I realized that all the love scenes had been shot like murder scenes, and all the murder scenes like love scenes.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading All the Love Scenes Had Been Shot Like Murder Scenes, and All the Murder Scenes Like Love Scenes

Notes:

  1. 1976 May 21, Take One, Volume 5, Number 2, Alfred Hitchcock: A Friendly Salute, Subsection: Hitchcock in 1976 by François Truffaut, Start Page 43, Quote Page 44, Unicorn Publishing, Montreal, Canada. (Verified with scans; accessed via HathiTrust)

Talent Is Like Electricity

Maya Angelou? Claudia Tate? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An insightful simile likens the creative talent displayed by an individual while dancing, composing, teaching, or singing to electricity. This figure of speech has been attributed to Renaissance woman Maya Angelou. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1983 Claudia Tate edited and released a collection of interviews titled “Black Women Writers At Work”. Tate asked Maya Angelou about her manifold resourcefulness 1

C.T.: You are a writer, poet, director, composer, lyricist, dancer, singer, journalist, teacher and lecturer. Can you say what the source of such creative diversity is?

ANGELOU: I don’t do the dancing anymore. The rest I try. I believe talent is like electricity. We don’t understand electricity. We use it. Electricity makes no judgment. You can plug into it and light up a lamp, keep a heart pump going, light a cathedral, or you can electrocute a person with it. Electricity will do all that. It makes no judgment. I think talent is like that. I believe every person is born with talent.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Talent Is Like Electricity

Notes:

  1. 1985 (1983 Copyright), Black Women Writers At Work, Edited by Claudia Tate, Chapter: Maya Angelou, Start Page 1, Quote Page 7, Oldcastle Books, England. (Verified with scans)

Tact Is the Ability To Describe Others As They See Themselves

Mary Pettibone Poole? Abraham Lincoln? Aldous Huxley? Eleanor Chaffee? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The ability to perceive others as they see themselves is an enormously helpful guide for smooth and productive interactions. Here is a pertinent adage:

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

This saying has been attributed to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, quotation compiler Mary Pettibone Poole, and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Abraham Lincoln employed this saying. Mary Pettibone Poole did record this saying in 1938, but it was already circulating.

The first match located by QI appeared in March 1925 in the “Washburn Review” of Topeka, Kansas which acknowledged another periodical: 1

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves, says the Tulsa University Collegian.

“The Collegian” was (and remains) the newspaper of the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. No attribution was provided. Thus, based on current information the creator was anonymous.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Tact Is the Ability To Describe Others As They See Themselves

Notes:

  1. 1925 March 25, Washburn Review, Inter-Collegiate, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Topeka, Kansas. (Newspapers_com)

Within a Generation . . . the Problems of Creating Artificial Intelligence Will Be Substantially Solved

Marvin Minsky? Herbert A. Simon? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A top researcher in computer science in the 1960s contended that the problem of building machines with artificial intelligence (AI) would be largely solved within a generation. A statement of this type has been attributed to Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Would you please help me to find a citation?

Quote Investigator: In 1967 Marvin Minsky published “Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines” which included the following passage: 1

Today we have the beginnings: machines that play games, machines that learn to play games; machines that handle abstract — non-numerical — mathematical problems and deal with ordinary-language expressions; and we see many other activities formerly confined within the province of human intelligence. Within a generation, I am convinced, few compartments of intellect will remain outside the machine’s realm—the problems of creating “artificial intelligence” will be substantially solved.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Within a Generation . . . the Problems of Creating Artificial Intelligence Will Be Substantially Solved

Notes:

  1. 1967, Computation: Finite and Infinite Machines by Marvin L. Minsky (Professor of Electrical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Chapter 1: Physical Machines and Their Abstract Counterparts, Section 1.0: What Is a Machine?, Quote Page 2, Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. (Verified with scans)

What’s Not Going To Change in the Next 10 Years?

Jeff Bezos? Wolfgang R. Schmitt? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Business leaders in technology-based companies are often asked for ten year predictions of change. Apparently, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, once responded by spinning the inquiry. He said there was a more important question:

What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?

He argued that the answer was crucial because a company foundation must be built upon things that do not change. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In October 2007 “Harvard Business Review” published an interview with Jeff Bezos. He stated that expanding into new areas was vital, but a nascent enterprise required five to seven years of nurturing before it could make a meaningful contribution to company economics. He was asked how he maintained confidence that such an investment would pay off: 1

It helps to base your strategy on things that won’t change. When I’m talking with people outside the company, there’s a question that comes up very commonly: “What’s going to change in the next five to ten years?” But I very rarely get asked “What’s not going to change in the next five to ten years?”

At Amazon we’re always trying to figure that out, because you can really spin up flywheels around those things. All the energy you invest in them today will still be paying you dividends ten years from now. Whereas if you base your strategy first and foremost on more transitory things—who your competitors are, what kind of technologies are available, and so on—those things are going to change so rapidly that you’re going to have to change your strategy very rapidly, too.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading What’s Not Going To Change in the Next 10 Years?

Notes:

  1. 2007 October, Harvard Business Review (HBR), Article: The Institutional Yes, (Interview of Jeff Bezos conducted by HBR editors Julia Kirby and Thomas A. Stewart; interview was published in the magazine and on the website), Description: Magazine and website about management published by Harvard University of Massachusetts. (Accessed hbr.org March 3, 2021) link

Find the Good. It’s All Around You. Find It, Showcase It, and You’ll Start Believing in It

Jesse Owens? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: It is easy to find negative stories. News reports constantly highlight them. I prefer the following guidance:

Find the good. It’s all around you. Showcase it.

This saying has been credited to acclaimed athlete Jesse Owens who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Yet, I haven’t been able to find a citation. Would you please help me?

Quote Investigator: In 1970 Jesse Owens published his autobiographical meditation “Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man”. He described harrowing episodes experienced by his friends and family, but he emphasized that he did not succumb to hatred and despair. During the economic Depression he found inspiration by observing and reading about brilliant exemplars of skill, enthusiasm, and excellence such as baseball player Willie Mays and scientist George Washington Carver. Owens encouraged others to focus on the positive in life: 1

Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it. And so will most of the people who come into contact with you.

Showcase the good.
Believe in it.
It’s real, baby.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Find the Good. It’s All Around You. Find It, Showcase It, and You’ll Start Believing in It

Notes:

  1. 1970, Blackthink: My Life as Black Man and White Man by Jesse Owens With Paul G. Neimark, Chapter 8: Showcase the Good, Quote Page 166, William Morrow and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

The Best Way To Become a Billionaire Is To Help a Billion People

Peter H. Diamandis? Ankur Jain? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: One path to achieving great wealth is by building a vital new product or performing a widely needed service. Here are three versions of a pertinent adage:

  • Want to become a billionaire? Then help a billion people.
  • The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.
  • The best way to become a billionaire is to improve the lives of a billion people.

This saying has been ascribed to author and entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis who founded the XPRIZE Foundation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The website of Peter H. Diamandis in 2021 included a document titled “Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind” which listed twenty-three statements. The following were the third and fourth items. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest business opportunities.

The best way to become a billionaire is to help a billion people.

The collection of sayings on the website was labeled “The Abundance Edition”, and the set has changed over time. Diamandis’s 2015 book “Bold” contained a somewhat different set of twenty-eight items that was also called “Peter’s Laws”.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Best Way To Become a Billionaire Is To Help a Billion People

Notes:

  1. Website: Peter H. Diamandis, Article title: Peter’s Laws: The Creed of the Persistent and Passionate Mind, Edition: The Abundance Edition, Article author: Peter H. Diamandis, Date on website: Undated, Website description: blog by author and entrepreneur Peter H. Diamandis. (Accessed diamandis.com on February 27, 2021) link

He Is a Great Rascal. Ah! But He Is Our Rascal

Franklin D. Roosevelt? Abraham Lincoln? Thaddeus Stevens? Benjamin Butler? Philip Cook? Bill Higgins? John Franklin Carter? Justin Herman? Wayne Hays? Alistair Cooke? Cordell Hull? Anonymous? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A participant in the harsh domain of political power often faces difficult decisions. For example, should one promote a member of one’s party even when one knows that the individual is a scoundrel? Also, should one maintain support for an ally even when the ally is disreputable or barbarous? The following dialog depicts a challenge and response:

“How can you support that scoundrel?”
“He may be a scoundrel, but he’s our scoundrel.”

Over the years many other words have been used to describe the miscreant, e.g., rascal, scalawag, scoundrel, so-and-so, son-of-a-bitch, and bastard. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match known to QI appeared in a Wilmington, North Carolina newspaper editorial in 1868. The two participants in the dialog were not identified. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

We are forcibly reminded by these arguments of the Radicals of the reply of one of their party, in attempting to persuade a rather conscientious member to vote for a certain candidate whose character was none the best. “He is a great rascal,” indignantly proposed the friend. “Ah! but he is our rascal,” was the significant rejoinder.

Many instances conforming to this template have appeared during the ensuing decades. Here is a sampling showing the key line together with a year:

1868: Ah! but he is our rascal.
1875: Of course, of course, but which of ’em is our damned rascal?
1889: Yes, I know, but then he’s our scalawag.
1895: Never mind that; all we want to know is that he is our scoundrel.
1904: Yes, I know, but he is our scoundrel.
1934: After all, Blank isn’t so bad. He’s our So and So!
1934: After all, Blank isn’t so bad. He’s our son-of-a-bitch!
1948: He’s a sonofabitch but he’s ours.
1962: He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.
1969: He was a Grade-A bastard, but at least he was our bastard and not theirs.

QI wishes to acknowledge researchers Bonnie Taylor-Blake and Barry Popik who identified many valuable examples.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading He Is a Great Rascal. Ah! But He Is Our Rascal

Notes:

  1. 1868 July 26, The Daily Journal, “Our Rebels”, Quote Page 2, Column 1, Wilmington, North Carolina. (GenealogyBank)

One Must Have a Heart of Stone To Read the Death of Little Nell Without Laughing

Oscar Wilde? Ada Leverson? Hesketh Pearson? Leslie Stokes? Sewell Stokes? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Charles Dickens published “The Old Curiosity Shop” in 1841. Nell Trent (Little Nell) was the virtuous child protagonist of the tale. The book was extremely popular, and most contemporary readers were saddened when they learned of Nell’s demise. Yet, some critics have viewed Dicken’s book as overly sentimental and emotionally manipulative. Here are two versions of a paraprosdokian:

One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.

One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears … of laughter.

This remark has been attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, but I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900. The two earliest citations known to QI appeared three decades later.

The biographer Hesketh Pearson wrote the introduction to a collection of Oscar Wilde’s works published in 1930 within the “Everyman’s Library” series. Pearson described the successes of Wilde’s comedies in the 1890’s, and he suggested that the playwright spoke the line during that period. Yet, Pearson did not explain how he learned about the witticism. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It should be added that neither success nor misfortune could impair Wilde’s wit, the peculiar quality of which was exemplified at about this period in his comment on a scene by Dickens: “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

Also in 1930 author Ada Leverson, one of Wilde’s friends, published “Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde” which included her reminiscences about her relationship with Wilde. 2 Excerpts from this book were reprinted in “The Sphinx and Her Circle: A Biographical Sketch of Ada Leverson, 1862-1933” by Violet Wyndham. The following 1930 text was reprinted in the 1963 book: 3

He never liked even the grotesque part of Dickens. To those who praised Dickens, he said, ‘One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing’.

Of Max Beerbohm he said, ‘He plays with words as one plays with what one loves’. Adding, ‘When you are alone with him, Sphinx, does he take off his face and reveal his mask.”’

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading One Must Have a Heart of Stone To Read the Death of Little Nell Without Laughing

Notes:

  1. 1950 (First published in 1930), Plays, Prose Writings, And Poems by Oscar Wilde, Introduction by Hesketh Pearson, Series: Number 858 of Everyman’s Library, Section: Introduction, Quote Page xiii, Publisher: J. M. Dent & Sons, London. (Verified with scans)
  2. 1930, Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde With Reminiscences of the Author by Ada Leverson by Oscar Wilde, Limited edition of 275 copies, Quote Page 42, Duckworth, London. (Not yet verified)
  3. 1963, The Sphinx and Her Circle: A Biographical Sketch of Ada Leverson, 1862-1933 by Violet Wyndham, Reminiscences by Ada Leverson, 3: Afterwards, Quote Page 119, Vanguard Press, New York. (Verified with scans)