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Variant forms of this putative quote by Einstein:
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. (Approximately 416,000 attributions to Einstein, as of 2012-10-31)
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius is limited. (Approximately 24,800 attributions to Einstein, as of 2012-10-31)
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limitations (Approximately 259 attributions to Einstein, as of 2012-11-02)
This quote is FAKE.
Probable mechanism: Keyes' Rules of Misquotation, Axiom 2, Corollary 2B: "Particularly quotable figures receive more than their share of quotable quotes."
(credit to User:Hipnosifl on Wikiquote for much of the following.)
The quote does not appear in any published work by or about Einstein. In particular, it does not appear in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein or any previous edition of The Quotable Einstein, or in any well-referenced quotebook such as the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
This quote was passed around for decades as an anonymous quip, before Einstein's name ever became attached to it. It first pops up on Google Books as a bit of filler in a 1961 issue of Grassroots Editor, p. 34:
One man says that the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
The author of the quote was still listed as "Unknown" in Byrne's 1988 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, p. 16, and in numerous other books from this period.
Perhaps significantly, in 1993, The Harper Book of Quotations includes the quote -- still credited to "Anon." -- just above a quote by Picasso that mentions Einstein, and on the same page as a quote credited (correctly) to Einstein. This would have created a natural opportunity for cross-contamination through sloppy note-taking. The Harper Book is one of only two matches for "the difference between genius and stupidity" + "Einstein" in a Google Books search restricted to the 20th century -- the other being the Amateur Radio Today quote mentioned below.
Whether the Harper Book was the original source of the error, the cats of misattribution had slipped from their bag within a year of its publication. As of October 2012, the earliest citation found on searches of Google News Archive, Google Books, and Google Groups is the closing paragraph to a 1994 piece in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Gazette:
The challenge in difficult times is to call upon the wisdom our leaders must possess to do the right thing. Wisdom exists as an emotional understanding one gains from experience. The true application of that wisdom is genius. Albert Einstein observed that the difference between genius and stupidity is that there are limits to genius. In the '90s, the challenge for the wiser heads of all generations will be to limit the stupidity as we move on.
- 0 matches for '"difference between genius|stupidity and stupidity|genius" intitle:einstein', as of 2012-10-31
- The Harper Book of Quotations, Revised Edition. 1993. p. 169. http://books.google.com/books?id=THl7kUfSqCUC&pg=PA169.
- "Google Books search results for "the difference between genius and stupidity" einstein". Books.google.com. https://www.google.com/search?prmdo=1&biw=1024&bih=560&tbs=cdr%3A1%2Ccd_min%3A1900%2Ccd_max%3A1999%2Csbd%3A1&tbm=bks&q=%22the+difference+between+genius+and+stupidity+is%22+einstein. Retrieved 2012-10-31.
- William C. Jacobson (1994-08-17). "Having Scorned Authority, Boomers Relish It". http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=CR&z=CRGB&p_theme=cr&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EAFE79A88D78A7C&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2012-10-31.