Isaac Asimov? Alexander Fleming? Archimedes? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The classic phrase that is supposed to be uttered by a scientist when he makes a major discovery is “Eureka!” That was the famous cry of the ancient Greek sage Archimedes. But the prominent science fiction writer Isaac Asimov insightfully noted that the actual remark preceding a breakthrough probably reflected surprise and uncertainty such as:
“Hey, wait a minute.”
The scientific advance occurred when the anomalous observation was further scrutinized. Would you please explore this topic to find out when Asimov made this statement?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence known to QI appeared in a message posted to the Usenet discussion system in 1987. The message was part of a source code listing of a computer program called “fortune”. This program was part of the installation of the popular UNIX operating system, and “fortune” was inspired by the notion of a fortune cookie.
When the program was run it displayed one item from a large collection of sayings and quotations that was kept in a simple database file. The quotation below appeared in a version of the program that was distributed on June 3, 1987:Date: 1987 June 3, Usenet Newsgroup: comp.sources.games, Subject: v01i040: fortune – quote for the day, Part14/16, From: games-request at tekred.UUCP, Description: Source code listing for … Continue reading
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”
— Isaac Asimov
Asimov died in 1992, so the words were ascribed to him while he was alive; however, the data in the “fortune” program did not provide a precise citation.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
|↑1||Date: 1987 June 3, Usenet Newsgroup: comp.sources.games, Subject: v01i040: fortune – quote for the day, Part14/16, From: games-request at tekred.UUCP, Description: Source code listing for fortune computer program distributed via Usenet. (Google Usenet groups archive; Accessed February 28, 2015)|