Quotations about   genius

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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.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist

See here for discussion.
Added on 16-Sep-16 | Last updated 16-Sep-16
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A harmless hilarity and a buoyant cheerfulness are not infrequent concomitants of genius; and we are never more deceived than when we mistake gravity for greatness, solemnity for science, and pomposity for erudition.

Colton - never more deceived - wist_info quote

Charles Caleb "C. C." Colton (1780-1832) English cleric, writer
Lacon: or, Many Things in Few Words, #202 (1821 ed.)
Added on 2-Aug-16 | Last updated 2-Aug-16
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Was I to believe him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where did truth stop? Where did error begin?

Jules Verne (1828-1905) French novelist, poet, playwright
Journey to the Center of the Earth, ch. 7 “A Woman’s Courage” (1864) [tr. Malleson]
Added on 1-Jul-16 | Last updated 1-Jul-16
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Riches are a trust. … Power is a trust. So also is genius or every degree of wisdom. … Talents are a trust, too; that is the condition of their increase. They must be put out to use, or they will ruin the steward.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (July 1831)
Added on 16-Mar-16 | Last updated 16-Mar-16
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Every life is allocated one hundred seconds of genius. They might be enough, if we could just be sure which ones they are.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
Added on 16-Oct-15 | Last updated 16-Oct-15
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Like many men of genius, he could not understand why things obvious to him should not be so at once to other people, and found it easier to believe that they were corrupt than that they could be so stupid.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
The Apple Cart, Preface (1928)
Added on 26-Feb-15 | Last updated 26-Feb-15
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Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best. Genius must always have lapses proportionate to its triumphs.

Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) English parodist, caricaturist, wit, writer [Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm]
Obituary of Dan Leno, Saturday Review (5 Nov 1904)
Added on 27-Jan-15 | Last updated 27-Jan-15
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Whether we believe the Greek poet, “it is sometimes even pleasant to be mad”, or Plato, “he who is master of himself has knocked in vain at the doors of poetry”; or Aristotle, “no great genius was without a mixture of insanity”; the mind cannot express anything lofty and above the ordinary unless inspired. When it despises the common and the customary, and with sacred inspiration rises higher, then at length it sings something grander than that which can come from mortal lips. It cannot attain anything sublime and lofty so long as it is sane: it must depart from the customary, swing itself aloft, take the bit in its teeth, carry away its rider and bear him to a height whither he would have feared to ascend alone.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Tranquility of Mind [De Tranquillitate Animi],” 17.10 [tr. W. Langsdorf (1900)]

See Aristotle.
Added on 10-Aug-09 | Last updated 12-Nov-15
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I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Letter to Carl Seelig (11 Mar 1952), Einstein Archive 39-013

Similar wording was used in a letter to Hans Muehsam (4 Mar 1953) Einstein Archive 38-424.
Added on 22-Oct-08 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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There is no great genius without a touch of madness.

[Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Problemata, 30.1

Attributed to Aristotle by Seneca the Younger, "On Tranquillity of Mind" (17.10).Variants:
  • "No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness."
  • "No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness." [tr. Basore (1932)]
  • "There is no great genius without a mixture of madness."
  • "There was never a genius without a tincture of madness."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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One thing that humbles me deeply is to see that human genius has its limits while human stupidity does not.

[Une chose qui m’humilie profondément est de voir que le génie humain a des limites, quand la bêtise humaine n’en a pas.]

Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824-1895) French writer and dramatist

Earliest attribution is in the Great Universal Dictionary of the Nineteenth Century [Grand Dictionnaire Universel du XIXe Siècle], Vol. 2, "Stupidity [Bêtise]" (c. 1865) 

Attributed to a wide variety of individuals, including (spuriously) to Albert Einstein.


  • "What distresses me is to see that human genius has limitations, and human stupidity has none."
  • "How despairing it is to see that human genius has limitations, while human stupidity has none."
  • "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
  • "Human genius has its limits, but stupidity does not."
  • "Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped." (Elbert Hubbard, ed., The Philistine, title epigraph (Sep 1906)

See here for more discussion.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Aug-14
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