Isaac Newton? Howard W. Newton? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The brilliant physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton supposedly coined the following expression:
Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.
A variant of this statement uses “knack” instead of “art”. Interestingly, Isaac Newton made some powerful enemies during his lifetime. Do you think this attribution is correct?
Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Isaac Newton employed this saying. The misattribution was probably caused by confusion with another person whose last name was Newton.
The earliest match found by QI appeared in “Redbook” magazine in August 1946 within a piece by Howard W. Newton presenting a collection of witticisms. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.
Advertising executive Howard W. Newton is the leading candidate for creator of this saying.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1946 August, Redbook, Volume 87, Issue, 4, Do You Agree? by Howard W. Newton, Start Page 50, Quote Page 50, Column 1, Published by Hearst Magazines, New York. (Women’s Magazine Archive ProQuest) ↩