Tag Archives: Albert Einstein

Try Not To Become a Man of Success But Rather Try To Become a Man of Value

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A blinkered pursuit of success can lead an individual to ignore other aspects of life such as adventure, humor, spirituality, exploration, altruism, and curiosity. Albert Einstein apparently offered pertinent advice. Here are four versions:

  • Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value.
  • Do not try to become a person of success but try to become a person of value.
  • Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.
  • Try to become not a man of success but try rather to become a man of value.

Would you please examine the provenance of this expression?

Quote Investigator: Some months before Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955 an editor of “LIFE” magazine named William Miller visited the famous scientist at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. The journalist was accompanied by his son Pat Miller and by Professor William Hermanns of San Jose State in California. Einstein responded to the son’s desire for guidance in life. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.

The text above appeared in the May 2, 1955 issue of “LIFE”. The initial statement used the word “man” to designate an individual of unspecified sex instead of “person” which often occurs in modern instances. Also, over time variant phrases have proliferated based on compression and word re-ordering.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1955 May 2, LIFE, Death of a Genius: His fourth dimension, time, overtakes Einstein, Subsection: Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity’ by William Miller (Editor at LIFE magazine), Start Page 62, Quote Page 64, Time Inc., New York. (Google Books Full View) link

Einstein’s Equation for Success in Life: A=X+Y+Z

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Einstein famously constructed a foundational equation about energy: E = mc². Apparently, he also fashioned a less-well-known humorous formula about success in life using the terms A, X, Y, and Z. Did Einstein actually craft this quasi-mathematical joke?

Quote Investigator: In 1929 Albert Einstein was interviewed by Samuel J. Woolf in Berlin for a piece published in “The New York Times Magazine”. The following passage appeared at the end of the article. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

It was time for me to go and as he saw me to the door I asked him what he considered the best formula for success in life. He smiled, that same awkward bashful smile and thought for a minute.

“If A is success in life,” he replied, “I should say the formula is A=X+Y+Z, X being work and Y being play.” “And what,” I asked, “is Z?”

“That,” he answered, “is keeping your mouth shut.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1929 August 18, New York Times, Section 5: The New York Times Magazine, Einstein’s Own Corner of Space by S. J. Woolf, Start Page SM1, Quote Page SM2, Column 5, New York. (ProQuest)

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.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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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)

Creativity Is contagious. Pass It On

Albert Einstein? Bernice Bede Osol? Eugene Raudsepp? François de La Rochefoucauld? Dale Carnegie? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following words are often credited to the scientific genius Albert Einstein:

Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.

I cannot find a good citation. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. The comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press contains a section on “Creativity” but the quotation is not listed there or anywhere else in the book. 1

In 1956 a partial match appeared in “The Cincinnati Enquirer” of Cincinnati, Ohio. An article about a local elementary school described a teacher who helped students and fellow teachers to create ceramics for an exhibition. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 2

Creativity was contagious. Teachers also became interested. They were found taking a few minutes from their lunch time for work on their ceramics, too, and again at home at night.

In 1973 a syndicated horoscope column by Bernice Bede Osol included a partial match: 3

GEMINI (May 21-June 20) Your creativity’s contagious. Seek support for your ideas today. Others will appreciate their potential.

In 1977 “Creative Growth Games” by Eugene Raudsepp with George P. Hough Jr. contained a full match for the expression. The following appeared as an epigraph to a section titled “Games and Exercises”: 4

Through the process of association of ideas your imagination will find new and relevant relationships between things.
Creativity is contagious, pass it on.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Misattributed to Einstein, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (The quotation was absent)(Verified on paper)
  2. 1956 May 6, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Imagery In Ceramics, Section 3, Quote Page 1, Column 4, Cincinnati, Ohio. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1973 January 18, Dixon Evening Telegraph, Astrograph by Bernice Bede Osol, Quote Page 19, Column 3, Dixon, Illinois. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1977, Creative Growth Games by Eugene Raudsepp with George P. Hough Jr., (Epigraph of part 1), Quote Page 15, Jove Publications: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York. (Verified on paper)

Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

Albert Einstein? Narcotics Anonymous? Max Nordau? George Bernard Shaw? George A. Kelly? Rita Mae Brown? John Larroquette? Jessie Potter? Werner Erhard?

Dear Quote Investigator: It’s foolish to repeat ineffective actions. One popular formulation presents this point harshly:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

These words are usually credited to the acclaimed genius Albert Einstein. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein wrote or spoke the statement above. It is listed within a section called “Misattributed to Einstein” in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest strong match known to QI appeared in a pamphlet printed by the Narcotics Anonymous organization in 1981. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

The price may seem higher for the addict who prostitutes for a fix than it is for the addict who merely lies to a doctor, but ultimately both pay with their lives. Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

QI acquired a PDF of the document with the quotation above on the website amonymifoundation.org back in February 2011. The document stated that is was printed in November 1981, and it had a 1981 copyright notice. The website was subsequently reorganized, but the document remains available via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine database.

Instances of the saying have been employed by other twelve-step organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Misattributed to Einstein, Quote Page 474, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1981, Narcotics Anonymous Pamphlet, (Basic Text Approval Form, Unpublished Literary Work), Chapter Four: How It Works, Step Two, Page 11, Printed November 1981, Copyright 1981, W.S.C.-Literature Sub-Committee of Narcotics Anonymous], World Service Conference of Narcotics Anonymous. (Accessed at amonymifoundation.org on October 3, 2011; website has been restructured; text is available via Internet Archive Wayback Machine Snapshot January 1, 2013 link PDF of pamphlet link

Creativity Is Intelligence Having Fun

Albert Einstein? George Scialabba? Joey Reiman? John C. Maxwell? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: An invigorating comment about creativity is often credited to the universally recognized scientific genius Albert Einstein:

Creativity is intelligence having fun.

Are these really the words of Einstein?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein who died in 1955 made this remark. 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

QI hypothesizes that the saying evolved from the concluding sentence of a March 1984 article titled “Mindplay” in “Harvard Magazine”, an alumni publication. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.

The article author was George Scialabba who graduated from the prestigious university with the class of 1969. Later he joined the staff and began writing essays and book reviews for a wide variety of periodicals.

After publication the expression was disseminated and streamlined; in addition, the word “imagination” was replaced by “creativity” as shown in the chronologically ordered selected citations below. Continue reading

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. 1984 March-April, Harvard Magazine, Volume 86, Number 4, The Browser: Mindplay by George Scialabba, (Book Review of Howard Gardner’s “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”), Start Page 16, Quote Page 19, Published by Harvard Magazine Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Verified with scans; thanks to the library system of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Men Marry Women with the Hope They Will Never Change. Women Marry Men with the Hope They Will Change

Albert Einstein? H. M. Harwood? R. Gore-Browne? John Conwell? Estelle Getty? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Did Albert Einstein’s genius extend from physics to psychology? The following remark has been ascribed to him:

Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.

I have not found any persuasive citations. Would you please examine the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein who died in 1955 made this statement. Indeed, it is listed in a section called “Probably Not By Einstein” within the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest ascription to Einstein located by QI appeared in 1982 in “Forbes” magazine which reported that the line was spoken by the popular comedian Mort Sahl during a performance. Perhaps Sahl concocted the linkage to the famous scientist to heighten the humor. See the detailed citation listed further below.

The earliest solid match to the statement known to QI occurred in the play “Cynara” by H. M. Harwood and R. Gore-Browne which was performed in London in 1930. The drama moved to Broadway in 1931, and it was included in a compilation of “The Best Plays of 1931-32”. The character John Tring offered the following insight about marriage. The phrasing differed from the quotation under examination, but the underlying idea was the same. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

TRING—Exactly! That’s the trouble about marriage. Women always hope it’s going to change the husband. Men always hope it won’t change their wives—and both are disappointed! (He gets up.) Never if you can help it be a woman’s first lover—unless, of course, you’ve got the explorer’s temperament.

The play was adapted from the novel “An Imperfect Lover” by R. Gore-Browne, but QI’s search did not detect the quotation within the book.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not By Einstein, Page 482, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1932, The Best Plays of 1931-32 and the Year Book of the Drama in America, Edited by Burns Mantle, Section: Cynara: A Drama in Prologue, Three Acts and an Epilogue by H. M. Harwood (Harold Marsh Harwood) and R. Gore-Browne, (Adapted from novel “An Imperfect Lover” by R. Gore-Browne), Start Page 335, Quote Page 358, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York. (Reprint Edition in 1975: Arno Press: A New York Times Company, New York) (Verified with hard copy)

Education Is Not the Learning of Facts, But the Training of the Mind To Think

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

things08Dear Quote Investigator: A learner may accumulate a large number of miscellaneous pieces of information without achieving an integrated understanding and without acquiring an ability to use the material intelligently. Reportedly, Albert Einstein made a germane remark:

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of minds to think.

I have not been able to find a solid citation for this insight. Are these really the words of Albert Einstein? What was the context?

Quote Investigator: In 1921 Albert Einstein visited Boston, Massachusetts. At that time, a questionnaire constructed by the inventor and research laboratory pioneer Thomas A. Edison was circulating. Edison used his controversial questionnaire to screen job applicants, but Einstein was unimpressed by some of the queries. For example, “The New York Times” reported on Einstein’s reaction to one question about a fact that was readily available in reference books: 1

He was asked through his secretary, “What is the speed of sound?” He could not say off-hand, he replied. He did not carry such information in his mind but it was readily available in text books.

Einstein’s response printed in 1921 fit the theme of the quotation because he deemphasized the value of simply memorizing facts. A longer description of this episode was presented in the biography “Einstein: His Life and Times” by Philipp Frank. A strong match for the quotation was included in the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

While Einstein was in Boston, staying at the Hotel Copley Plaza, he was given a copy of Edison’s questionnaire to see whether he could answer the questions. As soon as he read the question: “What is the speed of sound?” he said: “I don’t know. I don’t burden my memory with such facts that I can easily find in any textbook.”

Nor did he agree with Edison’s opinion on the uselessness of college education. He remarked: “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

Frank’s biography was originally written in German, and the English translation was released in 1947. QI does not know what source material was used by Frank to report on words of Einstein in 1921, but the reliability of Frank’s biography is largely viewed favorably.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1921 May 18, New York Times, Einstein Sees Boston; Fails on Edison Test: Asked to Tell Speed of Sound He Refers Questioner to Text Books (Special to The New York Times), Quote Page 15, New York. (ProQuest)
  2. 1947, Einstein: His Life and Times by Philipp Frank, Translated from German by George Rosen, Edited and Revised by Shuichi Kusaka, Quote Page 185, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. (Verified with scans)

Let Us Be More Ashamed of Shabby Ideas and Shoddy Philosophies

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

clothes08Dear Quote Investigator: Recently, the dress sense of a leading British politician was criticized, and his sharp rejoinder was based on a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein contrasting the relative importance of shabby clothes versus shabby ideas. Would you please examine the provenance of this statement?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of the quotation located by QI appeared in a 1949 compilation titled “Treasury of the Christian Faith: An Encyclopedic Handbook of the Range and Witness of Christianity” which included the following entry: 1

If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. — Albert Einstein

Einstein died in 1955; hence, the statement was credited to him while he was still alive. However, the 1949 book did not present a supporting citation, and QI has not yet located any pointers to speeches, interviews, or essays by Einstein containing the saying.

The most comprehensive reference about Einstein’s pronouncements is the 2010 book “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press, and the expression about “shabby ideas” was not present in this volume. 2

This entry presents a snapshot of QI’s research, and more information may be uncovered by other researchers. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1949, Treasury of the Christian Faith: An Encyclopedic Handbook of the Range and Witness of Christianity, Edited by Stanley I. Stuber and Thomas Curtis Clark, Quote Page 415, Column 1, Published by Association Press, New York. (Verified with scans; many thanks to Reformed Theological Seminary Library of Jackson, Mississippi)
  2. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper) (A search for the quotation was performed within a digital version of the text)

Life Is Like Riding a Bicycle. To Keep Your Balance You Must Keep Moving

Albert Einstein? Walter Isaacson? J. Benson Hamilton? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? Dorothy Tucker? William Whiting?

bicycle07Dear Quote Investigator: The famous physicist Albert Einstein reportedly used a wonderful simile that compared riding a bicycle with living successfully. Here are three versions:

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.

People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.

It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.

Would you please explore this topic? Which version is the most accurate?

Quote Investigator: On February 5, 1930 Albert Einstein wrote a letter to his son Eduard that included a remark that has been translated in different ways. In 2007 Walter Isaacson published a biography titled “Einstein: His Life and Universe”; the notes section at the end of the book printed an excerpt from the original text of the letter in German together with a translation by the Information Officer of the Einstein Archives. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

The exact quote is: “Beim Menschen ist es wie beim Velo. Nur wenn er faehrt, kann er bequem die Balance halten.” A more literal translation is: “It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.” Courtesy of Barbara Wolff, Einstein archives, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

Further below supplementary citations are presented for alternative versions of the saying ascribed to the acclaimed scientist.

Interestingly, the simile has a long history that reaches back into the 1800s in the English language. The early citations found by QI referred to the religious lives of individuals. Later citations referred to business and secular pursuits.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 2007, Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, Section: Notes, Epigraph: 1, Quote Page 565, Location 10155, Simon & Schuster, New York. (Kindle Edition)