Poor Albert Einstein gets attributed many quotes he never uttered. I have a feeling this is one of them, because I couldn't find a proper citation.

Intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it.

Did Einstein ever say that?

See e.g. this IPS SE answer and Google.

  • 6
    I can trace it back to one book in 1999, but no further citation. On the web, it appears to be quoted the first time on 01.02.2001. Maybe someone with access to a digital library could run a comprehensive search of books and newspaper articles for the phrase to find an original citation.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 15:12
  • I found "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.", though. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 5:46
  • Came from exactly the same SE question... Anyways, I found it on this on page 59, probably the same as the one @Polygnome found Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 21:40
  • Einstein was born in Ulm. Therefore the search has to cover the widely attributed (and equally shady) "Wissen heisst:, wissen, wo es geschrieben steht." ––/–– I don't know why, but somehow, I'd like to advocate: "every quote without an exact source citation is likely totally made up and everyone copying it permanently labeled a notorious lier, per default.; or perhaps: comedian?" Commented Nov 28, 2018 at 1:25

2 Answers 2


Quote Investigator did an article on a similar quote and I think the answer applies here too.

It could be a quote that's a vague memory of someone else's vague memory of something Einstein actually said. In Philipp Frank's biography of him, “Einstein: His Life and Times” (1947), there is the following quote:

While Einstein was in Boston, staying at the Hotel Copley Plaza, he was given a copy of Edison’s questionnaire to see whether he could answer the questions. As soon as he read the question: “What is the speed of sound?” he said: “I don’t know. I don’t burden my memory with such facts that I can easily find in any textbook.”

Nor did he agree with Edison’s opinion on the uselessness of college education. He remarked: “It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”

The event mentioned happened in 1921 and around that time the New York Times reported that he said a paraphrased version of the first quote.

However, it's also possible the quote is based off something someone else said. A 1914 book by someone who isn't Einstein had the following:

Educated people are not those who know everything, but rather those who know where to find, at a moment’s notice, the information they desire.

There's also another quote from 1917 from a different source, also by someone who is not Einstein:

Someone has said that the cleverest people are not those who know everything, but those who know where to look for and find any information that is at the moment required. Which is only another way of saying that they have methodical minds and habits and know how and where to store their knowledge.


I know this is an old question but I think I have a relevant answer. Tagging on to what Laurel's answer details about similar wording from other sources; it is inscribed on Dodd Hall at FSU which was built in 1923: "The half of knowledge is to know where to find knowledge." After looking around for a bit I found this PDF which says that this is actually an English translation from an Italian book written in 1885 referencing a Latin saying, "Dimidium scientiae cui scit ubi sit scientia" (text on google books).

As to Einstein saying such a phrase? Who knows, and as the other answers point out no one seems to. This Latin phrase does, however, seem to be the oldest reference of such comparisons of knowledge and where to find knowledge, though.

  • Welcome to Skeptics.SE Carlos! I like the work you put in, but you are missing an opportunity to tell a bit of a story here. By proving that variations on this quote existed before Einstein said, you are proving that him saying it isn't notable. You're already half way there anyway :) It would also be cool to see you use a less than symbol (>) to break out the quotes Let me know if you want me to swap your sentences around to make it more complete. I'm still pretty new here too, and don't want to mess with something you might be attached too.
    – inund8
    Commented May 27, 2021 at 20:27
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    @MarkBiernacki: When it comes to edit, the motto here is "be bold". I think we are using the word "notable" differently. This answer shows that Einstein didn't originate the general concept/quote. It doesn't show whether he actually said these words (and it is impossible to show he never said them.)
    – Oddthinking
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 3:14
  • @MarkBiernacki thanks for the info on formatting! It reads fine so I'll leave it be this time. I do disagree on what you say about his quote being notable, though; why does him not being the originator not make his use notable? Many people have quotes that, while not original, are sharp in the moment, and that is what impresses onto peoples minds. I'm sure that attribution of the phrase was the result of Einstein's witty comment in the newspaper, and that is why it is attributed to him. After all, who knows who Costanzo Rinaudo is?
    – girraiffe
    Commented May 28, 2021 at 21:32
  • @CarlosMedina Well, if Einstein, as a joke, read a book of quotes aloud, none of that would be notable. It's too common for people to treat every word Einstein said as being notable. But by my judgement, parroting things you've heard isn't notable, no matter how famous or smart you are.
    – inund8
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 21:42

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