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Home > Category Index for Science Quotations > Category Index I > Category: Inventor

Inventor Quotes (49 quotes)

Is mihi semper dicendus est inventor, qui primus evuIgaverit, vel saltem cum amicis communicaverit.
I should always call inventor him who first publishes, or at least communicates [the idea] to his friends.
Meditationes Analyticae (1785), ii-iii.
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La neciessità è maestra e tutrice della natura; La neciessità è tema e inventrice della natura e freno e regola eterna.
Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature. Necessity is the theme and the inventress, the eternal curb and law of nature.
S. K. M. III. 49a. As translated by Jean Paul Richter, in 'Philosophical Maxims', The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci: Compiled and Edited from the Original Manuscripts (1883), Vol. 2, 285, Maxim 1135.
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Pour inventor il faut penser à côté.
To invent you must think aside
In Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao, Statistics and Truth (1997), 31.
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An essential [of an inventor] is a logical mind that sees analogies. No! No! not mathematical. No man of a mathematical habit of mind ever invented anything that amounted to much. He hasn’t the imagination to do it. He sticks too close to the rules, and to the things he is mathematically sure he knows, to create anything new.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 187.
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An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.
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An inventor is an opportunist, one who takes occasion by the hand; who, having seen where some want exists, successfully applies the right means to attain the desired end. The means may be largely, or even wholly, something already known, or there may be a certain originality or discovery in the means employed. But in every case the inventor uses the work of others. If I may use a metaphor, I should liken him to the man who essays the conquest of some virgin alp. At the outset he uses the beaten track, and, as he progresses in the ascent, he uses the steps made by those who have preceded him, whenever they lead in the right direction; and it is only after the last footprints have died out that he takes ice-axe in hand and cuts the remaining steps, few or many, that lift him to the crowning height which is his goal.
In Kenneth Raydon Swan, Sir Joseph Swan (1946), 44.
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An inventor is one who can see the applicability of means to supply demand five years before it is obvious to those skilled in the art.
Aphorism listed Frederick Seitz, The Cosmic Inventor: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (1866-1932) (1999), 54, being Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Held at Philadelphia For Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 86, Pt. 6.
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An inventor is simply a fellow who doesn’t take his education too seriously. You see, from the time a person is six years old until he graduates form college he has to take three or four examinations a year. If he flunks once, he is out. But an inventor is almost always failing. He tries and fails maybe a thousand times. It he succeeds once then he’s in. These two things are diametrically opposite. We often say that the biggest job we have is to teach a newly hired employee how to fail intelligently. We have to train him to experiment over and over and to keep on trying and failing until he learns what will work.
In 'How Can We Develop Inventors?' presented to the Annual meeting of the American Society of Society Engineers. Reprinted in Mechanical Engineering (Apr 1944). Collected in Prophet of Progress: Selections from the Speeches of Charles F. Kettering (1961), 108.
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As Arkwright and Whitney were the demi-gods of cotton, so prolific Time will yet bring an inventor to every plant. There is not a property in nature but a mind is born to seek and find it.
In Fortune of the Republic (1878), 3.
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Being the inventor of sex would seem to be a sufficient distinction for a creature just barely large enough to be seen by the naked eye.
[Comment about Volvox, a freshwater green algae, which appears indetermimately plantlike and animal-like during its reproductive cycle.]
The Great Chain of Life (1957), 28.
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Da Vinci was as great a mechanic and inventor as were Newton and his friends. Yet a glance at his notebooks shows us that what fascinated him about nature was its variety, its infinite adaptability, the fitness and the individuality of all its parts. By contrast what made astronomy a pleasure to Newton was its unity, its singleness, its model of a nature in which the diversified parts were mere disguises for the same blank atoms.
From The Common Sense of Science (1951), 25.
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Every discoverer of a new truth, or inventor of the method which evolves it, makes a dozen, perhaps fifty, useless combinations, experiments, or trials for one successful one. In the realm of electricity or of mechanics there is no objection to this. But when such rejected failures involve a torture of animals, sometimes fearful in its character, there is a distinct objection to it.
From 'Vivisection', an original paper in Surgical Anaesthesia: Addresses, and Other Papers (1894, 1900), 369-370.
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Hard work and for ever sticking to a thing till it’s done, are the main things an inventor needs.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 186.
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His [Thomas Edison] method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 per cent of the labor. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor's instinct and practical American sense. In view of this, the truly prodigious amount of his actual accomplishments is little short of a miracle.
As quoted in 'Tesla Says Edison Was an Empiricist', The New York Times (19 Oct 1931), 25. In 1884, Tesla had moved to America to assist Edison in the designing of motors and generators.
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I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source. I take half-matured schemes for mechanical development and make them practical. I am a sort of middleman between the long-haired and impractical inventor and the hard-headed businessman who measures all things in terms of dollars and cents. My principal business is giving commercial value to the brilliant but misdirected ideas of others.
…...
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I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.
Quoted by Cleveland Moffitt, 'A Talk With Tesla', Atlanta Constitution (7 Jun 1896)
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I spend a great deal of the hours that I’m awake within myself. You never want to stop doing it, especially when it’s a pleasure. It’s vital to my existence and I couldn’t live if I wasn’t an inventor.
Quoted in Timothy L. O’Brien, 'Not Invented here: Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge?', New York Times (13 Nov 2005), B6.
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INVENTOR, n. A person who makes an ingenious arrangement of wheels, levers and springs, and believes it civilization.
The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1911), Vol. 7, The Devil's Dictionary,  173-174.
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Most inventors who have an idea never stop to think whether their invention will be saleable when they get it made. Unless a man has plenty of money to throw away, he will find that making inventions is about the costliest amusement he can find.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 186.
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Our attention will focus on the institutional context of technological innovation rather than … individual inventors, for the actual course of work that leads to the conception and use of technology always involves a group that has worked for a considerable period of time on the basic idea before success is achieved.
In The Social Context of Innovation: Bureaucrats, Families, and Heroes in the Early Industrial Revolution as Foreseen in Bacon’s New Atlantis (1982, 2003), 3.
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People think of the inventor as a screwball, but no one asks the inventor what he thinks of other people.
In Evan Esar, 20,000 Quips and Quotes, 443.

People think of the inventor as a screwball, but no one ever asks the inventor what he thinks of other people.

Richard Drew embodied the essential spirit of the inventor, a person of vision and unrelenting persistence who refused to give in to adversity. He made an enormous contribution, not only to the growth of 3M, but also to advancement of many modern industries vital to worldwide economic growth.
Speaking at Drew's posthumous induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Akron, Ohio (4 May 2007). From Press Release (7 May 2007) on 3M Company website.
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Seldom has there occurred a more pitifully tragic disaster than the sudden fall of the Wright aeroplane, involving the death of that promising young officer Lieut. Thomas Selfridge, and inflicting shocking injuries on the talented inventor, Orville Wright. But although the accident is deplorable, it should not be allowed to discredit the art of aeroplane navigation. If it emphasizes the risks, there is nothing in the mishap to shake our faith in the principles upon which the Wright brothers built their machine, and achieved such brilliant success.
Magazine
In Scientific American (Sep 1908). As cited in '50, 100 & 150 Years Ago', Scientific American (Sep 2008), 299, No. 3, 14.
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The American, by nature, is optimistic. He is experimental, an inventor and a builder who builds best when called upon to build greatly. Arouse his will to believe in himself, give him a great goal to believe in, and he will create the means to reach it.
Given with date 1 Jan 1960 in Brian M. Thomsen, The Dream That Will Not Die: Inspiring Words of John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy (2010), 79. Webmaster has not seen a primary document for this quote. Although it is widely circulated, the origin is usually never cited. If you know the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
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The chemical or physical inventor is always a Prometheus. There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god. But if every physical and chemical invention is a blasphemy, every biological invention is a perversion. There is hardly one which, on first being brought to the notice of an observer from any nation which had not previously heard of their existence, would not appear to him as indecent and unnatural.
Lecture (4 Feb 1923) to the Heretics Society, Cambridge University, published in Daedalus; or, Science and the Future (1924), 44.
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The dignity of this end of endowment of man's life with new commodity appeareth by the estimation that antiquity made of such as guided thereunto ; for whereas founders of states, lawgivers, extirpators of tyrants, fathers of the people, were honoured but with the titles of demigods, inventors ere ever consecrated among the gods themselves.
Bacon and Basil Montagu (Ed.), 'Fragments of Valerius Terminus, on the Interpretation of Nature', Works of Bacon (1825), vol. 1., 266. Quoted in The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), Vol.1, 2.

The discoverer and the poet are inventors; and they are so because their mental vision detects the unapparent, unsuspected facts, almost as vividly as ocular vision rests on the apparent and familiar.
From 'The Principles of Success in Literature', The Fortnightly (1865), 1, 574.
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The greatest inventors are unknown to us. Someone invented the wheel—but who?
Epigraph in Isaac Asimov’s Book of Science and Nature Quotations (1988), 117.
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The inventor and the research man are confused because they both examine results of physical or chemical operations. But they are exact opposites, mirror images of one another. The research man does something and does not care [exactly] what it is that happens, he measures whatever it is. The inventor wants something to happen, but does not care how it happens or what it is that happens if it is not what he wants.
Aphorism listed Frederick Seitz, The Cosmic Inventor: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (1866-1932) (1999), 54, being Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Held at Philadelphia For Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 86, Pt. 6.
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The inventor is a man who looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea. The spirit of invention possesses him, seeking materialization.
From Speech to the Patent Congress (1891) in Washington, D.C., as quoted in Jean Lesage, 'Alexander Graham Bell Museum: Tribute to Genius', The National Geographic Magazine (Aug 1956), 110, No. 2, 232. The article notes that this statement is “prominently displayed near the foyer” of the Canadian museum opened that month to memorialize Bell, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia.
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The inventor of soda crackers has a place in hell.
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The patent system was established, I believe, to protect the lone inventor. In this it has not succeeded. … The patent system protects the institutions which favor invention
'Inventors I Have Known', in Philip Alger, The Human Side of Engineering (1972), 137). Cited in David F. Noble, America By Design (1979), 84.
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The point in which I am different from most inventors is that I have, besides the usual inventor’s make-up, the bump of practicality as a sort of appendix, the sense of the business, money value of an invention. Oh, no, I didn’t have it naturally. It was pounded into me by some pretty hard knocks.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 186.
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The respect which in all ages and countries has ever been paid to inventors seems, indeed, to rest on something more profound than mere gratitude for the benefits which they have been the means of conferring on mankind; and to imply, if it does not express, a consciousness that by the grand and original conceptions of their minds they approach somewhat more nearly than their fellows to the qualities and pre-eminence of a higher order of being.
The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), Vol.1, 2.

The test of an invention is the power of an inventor to push it through in the face of staunch—not opposition, but indifference—in society.
Speaking at a shareholders' meeting (1975) as quoted by Victor K. McElheny, in Insisting On The Impossible: The Life Of Edwin Land (1999), 404.
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The Unexpected stalks a farm in big boots like a vagrant bent on havoc. Not every farmer is an inventor, but the good ones have the seeds of invention within them. Economy and efficiency move their relentless tinkering and yet the real motive often seems to be aesthetic. The mind that first designed a cutter bar is not far different from a mind that can take the intractable steel of an outsized sickle blade and make it hum in the end. The question is how to reduce the simplicity that constitutes a problem (“It's simple; it's broke.”) to the greater simplicity that constitutes a solution.
In Making Hay (2003), 33-34.
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The work of the inventor consists of conceptualizing, combining, and ordering what is possible according to the laws of nature. This inner working out which precedes the external has a twofold characteristic: the participation of the subconscious in the inventing subject; and that encounter with an external power which demands and obtains complete subjugation, so that the way to the solution is experienced as the fitting of one's own imagination to this power.
Philosophie der Technik (1927). 'Technology in Its Proper Sphere' translated by William Carroll. In Carl Mitcham (ed.) and Robert Mackey (ed.), Philosophy and Technology: Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology, (1972), Vol. 14, 321. In David Lovekin, Technique, Discourse, and Consciousness (1991), 73.
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There are many points in the history of an invention which the inventor himself is apt to overlook as trifling, but in which posterity never fail to take a deep interest. The progress of the human mind is never traced with such a lively interest as through the steps by which it perfects a great invention; and there is certainly no invention respecting which this minute information will be more eagerly sought after, than in the case of the steam-engine.
Quoted in The Origin and Progress of the Mechanical Inventions of James Watt (1854), Vol.1, 4.
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Thought experiment is in any case a necessary precondition for physical experiment. Every experimenter and inventor must have the planned arrangement in his head before translating it into fact.
'On Thought Experiments' (1897), in Erwin H. Hiebert (ed.), Erkenntnis und Irrtum (1905), trans. Thomas J. McCormack and Paul Foulkes (1976), 184.
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Th’invention all admir’d, and each, how he
To be th’inventor miss’d; so easy it seem’d,
Once found, which yet unfound most would have thought
Impossible.
From Paradise Lost (1821), Book 6, 183.
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Under the Providence of God, our means of education are the grand machinery by which the 'raw material' of human nature can be worked up into inventors and discoverers, into skilled artisans and scientific farmers, into scholars and jurists, into the founders of benevolent institutions, and the great expounders of ethical and theological science.
Annual Reports of the Secretary of the Board of Education of Massachusetts for the years 1845-1848, Life and Works of Horace Mann (1891), Vol. 4, 228.
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Unless there exist peculiar institutions for the support of such inquirers, or unless the Government directly interfere, the contriver of a thaumatrope may derive profit from his ingenuity, whilst he who unravels the laws of light and vision, on which multitudes of phenomena depend, shall descend unrewarded to the tomb.
Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), 19.
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We have all heard of the puzzle given to Archimedes…. His finding that the crown was of gold was a discovery; but he invented the method of determining the density of solids. Indeed, discoverers must generally be inventors; though inventors are not necessarily discoverers.
From 'How Discoveries Are Made', Cassell's Magazine, Illustrated (May 1908), 629.
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Wherever you may find the inventor … you may give him wealth or you may take from him all that he has; and he will go on inventing. He can no more help inventing than he can help thinking or breathing. Inventors are born, not made.
(1891) As quoted in Stacy V. Jones, You Ought to Patent That (1962), 21.
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You can’t have a big ego and be a great inventor. You constantly have to be listening and evaluating.
Quoted in Timothy L. O’Brien, 'Not Invented here: Are U.S. Innovators Losing Their Competitive Edge?', New York Times (13 Nov 2005), B6.
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Your true inventor has a yen to invent, just as a painter or musician is impelled to create something in his art. I began wanting to invent when I was in short pants. At the age of eight—and that was forty years ago—I invented a rock-thrower. Later I found that the Romans had done a much better job some two thousand years before me.
Anonymous
Attributed to an unnamed “holder of many patents,” as quoted by Stacy V. Jones, in You Ought to Patent That (1962), 21.
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[A] quality of an inventor is imagination, because invention is a leap of the imagination from what is known to what has never been before.
As quoted in French Strother, 'The Modern Profession of Inventing', World's Work and Play (Jul 1905), 6, No. 32, 187.
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[Ignorance] of the principle of conservation of energy … does not prevent inventors without background from continually putting forward perpetual motion machines… Also, such persons undoubtedly have their exact counterparts in the fields of art, finance, education, and all other departments of human activity… persons who are unwilling to take the time and to make the effort required to find what the known facts are before they become the champions of unsupported opinions—people who take sides first and look up facts afterward when the tendency to distort the facts to conform to the opinions has become well-nigh irresistible.
From Evolution in Science and Religion (1927), 58-59. An excerpt from the book including this quote appears in 'New Truth and Old', Christian Education (Apr 1927), 10, No. 7, 394-395.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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