The reason for the proliferation of so many fake quotes attributed to Einstein is that he has become synonymous with genius and wisdom. Surely, if Einstein had said these things, then they must be wise indeed!
This post will examine popular quotes on the internet that have been falsely or mistakenly attributed to Albert Einstein.
I will update this page as more fake Einstein quotes circulate the internet. Please post a comment for any questions or corrections.
Fake Quotes Attributed to Einstein
1. “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.”
This false quotation is commonly printed on self-help and motivation posters. While the sentiment is nice, there is no evidence Einstein ever said this.
The first appearance of this quote is from The Rhythm of Life: Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose (2004) by Matthew Kelly, p. 80, however there is no evidence of it being printed prior, and no evidence Einstein said it.
The quote is probably based on The Animal School (1940) by George Reavis, where a fish goes to school and is required to work on his running and climbing. The Animal School was reprinted in 1999 and may have influenced Matthew Kelly or someone else to create this fake attribution.
Another alternative is that the false quotation is based on what Einstein wrote in his essay Self-Portrait (1936),
What is significant in one’s own existence one is hardly aware, and it certainly should not bother the other fellow. What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?
This real quotation may have influenced the false one above.
2. “It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews.”
There is no recorded evidence that Einstein ever said this quotation.
The motivation for this fake quote should be apparent. It would be beneficial to pro-Palestinian activists to show that a paragon of wisdom, and a Jew himself no less, was also pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Israel.
This fake quotation also compares Zionists to Nazis, which is suspicious because Einstein was a supporter of Labor Zionism. However, Einstein did sign an open letter by Jewish intellectuals in 1948 that said, “Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.” The fake quote originally posted above, may have been inspired from this open letter.
3. “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
This is another fake motivational/inspirational quote attributed to Einstein. The first recorded instance I found of this quote is from The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010) by Alice Calaprice and Freeman Dyson on p. 481, however Alice lists the quote under the “Probably Not By Einstein” section.
There is no evidence Einstein ever said this quote, and frankly it doesn’t sound like something Einstein would say, as he was a highly logical individual.
4. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
This quote is actually written by E. F. Schumacher in a 1973 essay titled “Small is Beautiful” which appeared in The Radical Humanist: volume 37, p. 22.
This first false attributions of this quote to Einstein began to circulate on the internet in 1997, and then later appeared in print in BMJ: The British Medical Journal, volume 319, 23 October 1999, p. 1102.
5. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
There is no evidence Einstein ever said this. The likely origin of this quote is from the Basic Texts of Narcotics Anonymous, which is the first known source of this quote. The Basic Texts were first drafted to members in 1981 and published in 1983.
6. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.”
There is no first hand source of Einstein’s writing or speeches that contains this quote. The first appearance of this quote that I can find is in Living With Nature’s Extremes: The Life of Gilbert Fowler White (2006) by Robert E. Hinshaw, p. 62. In this book Hinshaw quotes Gilbert Fowler White’s Journal of France and Germany (1942 – 1944) as the original source of the quote. It is here that Gilbert Fowler White wrote,
“As I look back over the truly crucial events in my life I realize that they were not planned long in advance. Albert Einstein said, ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is.’”
The most likely source of Gilbert’s for an Einstein quote on miracles would be David Reichenstein’s Die Religion der Gebildeten (1941), which was released a year prior to Gilbert’s Journal. It is here that Reichenstein asks Einstein about Arthur Liebert’s theory that uncertainty and indeterminism in quantum mechanics allows for the possibility of miracles. Einstein replied that he could not accept the argument because it dealt “with a domain in which lawful rationality does not exist. A miracle, however, is an exception from lawfulness; hence, there where lawfulness does not exist, also its exception, i.e., a miracle, cannot exist.”
Gilbert Fowler White may have inadvertently invented this Einstein quote based on his understanding of Einstein’s conversation with David Reichenstein above.