Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"Woman’s virtue is man’s greatest invention." - Cornelia Otis Skinner

"Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out. It is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack; and one trick needs a great many more to make it good." - John Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury

"Modern invention has banished the spinning-wheel, and the same law of progress makes the woman of today a different woman from her grandmother." -

"There is no less invention in aptly applying a thought found in a book, than in being the first author of the thought." - Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of Orrery, Baron Broghill

"One minute gives invention to destroy; what to rebuild a whole age employ." - William Congreve

"One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But, speaking for myself, I can honestly say that this is not so. I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success." -

"His eloquent tongue so well seconds his fertile invention that no one speaks better when suddenly called forth. His attention never languishes; his mind is always before his words; his memory has all its stock so turned into ready money that, without hesitation or delay, it supplies whatever the occasion may require." -

"Necessity is the mother of invention." - William Farquhar

"Significant inventions are not mere accidents... Happenstance usually plays a part, to be sure, but there is much more to invention than the popular notion of a bolt out of the blue. Knowledge in depth and in breadth are virtual prerequisites. Unless the mind is thoroughly changed beforehand, the proverbial spark of genius, if it should manifest itself, probably will find nothing to ignite." - Paul Flory, fully Paul John Flory

"The construction of hypotheses is a creative act of inspiration, intuition, invention; its essence is the vision of something new in familiar material." - Milton Friedman, fully John Milton Friedman

"Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home." - David Frost, fully Sir David Paradine Frost

"The children who go to bed hungry in a Harlem slum or a West Virginia mining town are not being deprived because no food can be found to give them; they are going to bed hungry because, despite all our miracles of invention and production, we have not yet found a way to make necessities of life available to all of our citizens - including those whose failure is not lack of personal industry or initiative, but only an unwise choice of parents." - James William Fulbright

"Whatever therefore is consequent to a tie of war, where every man is enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such a condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." - Thomas Hobbes

"Even if governmental conduct of business could give us more efficiency instead of less efficiency, the fundamental objection to it would remain unaltered and unabated. It would destroy political equality. It would increase rather than decrease abuse and corruption. It would stifle initiative and invention. It would undermine the development of leadership. It would cramp and cripple the mental and spiritual energies of our people. It would extinguish equality and opportunity. It would dry up the spirit of liberty and progress." - Herbert Hoover, fully Herbert Clark Hoover

"The essence of poetry is invention; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights." -

"War appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modern invention." - Henry Maine, fully Sir Henry James Sumner Maine

"Next to invention is the owner of interpreting invention; next to beauty, the power of appreciating beauty." -

"Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention, that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion." - Thomas Paine

"Destiny is an invention of the cowardly and the resigned." - Ignazio Silone , original name Secondo Transqulli

"Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone - that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born." - Nikola Tesla

"The more we can squeeze out of nature by invention and discoveries and improved organization of labour, the more uncertain our existence seems to be. It's not we who lord it over things, it seems, but thinks which lord it over us." -

"To be fruitful in invention, it is indispensable to have a habit of observation and reflection." - Abraham Lincoln

"One hundred years after its invention, film art still occupies a marginal place in academic circles. The very activity of watching television is routinely dismissed as inherently inferior to the activity of reading, regardless of content. But narrative beauty is independent of medium. Oral tales, pictorial stories, plays, novels, movies, and television shows can all range from the lame and sensationalist to the heartbreaking and illuminating. We need every available form of expression and all the new ones we can muster to help us understand who we are and what we are doing." - Janet H. Murray

"To create consists precisely in not making unclear combinations and in making those which are useful and which are only a small minority. Invention is discernment, choice. If not a brute algorithm, then it must be a heuristic that guides us to a fruitful combination. What is the heuristic?" - Jerome Bruner, fully Jerome Seymour Bruner

"Probably no invention came more easily to man than when he thought up heaven." -

"It is said to have been reported to one of the Roman emperors, as a piece of good news, that one of his subjects had invented a process for manufacturing unbreakable glass. The emperor gave orders that the inventor should be put to death and the records of his invention should be destroyed. If the invention had been put on the market, the manufacturers of regular glass would have been put out of business; there would have been unemployment that would have caused political unrest, and perhaps revolution." - Arnold J. Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

"Memory is the friend of wit, but the treacherous ally of invention; there are many books that owe their success to two things; good memory of those who write them, and the bad memory of those who read them." - Charles Caleb Colton

"No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination." - Edward Hopper

"Invention in language should no more be discouraged than should invention in mechanics. Grammar is the grave of letters." - Elbert Green Hubbard

"No invention could ever take the hard work out of creating - out of good writing, painting, composing, inventing, etc. The economy of the spirit is incurably an economy of scarcity. An affluent society might be able to dispense with the ethic of work in its everyday life, but to attain any sort of excellence it will have to implant implacable taskmasters in the breasts of its people. Indeed, without the disciple of the creative effort the affluent society will be without stability. It might have to become a creative society in order to survive." - Eric Hoffer

"There is no short cut, no patent tramroad to wisdom; after all the centuries of invention, the soul’s path lies through the thorny wilderness which must be still trodden in solitude, with bleeding feet, with sobs for help, as it was trodden by them of old time." -

"A bad memory is the mother of invention." - Gerald Brenan, fully Edward FitzGerald "Gerald" Brenan

"There is the happiness which comes from creative effort. The joy of dreaming, creating, building, whether in painting a picture, writing an epic, singing a song, composing a symphony, devising new invention, creating a vast industry." - Henry Miller, aka Henry Valentine Miller

"There is nobody so weak of invention that he cannot make up some little stories to vilify his enemy." - Joseph Addison

"Logic, which alone can give certainty, is the instrument of demonstration; intuition is the instrument of invention." - Henri Poincaré, fully Jules Henri Poincaré

"Human subtlety--will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous." - Leonardo da Vinci, fully Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci

"If anything could testify to the magical powers of the priesthood of science and their technical acolytes, or declare unto mankind the supreme qualifications for absolute rulership held by the Divine Computer, this new invention alone should suffice. So the final purpose of life in terms of the megamachine at last becomes clear: it is to furnish and process an endless quantity of data, in order to expand the role and ensure the domination of the power system." - Lewis Mumford

"Love is the invention of a few high cultures, independent, in a sense, of marriage - although society can make it a requisite for marriage, as we periodically attempt to do... But in terms of a personal, highly intense choice, it is a cultural artifact." - Margaret Mead

"Love is the invention of a few high cultures… it is cultural artifact. To make love the requirement of a lifelong marriage is exceedingly difficult, and only a few people can achieve it. I don’t believe in setting universal standards that a large portion of people can’t reach." - Margaret Mead

"War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace with justice." - Norman Cousins

"There is no less wit and invention in applying rightly a thought one finds in a book than in being the first author of that thought." - Pierre Bayle

"The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." - Plato NULL

"God has infinite time to give us; but how did He give it? In one immense tract of lazy millenniums? No, but He cut it up into neat succession of new mornings, and, with each, therefore, a new idea, new invention, and new applications." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"One must be an inventor to read well... There is creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. Every sentence is doubly significant, and the sense of our author is as broad as the world." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Our minds are so constructed that we can keep the attention fixed on a particular object until we have, as it were, looked all around it; and the mind that possesses this faculty in the highest degree of perfection will take cognizance of relations of which another mind has no perception. It is this, much more than any difference in the abstract power of reasoning, which constitutes the vast difference between the minds of different individuals. This is the history alike of the poetic genius and of the genius of discovery in science. “I keep the subject,” said Sir Isaac Newton, “constantly before me, and wait until the dawnings open by little and little into a full light.” It was thus that after long meditation he was led to the invention of fluxions, and to the anticipation of the modern discovery of the combustibility of the diamond. It was thus that Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood, and that those views were suggested by Davy which laid the foundation of that grand series of experimental researches which terminated in the decomposition of the earths and alkalies." - Benjamin Collins Brodie, fully Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet

"It is attention, more than any difference between minds and men.—In this is the source of poetic genius, and of the genius of discovery in science.—It was this that led Newton to the invention of fluxions, and the discovery of gravitation, and Harvey to find out the circulation of the blood, and Davy to those views which laid the foundation of modern chemistry." - Benjamin Collins Brodie, fully Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, 1st Baronet

"What passes in the world for talent or dexterity or enterprise is often only a want of moral principle. We may succeed where others fail, not from greater share of invention, but from not being nice in the choice of expedients." - William Hazlitt

"The more we can squeeze out of nature by invention and discoveries and improved organization of labour, the more uncertain our existence seems to be. It's not we who lord it over things, it seems, but thinks which lord it over us." - Bertolt Brecht