The quote:

“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.”

I'm just not confident that this is something Einstein would say. I Googled it and was unable to find the quote from a source that I feel is reliable. I was hoping someone could confirm or deny this attribution. Wikiquotes does not list it.

Related question: Can any fish climb trees?

  • 3
    According to en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein, the attribution is disputed and possibly sourced from The Rhythm of Life : Living Every Day with Passion and Purpose (2004) by Matthew Kelly, p. 80. Might be interesting to dig into where Matthew Kelly's source comes from.
    – mellamokb
    Oct 26, 2011 at 13:48
  • 101
    "The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that it's difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine." - Abraham Lincoln
    – Flimzy
    Nov 9, 2011 at 5:49
  • 5
    I would like a dispositive argument on this... here are a species of fish that can climb. sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090121122947.htm > ScienceDaily (Jan. 21, 2009) — A new species of fish from tropical South America is confirming suspected roots to the loricariid catfish family tree. Lithogenes wahari shares traits with two different families of fish: the bony armor that protects its head and tail, and a grasping pelvic fin that allows it to climb vertical surfaces.
    – user6244
    Feb 24, 2012 at 20:27
  • 3
    @curtis cleary: the meaning of the quote is irrelevant to whether Albert Einstein said that.
    – nico
    May 21, 2012 at 8:57
  • 14
    "In the year of the new century and nine months, some wanker will make up stuff that I didn't actually say." --Nostradamus 1564
    – olafure
    Jun 12, 2012 at 19:36

1 Answer 1


This one is disputed, as wikiquote states.

Searching through books you will find only four instances and it sounds possible that these might have been triggered by the first one.

The search for the specific phrase "if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree" did not found any suggestion of other sources in the whole corpus of google books.

If you check other, verified quotes you find more occurrences: "The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self." appears in 39 titles.


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