Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Edison, fully Thomas Alva Edison

American Scientist, Inventor and Businessman

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

"Hell, there are no rules here we're trying to accomplish something."

"Discontent is the first necessity of progress."

"If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves."

"Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure."

"There is no expedient to which a man will go to avoid the real labor of thinking."

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. "

"There is no substitute for hard work."

"There will one day spring from the brain of science a machine or force so fearful in its potentialities, so absolutely terrifying, that even man, the fighter, who will dare torture and death in order to inflict torture and death, will be appalled, and so abandon war forever. What man's mind can create, man's character can control."

"When a man dies, if he can pass enthusiasm along to his children, he has left them an estate of incalculable value."

"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."

"Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure. I believe that restlessness is discontent, and discontent is merely the first necessity of progress."

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

"The first requisite for success is to develop the ability to focus and apply your mental and physical energies to the problem at hand - without growing weary. Because such thinking is often difficult, there seems to be no limit to which some people will go to avoid the effort and labor that is associated with it."

"A lawsuit is the suicide of time."

"A good idea is never lost. Even though its originator or possessor may die without publicizing it, it will someday be reborn in the mind of another."

"A genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."

"A genius is just a talented person who does his homework."

"A reporter called on Edison to interview him about a substitute for lead in the manufacture of storage batteries that the scientist was seeking. Edison informed the man that he had made 20,000 experiments but none had worked. "Aren't you discouraged by all this waste of effort?" the reporter asked. Edison: "Waste! There's nothing wasted. I have discovered 20,000 things that won't work."

"All Bibles are man-made."

"A man?s best friend is a good wife."

"Again we see the spontaneous genius at work in 'The Rights of Man', and that genius busy at his favorite task - liberty. Written hurriedly and in the heat of controversy, 'The Rights of Man' yet compares favorably with classical models, and in some places rises to vaulting heights. Its appearance outmatched events attending Burke's effort in his 'Reflections'. Instantly the English public caught hold of this new contribution. It was more than a defense of liberty; it was a world declaration of what Paine had declared before in the Colonies. His reasoning was so cogent, his command of the subject so broad, that his legion of enemies found it hard to answer him. 'Tom Paine is quite right,' said Pitt, the Prime Minister, 'but if I were to encourage his views we should have a bloody revolution.' Here we see the progressive quality of Paine's genius at its best. 'The Rights of Man' amplified and reasserted what already had been said in 'Common Sense', with now a greater force and the power of a maturing mind. Just when Paine was at the height of his renown, an indictment for treason confronted him. About the same time he was elected a member of the Revolutionary Assembly and escaped to France. So little did he know of the French tongue that addresses to his constituents had to be translated by an interpreter. But he sat in the assembly. Shrinking from the guillotine, he encountered Robespierre's enmity, and presently found himself in prison, facing that dread instrument. But his imprisonment was fertile. Already he had written the first part of 'The Age of Reason' and now turned his time to the latter part. Presently his second escape cheated Robespierre of vengeance, and in the course of events 'The Age of Reason' appeared. Instantly it became a source of contention which still endures. Paine returned to the United States a little broken, and went to live at his home in New Rochelle - a public gift. Many of his old companions in the struggle for liberty avoided him, and he was publicly condemned by the unthinking."

"As a cure for worrying, work is far better than whiskey. I always found that, if I began to worry, the best thing I could do was focus upon doing something useful and then work very hard at it. Soon, I would forget what was troubling me."

"Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success."

"Be courageous! Whatever setbacks America has encountered, it has always emerged as a stronger and more prosperous nation.... Be brave as your fathers before you. Have faith and go forward!"

"Barring serious accidents, if you are not preoccupied with worry and you work hard, you can look forward to a reasonably lengthy existence.... Its not the hard work that kills, its the worrying that kills."

"Certainly we may believe that Washington had a considerable voice in the Constitution. We know that Jefferson had much to do with the document. Franklin also had a hand and probably was responsible in even larger measure for the Declaration. But all of these men had communed with Paine. Their views were intimately understood and closely correlated. There is no doubt whatever that the two great documents of American liberty reflect the philosophy of Paine."

"Because ideas have to be original only with regard to their adaptation to the problem at hand, I am always extremely interested in how others have used them...."

"Destruction of false theories will not decrease the sum of human happiness in future, any more than it has in the past... The days of miracles have passed. I do not believe, of course, that there was ever any day of actual miracles. I cannot understand that there were ever any miracles at all. My guide must be my reason, and at thought of miracles my reason is rebellious. Personally, I do not believe that Christ laid claim to doing miracles, or asserted that he had miraculous power..."

"Fools call wise men fools. A wise man never calls any man a fool."

"From his neck down a man is worth a couple of dollars a day, from his neck up he is worth anything that his brain can produce."

"Education isn't play ? and it can't be made to look like play. It is hard, hard work. But it can be made interesting work."

"Even though I am nearly deaf, I seem to be gifted with a kind of inner hearing which enables me to detect sounds and noises that the listeners do not perceive."

"Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."

"During all those years of experimentation and research, I never once made a discovery. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention, pure and simple. I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved. This was the only possible way for me to work out the problem. ? I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty was in constructing the carbon filament. . . . Every quarter of the globe was ransacked by my agents, and all sorts of the queerest materials used, until finally the shred of bamboo, now utilized by us, was settled upon."

"Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope."

"Fish seem to be rather conservative around this bay, one seldom catches enough to form the fundamental basis for a lie. Dante left out one of the torments of Hades ? I could imagine a doomed mortal made to untangle wet fish lines forever. Everybody lost patience at the stupidity of the fish in not coming forward promptly to be murdered."

"Everyone steals in commerce and industry. I've stolen a lot, myself. But I know how to steal! They don't know how to steal!"

"Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think."

"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."

"Genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration."

"Genius is not inspired. Inspiration is perspiration."

"Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."

"Great ideas originate in the muscles."

"I am afraid of radium and polonium ... I don't want to monkey with them."

"I am both pleased but astonished by the fact that mankind has not yet begun to use all the means and devices that are available for destruction. I hope that such weapons are never manufactured in quantity."

"Great music and art are earthly wonders, but I think 'cubist' songs and paintings are hideous."

"He has been called an atheist, but atheist he was not. Paine believed in a supreme intelligence, as representing the idea which other men often express by the name of deity. His Bible was the open face of nature, the broad skies, the green hills. He disbelieved the ancient myths and miracles taught by established creeds. But the attacks on those creeds ? or on persons devoted to them ? have served to darken his memory, casting a shadow across the closing years of his life."

"His genius he was quite content in one brief sentence to define; Of inspiration one percent, of perspiration, ninety nine."