A while back, I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Hundreds of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a few per week.
Scientists (professors, physicians) will know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing, or will know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.
The Yale Book of Quotations, which attempts to trace all famous quotations to their earliest findable sources, has the following:
“A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.” William J. Mayo, Quoted in Reader’s Digest, November 1927.
Joe T asked:
Re: “free lunch” as punchline, what was the rest of the joke?
O.K., here’s the outline of the joke that may have given rise to “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”; it appears in an article in the El Paso Herald-Post, June 27, 1938, entitled “Economics in Eight Words.”
This is a fable in which a king asks his advisers to summarize economics in a “short and simple text.” They respond with 87 volumes of 600 pages each, drawing the king’s wrath and accompanying executions. Further demands and more executions force ever-briefer summations, until, finally, the last economist, “a man of profound wisdom,” speaks:
Sire, in eight words I will reveal to you all the wisdom that I have distilled through all these years from all the writings of all the economists who once practiced their science in your kingdom. Here is my text: “There ain’t no such thing as free lunch.”
Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?