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 Creativity Is Intelligence Having Fun


  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, (No page number because statement is absent), Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified with hardcopy)
  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)