Thomas Edison Quotes 35 Sourced Quotes

Thomas Alva Edison (11 February 1847 – 18 October 1931) was an American inventor and businessman who developed many devices which greatly influenced life worldwide into the twenty-first century.

Here are 35 real Thomas Edison quotes ordered by their popularity online. The most quoted quotes on the web appear first. Questionable and fake quotes are excluded. Sources and related information are shown after each quote. We hope you find these quotes useful. If there is anything we can do to improve this article, your feedback is welcome. If you find these quotes helpful, please share them.

1. “Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: This is presented as a statement of 1877, as quoted in From Telegraph to Light Bulb with Thomas Edison (2007) by Deborah Headstrong, p. 22.

2. “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in An Enemy Called Average (1990) by John L. Mason, p. 55.

3. “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source and Related Info: Spoken statement (c. 1903); published in Harper's Monthly (September 1932).
• Variants:
• None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. '''What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.
 • Statement in a press conference (1929), as quoted in Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James D. Newton, p. 24.
• Variant forms without early citation: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."
"Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."

4. “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Behavior-Based Robotics (1998) by Ronald C. Arkin. p. 8.

5. “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Thomas Alva Edison : Sixty Years of an Inventor's Life (1908) by Francis Arthur Jones, p. 14.

6. “Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Artifacts : An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley (2001) by Christine Finn. p. 90.

7. “Hell, there are no rules here — we're trying to accomplish something.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in How to Think Like Einstein : Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius (2000) by Scott Thorpe, p. 124.

8. “If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Motivating Humans : Goals, Emotions, and Personal Agency Beliefs (1992) by Martin E. Ford, p. 17.

9. “Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison (1948), p. 110.

10. “We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Golden Book (April 1931), according to Stevenson's Book of Quotations (Cassell 3rd edition 1938) by Burton Egbert Stevenson.

11. “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: In conversation with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone (1931); as quoted in Uncommon Friends : Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James Newton, p. 31.

12. “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source and Related Info: This has been reprinted many times with slight variations on the wording; it is part of a much larger quote directly from Edison published in 1903:
 Nineteen hundred and three will bring great advances in surgery, in the study of bacteria, in the knowledge of the cause and prevention of disease. Medicine is played out. Every new discovery of bacteria shows us all the more convincingly that we have been wrong and that the million tons of stuff we have taken was all useless.
The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.
They may even discover the germ of old age. I don't predict it, but it might be by the sacrifice of animal life human life could be prolonged.
Surgery, diet, antiseptics — these three are the vital things of the future in preserving the health of humanity. There were never so many able, active minds at work on the problems of diseases as now, and all their discoveries are tending to the simple truth — that you can't improve on nature.
 • As quoted in "Wizard Edison" in The Newark Advocate (2 January 1903), p. 1 according to research by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson at snopes.com.

13. “I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Jesus : Myth Or Reality? (2006) by Ian Curtis, p. 289.

14. “To Monsieur Eiffel the Engineer, the brave builder of so gigantic and original a specimen of modern Engineering from one who has the greatest respect and admiration for all Engineers including the Great Engineer the Bon Dieu.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: When Thomas Edison visited The Eiffel Tower, he signed the guestbook with this message, as quoted in The Tallest Tower by Joseph Harris, p. 95.

15. “I do not believe in the God of the theologians; but that there is a Supreme Intelligence I do not doubt”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Freethinker (1970), G.W. Foote & Company, Volume 90, p. 147.

16. “I find out what the world needs. Then, I go ahead and invent it.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in American Greats (1999) Edited by Robert A. Wilson and Stanley Marcus, p. 70.

17. “I never did a day's work in my life, it was all fun.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Edison & Ford Quote Book (2003) edited by Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

18. “I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles. Although the present generation knows little of Paine's writings,and although he has almost no influence upon contemporary thought, Americans of the future will justly appraise his work. I am certain of it. Truth is governed by natural laws and cannot be denied. Paine spoke truth with a peculiarly clear and forceful ring. Therefore time must balance the scales.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

19. “Many a person who could not comprehend Rousseau, and would be puzzled by Montesquieu, could understand Paine as an open book. He wrote with a clarity, a sharpness of outline and exactness of speech that even a schoolboy should be able to grasp. There is nothing false, little that is subtle, and an impressive lack of the negative in Paine. He literally cried to his reader for a comprehending hour, and then filled that hour with such sagacious reasoning as we find surpassed nowhere else in American letters — seldom in any school of writing.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

20. “The memory of Tom Paine will outlive all this. No man who helped to lay the foundations of our liberty — who stepped forth as the champion of so difficult a cause — can be permanently obscured by such attacks. Tom Paine should be read by his countrymen. I commend his fame to their hands.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

21. “I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come indirectly through accident, except the phonograph. No, when I have, fully decided that a result is worth getting, I go about it, and make trial after trial, until it comes.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: Quoted by Theodore Dreiser in A Photographic Talk with Edison, Success magazine (February 1898).

22. “My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it. What a soul may be is beyond my understanding.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: "Do We Live Again?" an interview with Edison, as quoted in Mr. Edison's New Argument from Design" in The Illustrated London News'' (3 May 1924).

23. “We really haven't got any great amount of data on the subject, and without data how can we reach any definite conclusions? All we have — everything — favors the idea of what religionists call the ‘Hereafter.’ Science, if it ever learns the facts, probably will find another more definitely descriptive term.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Thomas A. Edison, Benefactor of Mankind : The Romantic Life Story of the World's Greatest Inventor (1931) by Francis Trevelyan Miller, Ch. 25 : Edison's Views on Life — His Philosophy and Religion, p. 295.

24. “It is very beautiful over there!”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: These have sometimes been reported as his last words, but were actually spoken several days before his death, as he awoke from a nap, gazing upwards, as reported by his physician Dr. Hubert S. Howe, in Thomas A. Edison, Benefactor of Mankind : The Romantic Life Story of the World's Greatest Inventor (1931) by Francis Trevelyan Miller, Ch. 25 : Edison's Views on Life — His Philosophy and Religion, p. 295.

25. “Through all the years of experimenting and research, I never once made a discovery. I start where the last man left off. … All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention pure and simple.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in ''Makers of the Modern World : The Lives of Ninety-two Writers, Artists, Scientists, Statesmen, Inventors, Philosophers, Composers, and Other Creators who Formed the Pattern of Our Century (1955) by Louis Untermeyer, p. 227.

26. “Everyone steals in commerce and industry. I've stolen a lot, myself. But I know how to steal! They don't know how to steal!”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Tesla : The Modern Sorcerer (1999) by Daniel Blair Stewart, p. 411.

27. “I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom. Seventy-five of us worked twenty hours every day and slept only four hours — and thrived on it.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: Diary entry, as quoted in Defending and Parenting Children Who Learn Differently : Lessons from Edison's Mother (2007) by Scott Teel, p. 12.

28. “He has been called an atheist, but atheist he was not. Paine believed in a supreme intelligence, as representing the idea which other men often express by the name of deity. His Bible was the open face of nature, the broad skies, the green hills. He disbelieved the ancient myths and miracles taught by established creeds. But the attacks on those creeds — or on persons devoted to them — have served to darken his memory, casting a shadow across the closing years of his life. When Theodore Roosevelt termed Tom Paine a ‘dirty little atheist’ he surely spoke from lack of understanding. It was a stricture, an inaccurate charge of the sort that has dimmed the greatness of this eminent American. But the true measure of his stature will yet be appreciated. The torch which he handed on will not be extinguished.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

29. “I believe in the existence of a Supreme Intelligence pervading the Universe.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in Thomas A. Edison, Benefactor of Mankind : The Romantic Life Story of the World's Greatest Inventor (1931) by Francis Trevelyan Miller, Ch. 25 : Edison's Views on Life — His Philosophy and Religion, p. 293.

30. “So far as the religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake … Religion is all bunk.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in What on Earth is an Atheist! (1972) by Madalyn Murray O'Hair, p. 251.

31. “During all those years of experimentation and research, I never once made a discovery. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention, pure and simple. I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved. This was the only possible way for me to work out the problem. … I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty was in constructing the carbon filament. . . . Every quarter of the globe was ransacked by my agents, and all sorts of the queerest materials used, until finally the shred of bamboo, now utilized by us, was settled upon.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: On his years of research in developing the electric light bulb, as quoted in "Talks with Edison" by George Parsons Arthropod in Harper magazine, Vol. 80 (February 1890), p. 425.

32. “If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good, also. The difference between the bond and the bill is the bond lets money brokers collect twice the amount of the bond and an additional 20%, whereas the currency pays nobody but those who contribute directly in some useful way. … It is absurd to say our country can issue million in bonds and not million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: Commenting on Henry Ford's currency plan in ”Ford sees wealth in Muscle Shoals”, New York Times (6 December 1921), p. 6.

33. “There is a great directing head of people and things — a Supreme Being who looks after the destinies of the world. I am convinced that the body is made up of entities that are intelligent and are directed by this Higher Power. When one cuts his finger, I believe it is the intelligence of these entities which heals the wound. When one is sick, it is the intelligence of these entities which brings convalescence. You know that there are living cells in the body so tiny that the microscope cannot find them at all. The entities that give life and soul to the human body are finer still and lie infinitely beyond the reach of our finest scientific instruments. When these entities leave the body, the body is like a ship without a rudder — deserted, motionless and dead.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: As quoted in The Romance and Drama of the Rubber Industry (1936) by Harvey Samuel Firestone

34. “Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, 'the United States of America.' But it is hardly strange. Paine's teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind. We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. The deeds of one in the Weld were matched by the deeds of the other with his pen.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

35. “Looking back to those times we cannot, without much reading, clearly gauge the sentiment of the Colonies. Perhaps the larger number of responsible men still hoped for peace with England. They did not even venture to express the matter that way. Few men, indeed, had thought in terms of war. Then Paine wrote 'Common Sense,' an anonymous tract which immediately stirred the fires of liberty. It flashed from hand to hand throughout the Colonies. One copy reached the New York Assembly, in session at Albany, and a night meeting was voted to answer this unknown writer with his clarion call to liberty. The Assembly met, but could find no suitable answer. Tom Paine had inscribed a document which never has been answered adversely, and never can be, so long as man esteems his priceless possession. In 'Common Sense' Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again.. It must be remembered that 'Common Sense' preceded the declaration and affirmed the very principles that went into the national doctrine of liberty. But that affirmation was made with more vigor, more of the fire of the patriot and was exactly suited to the hour. It is probable that we should have had the Revolution without Tom Paine. Certainly it could not be forestalled, once he had spoken.”

—Thomas Edison

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Source: The Philosophy of Paine (1925): Essay in The Diary and Sundry Observations (1948) edited by Dagobert D. Runes - Full essay online

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Edison, Thomas Alva. “Thomas Edison Quotes: 35 Sourced Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-edison-quotes.html

Use APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the sciences.

Edison, Thomas Alva (2017, November 15) Thomas Edison Quotes: 35 Sourced Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-edison-quotes.html

Use Chicago style for business, fine arts, and history.

Edison, Thomas Alva. “Thomas Edison Quotes: 35 Sourced Quotes.” QuotesCosmos.com, edited by QuotesCosmos, 15 November 2017, https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-edison-quotes.html

MLA Citation: Use MLA (Modern Language Association) style for the humanities, especially language and literature.

Edison, Thomas Alva. “Thomas Edison Quotes: 35 Sourced Quotes.” Last modified November 15, 2017. https://www.quotescosmos.com/people/thomas-edison-quotes.html

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