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?


2 Answers 2


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.


No, he never said this.

It's unclear where this aphorism originated, but there's no evidence it was Einstein. It does not appear in the comprehensive collection of quotations “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press and it's quite unlike anything he's known to have said.

Throughout his career, Einstein did not concern himself with trying to make members of the general populace feel "special", but instead focussed on increasing our understanding of the universe.

Aside from that, there is no logic to this aphorism. It attempts to argue that everyone is a "genius" in some capacity, but that is not the case by any widely accepted definition of the word...

By the standard definition, a genius is someone who possesses an "exceptional human trait", especially in the arts or sciences. Arguing that everyone is "exceptional" (or "special") is something you're more likely to find on Sesame Street.

A few more things Einstein never said:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” - Original author unknown Source

"Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn't, pays it." - Originally from an advert Source

"Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Probably not, but there is some evidence Source

More things Einstein didn't say.


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