They’re Cheering Us Both, You Because Nobody Understands You, and Me Because Everybody Understands Me

Charlie Chaplin? Albert Einstein? János Plesch? Hans Albert Einstein? Eduard Einstein? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The entertainer Charlie Chaplin and the scientist Albert Einstein were two of the most famous individuals of the last century. I have heard the following anecdote about a meeting between them in the 1930s. While traveling together they were recognized and a crowd of people started to vigorously applaud the luminaries. They waved to the throng and reportedly exchanged the following words:

Einstein: What I most admire about your art, is your universality. You don’t say a word, yet the world understands you!

Chaplin: True. But your glory is even greater! The whole world admires you, even though they don’t understand a word of what you say.

Is there any truth to this tale?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in an article written by Charlie Chaplin for “Woman’s Home Companion” in October 1933 . The well-known comedian wrote a series of pieces for the magazine about his world travels, and his latest journey included a stay in Germany.

Previously, when Einstein had traveled to the United States he had visited with Chaplin. Thus, Chaplin decided to reciprocate, and he went to the “modest flat” of Einstein where he was introduced to the scientist’s wife, daughter (a sculptress), and son.

After dinner, Chaplin had arranged for a group of Japanese children to perform a dance routine for entertainment. One of the young dancers asked for autographs from both Chaplin and Einstein. Chaplin included a comic sketch of his large shoes while Einstein included one of his equations. Einstein then scrutinized the signatures, and the two luminaries exchanged remarks that prefigured the quotation under examination: 1

“But yours is more interesting,” he said humorously, comparing the two sketches.

“More comprehensible to the little girl perhaps,” I laughed, “and to me and many others.”

Interestingly, Chaplin credited the crucially insightful statement about fame to Einstein’s son. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:

“We sat down to delicious home-baked tarts made by Mrs. Einstein. During the course of conversation, his son remarked on the psychology of the popularity of Einstein and myself.

“You are popular,” he said, “because you are understood by the masses. On the other hand, the professor’s popularity with the masses is because he is not understood.'”

Einstein had two sons: Hans Albert Einstein and Eduard Einstein. QI does not know which son Chaplin meant to credit.

A different tale about the origin of the quotation was later published by one of Einstein’s friends. See below for additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading They’re Cheering Us Both, You Because Nobody Understands You, and Me Because Everybody Understands Me

Notes:

  1. 1933 October, Woman’s Home Companion, Volume 60, Number 10, A Comedian Sees the World – Part II by Charles Chaplin, Start Page 15, Quote Page 17, The Crowell Publishing Company, Springfield, Ohio. (Verified; thanks to the staff of the Downtown Public Library of Spokane, Washington)

I Understand It Brings You Luck, Whether You Believe in It or Not

Niels Bohr? Albert Einstein? Carl Alfred Meier? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is popular anecdote about a journalist or friend who visited the home of a prominent physicist. The visitor was surprised to find a horseshoe above the front doorway of the scientist’s abode. Tradition asserts that a horseshoe acts as a talisman of luck when placed over a door.

The visitor asked the physicist about the purpose of the horseshoe while expressing incredulity that a man of science could possibly be swayed by a simple-minded folk belief. The physicist replied:

Of course I don’t believe in it, but I understand it brings you luck, whether you believe in it or not.

This slyly comical remark has been attributed to both Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. I love this entertaining tale, but I am skeptical. Any insights?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI was printed in a popular Sunday newspaper supplement called “The American Weekly” in September 1956. A column called “The Wit Parade” by E. E. Kenyon printed an instance of the anecdote. The scientist was identified as Niels Bohr, and the visitor was unnamed: 1

A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous atom scientist.

As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:

“Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !”

“Of course not,” replied the scientist. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”

Also in 1956 “The Speaker’s Handbook of Humor” by Maxwell Droke included a version of the story which was presented using similar vocabulary choices: 2

A visitor at the home of Niels Bohr, famous atom scientist and Nobel Prize winner, was surprised to see a horseshoe hanging over the door.

“Do you, a sober man dedicated to science, believe in that superstition?”

“Of course not,” replied Bohr, “but I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be lucky, whether you believe in it or not.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Understand It Brings You Luck, Whether You Believe in It or Not

Notes:

  1. 1956 September 30, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Section: The American Weekly, The Wit Parade by E. E. Kenyon, Quote Page 13, Column 1, Cleveland, Ohio. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1956, The Speaker’s Handbook of Humor by Maxwell Droke, Anecdote Number: 1172, Anecdote Title: Not Superstitious, Quote Page 373, Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York. (Verified on paper)

The Intuitive Mind Is a Sacred Gift and the Rational Mind Is a Faithful Servant

Albert Einstein? Bob Samples? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A well-known scholar delivered a lively and appealing lecture online which included the following quotation. The words were attributed to Einstein, but I am skeptical:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Does this quotation interest you enough to investigate?

Quote Investigator: Albert Einstein died in 1955. The earliest evidence known to QI linking Einstein to this expression appeared in the 1976 book “The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness” by Bob Samples. The author did not claim he was quoting Einstein; instead, Samples was presenting his personal interpretation of Einstein’s perspective. Boldface has been added to the following excerpts: 1

The metaphoric mind is a maverick. It is as wild and unruly as a child. It follows us doggedly and plagues us with its presence as we wander the contrived corridors of rationality. It is a metaphoric link with the unknown called religion that causes us to build cathedrals — and the very cathedrals are built with rational, logical plans. When some personal crisis or the bewildering chaos of everyday life closes in on us, we often rush to worship the rationally-planned cathedral and ignore the religion. Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine.

QI hypothesizes that the words of Samples have been altered over time to match the modern quotation given by the questioner. Also, the resultant expression has improperly been assigned directly to Albert Einstein. In addition, the reader should note that the final sentence is presented as the opinion of Samples and not Einstein.

Several researchers have been unable to locate a statement by Einstein matching the expression above though Einstein did speak highly of intuition. Samples articulated his opinion about Einstein’s beliefs more than once. For example, on a later page in the same book he wrote the following: 2

This quality — invention — is what led Einstein and others to view the intuitive qualities of the metaphoric mind as a “sacred gift.” It is enriched by an infinity of knowings, and it ceaselessly repatterns these to a compound infinity of possibilities as it wanders across the face of the world.

In 1977 “The Phi Delta Kappan” magazine published an article by Bob Samples titled “Mind Cycles and Learning” which included this passage: 3

Albert Einstein once spoke of intuition as a sacred gift and likened rationality to a faithful servant. Our basic purpose was to shift the tendency to worship the servant and ignore the sacred.

Note that the second sentence reflected the goal of Samples.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The Intuitive Mind Is a Sacred Gift and the Rational Mind Is a Faithful Servant

Notes:

  1. 1976, The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples, Quote Page 26, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1976, The Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples, Quote Page 62, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, Massachusetts. (Verified on paper)
  3. 1977 May, The Phi Delta Kappan, Issue title: Turmoil in Teacher Education, Volume 58, Number 9, Mind Cycles and Learning by Bob Samples, Start Page 688, Quote Page 689, Published by Phi Delta Kappa International. (JSTOR) link

If the Bee Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, Man Would Only Have Four Years Left To Live

Albert Einstein? Charles Darwin? Maurice Maeterlinck? E. O. Wilson? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A dramatic quotation about the dangers of environmental upheaval is attributed to the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein. Here are two versions:

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.

If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live

Some commentators are skeptical about this ascription. Could you examine this expression?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein ever made a remark of this type about bees. Alice Calaprice, the editor of the important collection “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein”, placed the saying in the “Probably Not by Einstein” section of her reference. 1

The earliest evidence known to QI of a connection between Einstein and disastrous environmental scenarios caused by the disappearance of bees was published in the “Canadian Bee Journal” in 1941: 2

If I remember well, it was Einstein who said: “Remove the bee from the earth and at the same stroke you remove at least one hundred thousand plants that will not survive.”

QI has located no supporting evidence that Einstein made the remark above. Instead, QI has determined that a statement of this type was made by the major literary figure Maurice Maeterlinck in his work “The Life of the Bee” in 1901. The saying was widely disseminated in the decades afterwards.

In May 1965 a French periodical about nature and animals called “La Vie des Bêtes et l’Ami des Bêtes” stated that Einstein had calculated a grim four year time limit for humanity if bees disappeared. This was the earliest evidence known to QI of a connection between Einstein who died in 1955 and the dire deadline. Details are given further below.

Below is a selected chronological sequence of citations that attempt to roughly outline the evolution of this expression and its conceptual formation. Because this task is difficult and the available information is fragmentary this entry is lengthy. QI is indebted to the pioneering research of Bonnie Taylor-Blake and Ray Girvan who explored this topic and located many important citations including the two given previously.

Continue reading If the Bee Disappeared Off the Face of the Earth, Man Would Only Have Four Years Left To Live

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Section: Probably Not by Einstein, Page 479, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1941 January, Canadian Bee Journal, Volume 49, Number 1, Comments From Quebec by Ernest A. Fortin, Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, Publisher: J. and M. Atkinson, St. Catharines, Ontario. (Verified with scans; Great thanks to Terry Garey and Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)

I Never Think of the Future. It Comes Soon Enough

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following saying is attributed to the scientific genius Albert Einstein:

I never think of the future – it comes soon enough.

Did he really say this? When did he say it?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence of this saying located by QI was printed in a newspaper article on December 12, 1930 by David P. Sentner who was a correspondent for the International News Service (INS). Albert Einstein was a passenger aboard the Red Star Liner Belgenland which docked in New York, and Sentner reported on the questions that were addressed to Einstein by a group of reporters. One query concerned his remarkable theory of relativity: 1

“Can you explain your theory simply for the masses of America?” he was asked.
“No,” he answered running his fingers through his shock of graying hair, “it would take me three days to do it.”

Sentner noted that Einstein was primarily not speaking English during the colloquy; hence, translation was required to surmount the language barrier for most of the American newspeople. It was during this interchange that the scientist made his now famous remark about the future: 2

Professor Einstein spoke almost entirely in German, but the barrage of questions and answers were translated for the benefit of the distinguished visitor and reporters by a number of interpreters, official and volunteer. The scientist was asked whether he had anticipated the interview would be such a trying ordeal as it turned out to be.

“I never think of the future,” he said. “It comes soon enough.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading I Never Think of the Future. It Comes Soon Enough

Notes:

  1. 1930 December 12, Clearfield Progress, Would Take Three Days To Make Simple Explanation Of Theories, Says Einstein by David P. Sentner, (I.N.S. [International News Service] Correspondent), Quote Page 1, Column 1, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)
  2. 1930 December 12, Clearfield Progress, Would Take Three Days To Make Simple Explanation Of Theories, Says Einstein by David P. Sentner, (I.N.S. [International News Service] Correspondent), Quote Page 1, Column 2, Clearfield, Pennsylvania. (NewspaperArchive)

Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid

Albert Einstein? Amos Dolbear? Matthew Kelly? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following saying is popular on Facebook where it is credited to Albert Einstein. I have also seen it on numerous websites:

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Sometimes “everybody” is used instead of “everyone”. Did Einstein really say this?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein made this statement. It does not appear in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest evidence of a close match known to QI appeared in 2004, and that is decades after the death of Einstein in 1955. The self-help book “The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose” by Matthew Kelly contained a chapter titled “Everybody is a Genius” which began: 2

Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The question I have for you at this point of our journey together is, “What is your genius?”

This quotation alludes to a long-standing allegorical framework. It is inappropriate to judge an animal by focusing on a skill which the creature does not possess. A fish is specialized to swim superbly, and its ability to climb a tree is non-existent or rudimentary. In the domain of education this allegory has been employed repeatedly for more than one hundred years. Hence, this quotation is built on ideas that have been in circulation among educators for many decades.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  2. 2004, “The rhythm of life: living every day with passion and purpose” by Matthew Kelly, Quote Page 80, Fireside, New York. (Google Books Preview)

I Fear the Day That Technology Will Surpass Our Human Interaction

Albert Einstein? Cell Phone Critics? Pranksters? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A friend sent me a link to a message on a website with the title: “The day that Albert Einstein feared may have finally arrived”. The message showed eight pictures of groups of people looking intently at cell phone screens. The people were ignoring one another and were oblivious to their surroundings. The images were being used to comically illustrate the following quotation credited to Albert Einstein:

I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.

I was suspicious of this attribution and when I searched the internet I found another similar saying credited to Einstein in a web forum. This statement was also illustrated with an image of people staring at cell phone screens.

I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.

I have a different fear. I fear the day that individuals will believe that Einstein actually made one of these inane statements. Could you examine these sayings?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein made either of these statements. Neither appears in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

Both versions given by the questioner were in circulation in 2012. For example, in the past, a website called answerbag.com presented a version of the saying in a message with an attached date of October 21, 2012: 2

Einstein: I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots. Was he right?

Dates on websites are sometimes inaccurate because the retroactive alteration of text and dates is easy to accomplish. Sometimes the content of a webpage is altered, and the date associated with the content is not updated to reflect the modification.

Also, in the past, a website called imfunny.net displayed a composite image post dated November 3, 2012 with the title: “The day that Albert Einstein feared may have finally arrived”. The post consists of nine images including one displaying the quotation given below. No name is given for the person posting the message: 3

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein

Further below are additional selected citations. Continue reading I Fear the Day That Technology Will Surpass Our Human Interaction

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
  2. Answerbag website, Section: Questions: Life And Society: More Life And Society, Message posted by Susan_madari, Date October 21, 2012, Answerbag is part of Demand Media Corporation. (Accessed answerbag.com on March 19, 2013) link
  3. imfunny.net website, Website title: “Funny Pictures, Funny Quotes – Photos, Quotes, Images, Pics imfunny.net – is just for fun”, Title: The day that Albert Einstein feared may have finally arrived, Date: November 3, 2012. (Accessed imfunny.net March 19, 2013) link

Imagination Is More Important Than Knowledge

Albert Einstein? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many websites credit Albert Einstein with this statement:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

I am skeptical. Are these the words of Einstein?

Quote Investigator: This remark apparently was made by Einstein during an interview that was published in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1929. Here is an excerpt showing the context of his comment. The first paragraph below records Einstein’s words; the next sentence is the interviewer speaking; the final paragraph is Einstein speaking again. Boldface has been added to the following passage and some excerpts further below: 1

“I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.”

“Then you trust more to your imagination than to your knowledge?”

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Imagination Is More Important Than Knowledge

Notes:

  1. 1929 October 26, The Saturday Evening Post, What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck, Start Page 17, Quote Page 117, Column 1, Saturday Evening Post Society, Indianapolis, Indiana. (Verified on microfilm)

It Has Become Appallingly Obvious That Our Technology Has Exceeded Our Humanity

Albert Einstein? Victor Salva? Sean Patrick Flanery? Jeff Goldblum? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There’s a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which I like a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s really his:

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.

Can you please tell me if it was said or written by him?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Einstein made this statement. It does not appear in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest evidence of a closely matching quotation known to QI was in a 1995 movie called “Powder” which was written and directed by Victor Salva and starred Sean Patrick Flanery as the main character whose strong paranormal powers drove the plot. Flanery played Jeremy Reed who had an albino-like appearance and was given the nickname Powder. Near the end of the film there was a dialog between Reed and a character named Donald Ripley, a physics teacher played by Jeff Goldblum. The quotation was delivered by Ripley and then Reed immediately ascribed it to Einstein: 2

Donald Ripley: It’s become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.
Jeremy Reed: Albert Einstein.
Donald Ripley: I look at you, and I, I think that someday our humanity might actually surpass our technology.

The statement in this dialog is not identical to the one given by the questioner. For example, Ripley’s remark used the words “clear” and “surpassed” while the questioner’s instance used the words “obvious” and “exceeded”. But semantically they are quite close.

This article concludes after the presentation of one more citation.

Continue reading It Has Become Appallingly Obvious That Our Technology Has Exceeded Our Humanity

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. YouTube video, Video excerpt from Powder (1995), [Powder: Production Company: Caravan Pictures], YouTube Title: “Powder (11/11)”, [Quote spoken at 5:13 of 10:00 minutes], Uploaded by Magazine30 on September 13, 2009. (Accessed youtube.com on October 24, 2012) link

The One Who Follows the Crowd Will Usually Go No Further Than the Crowd

Albert Einstein? Eda LeShan? Alan Ashley-Pitt? Francis Phillip Wernig? Oscar Wilde? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following quote has been credited to Albert Einstein and posted on Facebook and various websites:

The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.

Here is an alternative version I have seen:

The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.

Is this a sample of Einstein’s wisdom?

Quote Investigator: Probably not. It does not appear in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1

The earliest evidence of the saying that QI has located appeared in the 1970s. The 1973 self-help book “The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age” by Eda LeShan contained a discussion about creativity that included a version of the saying, and the author did not attribute the words to Albert Einstein. She stated that the quotation was from a poster she had seen, and in a footnote she identified Alan Ashley-Pitt as the creator: 2

The man who follows the crowd will usually get no further than the crowd. The man who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever been before.

Creativity in living is not without its attendant difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. And the unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll say it was obvious all along. You have two choices in your life; you can dissolve into the mainstream, or you can be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you must strive to be what no one else but you can be . . . *

* By Alan Ashley-Pitt (Aardvarque Enterprises, 116 W. Arrellaga Street, Santa Barbara, California 93104).

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading The One Who Follows the Crowd Will Usually Go No Further Than the Crowd

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1973, The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age by Eda LeShan, Quote Page 304, [Copyright 1973; First Printing November 1974], Warner Books, New York. (Verified with scans)