Albert Einstein? Werner Mitsch? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: It is difficult to conceive of an ordinary creature foolish enough to design and build a device that would dramatically increase the probability of its self-annihilation. The great scientist Albert Einstein supposedly made the following remark:
Mankind invented the atomic bomb, yet a mouse would never invent a mousetrap.
Unfortunately, no one has presented a supporting citation, and I know that fake Einstein quotations are endemic. Would you please explore this topic?
Quote Investigator: There is no substantive evidence that Albert Einstein wrote or spoke this statement. It is not listed in the comprehensive reference “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. Einstein died in 1955, and he received credit for the remark many years afterward in 2010.
The earliest match known to QI was identified by top German quotation expert Gerald Krieghofer who traced the saying to German aphorist Werner Mitsch who placed it into the 1983 collection “Das Schwarze unterm Fingernagel. Sprüche. Nichts als Sprüche” (“The black under the fingernail. Sayings. Nothing but sayings”). Here is the original German followed by an English rendering. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Der Mensch hat die Atombombe erfunden. Keine Maus der Welt käme auf die Idee, eine Mausefalle zu konstruieren.
Humanity invented the atom bomb. No mouse in the world would think of building a mousetrap.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.