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Who said: “I have no satisfaction in formulas unless I feel their arithmetical magnitude.”
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Studs Terkel
(16 May 1912 - 31 Oct 2008)

American author and broadcaster who for 45 years was a radio host on WFMT, Chicago. With his interview guests from all walks of life, and his writings, Terkel documented a picture of American life. His first-person narrative books based on tape-recorded interviews, featured mostly everyday people. Terkel’s book, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II (1985), won the Pulitzer Prize.

Studs Terkel - “I like quoting Einstein”

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c.1921 (source)
“I like quoting Einstein. … Because nobody dares contradict you.”
— Studs Terkel
Interview in The Guardian (2002)

More Studs Terkel quotes on science >>

This quote by Studs Terkel may not be the first time somebody expressed this idea. However, it serves to remind us that a fair number of quotes circulating on the web are falsely attributed to Einstein. Any bons mots suggesting intelligence might be attributed to Einstein, whether he said them, or not. Few people take the time to question the reliability of the source.

In 2002, the prolific interviewer, Studs Terkel, shortly before his 90th birthday, was himself answering questions from Oliver Burkeman, for an article published in the London newspaper, The Guardian. Describing Terkel, in the reporter’s words, “The wall-to-wall displays of patriotism in America today leave him cold. The war against terrorism needs a new approach.” He then quoted Terkel's comment, “You know, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely'? It's the same with powerlessness. Absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.

Einstein said everything had changed since the atom was split, except the way we think. We have to think anew. I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you.”

Webmaster fondly remembers similar advice in a book read back in high school, saying that for English composition exams, a passage can be made more interesting by adding a quote by Winston Churchill. The author said write anything that sounded good, since the examiner couldn't know everything Churchill had ever said, and was too busy grading papers to look up your fictional quote. Terkel at least was correctly summarizing an Einstein quote, though not his actual words.

The actual Einstein quote to which Terkel referred appeared in The New York Times (25 May 1946). The article stated that Einstein “issued a personal appeal yesterday by telegram to several hundred prominent Americans”. In part, he wrote:

“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

There are many more authentic Einstein quotes. But remember to take care when reading an “Einstein” “quote” on the web. Some are spurious, and yet are unquestioned and passed along in blogs and in much-forwarded email messages.

More Albert Einstein quotes (and some misquotes) >>

See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by:Albert EinsteinIsaac NewtonLord KelvinCharles DarwinSrinivasa RamanujanCarl SaganFlorence NightingaleThomas EdisonAristotleMarie CurieBenjamin FranklinWinston ChurchillGalileo GalileiSigmund FreudRobert BunsenLouis PasteurTheodore RooseveltAbraham LincolnRonald ReaganLeonardo DaVinciMichio KakuKarl PopperJohann GoetheRobert OppenheimerCharles Kettering  ... (more people)

Quotations about:Atomic  BombBiologyChemistryDeforestationEngineeringAnatomyAstronomyBacteriaBiochemistryBotanyConservationDinosaurEnvironmentFractalGeneticsGeologyHistory of ScienceInventionJupiterKnowledgeLoveMathematicsMeasurementMedicineNatural ResourceOrganic ChemistryPhysicsPhysicianQuantum TheoryResearchScience and ArtTeacherTechnologyUniverseVolcanoVirusWind PowerWomen ScientistsX-RaysYouthZoology  ... (more topics)

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