158 Quotes from some of History’s Great Inventors and Innovators

This article gathers 158 quotes from some of history’s great inventors, pioneers, and innovators from all walks of life who have forever changed our lives thanks to their creations or discoveries.

When we talk about inventions, many people picture an eccentric and quirky scientist who, as a result of his calculations under candlelight, suddenly becomes enlightened. Today, with technology, the inventors of the past have become innovators, and the creators who manage to shatter the codes and models that have been in place for decades are called “disruptors.” In fact, the stereotype of the inventor has evolved: many people visualize him/her as a computer geek holed up in his/her basement attempting to come up with that one genius idea that will make him/her a millionaire.

These clichés have some truth to them: by proposing other economic and entrepreneurial models, disruptors sometimes build financial empires. However, most great innovators are, above all, relentless workersdetermined to make their dream a reality. Creative and passionate, they often think “outside the box”, traveling off the beaten path and navigating uncharted waters, with perseverance, to reach their goal. They are often visionaries who are ahead of their time and have a deep desire to advance humanity.

Some of these men and women, from all corners of the globe, went on to become famous, while others remained in the shadows. Whether they became inspirational leaders or humble patentees, their inventions are milestones in the progress and history of humanity. The greatest inventors revolutionized the course of events and undoubtedly changed our lives, or at least our way of viewing the world. Who are they? How did they think? What can they teach us?

That’s what you will discover with these 158 quotes from such fascinating inventors. They are a source of inspiration as well as both personal and professional development. Among them, you may find one (or many) that will help you overcome your fear of failure, understand the keys to leadership and boost your creativity and inventiveness. It’s now your turn to innovate on whatever scale you choose!

1. Quotes from inventors and innovators in the field of communication

Great Inventors and Innovators

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone

  • “Don’t keep forever on the public road, going where others have gone.”
  • “The achievement of one goal should be the starting point for another.”
  • “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
  • “Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”
  • “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
  • “The day will come when the man at the telephone will be able to see the distant person to whom he is speaking.”
  • “Night is a more quiet time to work. It aids thought.”
  • “The most successful men, in the end, are those whose success is the result of steady accretion.”
  • “What this power is I cannot say, all I know is that it exists, and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.”
  • “The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.”
  • “Observe, remember, compare.”
  • “A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with – a man is what he makes of himself.”
  • “There are two critical points in every aerial flight-its beginning and its end. God has strewn our paths with wonders and we certainly should not go through life with our eyes shut. I have traveled around the globe.”
  • “Successful ideas are the result of slow growth. Ideas do not reach perfection in a day, no matter how much study is put upon them.”
  • “One day every major city in America will have a telephone.”
  • “It is the man who carefully advances step by step, with his mind becoming wider and wider, and progressively better able to grasp any theme or situation, persevering in what he knows to be practical, and concentrating his thought upon it, who is bound to succeed in the greatest degree.”
  • First words spoken on the first phone – “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.”

Quotes by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web

  • “The web is more a social invention than a technological one. I designed it to have a social effect – to help people work together – not as a technological toy.”
  • “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
  • “The Web is now philosophical engineering. Physics and the Web are both about the relationship between the small and the large.”
  • “The Mobile Web Initiative is important – information must be made seamlessly available on any device.”
  • “The important thing is the diversity available on the Web.”
  • “The Domain Name Server (DNS) is the Achilles heel of the Web. The important thing is that it’s managed responsibly.”
  • “That idea of URL was the basic clue to the universality of the Web. That was the only thing I insisted upon.”
  • “Compared even to the development of the phone or TV, the Web developed very quickly.”
  • “We could say we want the Web to reflect a vision of the world where everything is done democratically. To do that, we get computers to talk with each other in such a way as to promote that ideal.”
  • “The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.”

Quotes from other great inventors who innovated the means of communication

  • “I see email being used, by and large, exactly the way I envisioned. In particular, it’s not strictly a work tool or strictly a personal thing. Everybody uses it in different ways, but they use it in a way they find works for them.” – Ray Tomlinson, inventor of email and the @ symbol
  • “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams. Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.” – Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press
  • Access to communication in the widest sense is access to knowledge, and that is vitally important for us if we [the blind] are not to go on being despised or patronized by condescending sighted people.  We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about.” – Louis Braille, inventor of Braille
  • “Every child has a dream, to pursue the dream is in every child’s hand to make it a reality. One’s invention is another’s tool.” – Samuel Morse, inventor of the Morse alphabet and the electric telegraph
  • “Have I done the world good, or have I added a menace?” – Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless radio and electric telegraph
  • “I have a mantra that people are naturally, fundamentally and inherently mobile.”- Martin Cooper, inventor of the first mobile phone

2. Quotes from inventors in the medical field

Great Inventors and Innovators

Quotes from Hippocrates, father of modern medicine

  • “Medicine is the only profession in which error is punished only by ignominy.”
  • “The natural force within each of us is that greatest healer of all.”
  • “Of two simultaneous pains, the stronger obscures the other.”
  • “War is the only proper school for surgeons.”
  • “If you are sick, first find out what you have done to become sick.”
  • “May your food be your only medicine.”
  • “Let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food.”
  • “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
  • “Respectful and grateful towards my masters, I will give back to their children the instruction that I have received from their fathers.”
  • “If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him.”
  • “Life is short and art is long; opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult.”
  • “A physician without a knowledge of astrology has no right to call himself a physician.”
  • “Man must harmonize mind and body.”
  • “It is nature that heals the sick.”
  • “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”
  • “Men ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joy, laughter, and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs, and tears.”

Quotes from William Harvey, pioneer of blood circulation

  • “Very many maintain that all we know is still infinitely less than all that still remains unknown.”
  • “It is, however, an argument of no weight to say that natural bodies are first generated or compounded out of those things into which they are at the last broken down or dissolved.”
  • “The heart of animals is the foundation of their life, the sovereign of everything within them, the sun of their microcosm, that upon which all growth depends, from which all power proceeds.”
  • “There is no perfect knowledge which can be entitled ours, that is innate; none but what has been obtained from experience or derived in some way from our senses.”
  • “I have often wondered and even laughed at those who fancied that everything had been so consummately and absolutely investigated by an Aristotle or a Galen or some other mighty name, that nothing could by any possibility be added to their knowledge.”
  • “As art is a habit with reference to things to be done, so is science a habit in respect to things to be known.”
  • “Only by understanding the wisdom of natural foods and their effects on the body, shall we attain mastery of disease and pain, which shall enable us to relieve the burden of mankind.”
  • “Civilization is only a series of victories against nature.”

Quotes from other inventors and precursors of modern medicine

  • “Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” – Alexander Fleming, who discovered the first antibiotic
  • “I do not ask you whether you are Catholic or Protestant, rich or poor, but: what is your ailment?” – Ambroise Paré, father of modern surgery
  • “The deviation of man from the state in which he was originally placed by nature seems to have proved to him a prolific source of diseases.” – Edward Jenner, father of vaccination
  • “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie, who discovered the rabies vaccine and natural radioactivity
  • A physician once said, “The best medicine for humans is love.” Someone asked, “What if it doesn’t work?” He smiled and said, “Increase the dose.” – René Laennec, inventor of the stethoscope and auscultation
  • “Science knows no country because knowledge belongs to humanity and is the torch which illuminates the world.” – Louis Pasteur, who discovered the rabies vaccine
  • “Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur, who discovered the rabies vaccine
  • “To gaze, to look, to keep looking, always: thus, only one comes to see.” – Jean-Martin Charcot, father of modern scientific neurology
  • “If my efforts have led to greater success than usual, this is due, I believe, to the fact that during my wanderings in the field of medicine, I have strayed onto paths where the gold was still lying by the wayside. It takes a little luck to be able to distinguish gold from dross, but that is all.” – Robert Koch, father of bacteriology

3. Quotes from inventors in the field of transportation

Great Inventors and Innovators

Quotes from Robert Goddard, inventor of the space rocket

  • “No matter how much progress one makes there is always the thrill of just beginning.”
  • “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.”
  • “How many more years I shall be able to work on the problem I do not know; I hope, as long as I live. There can be no thought of finishing, for ‘aiming at the stars’ both literally and figuratively, is a problem to occupy generations.”
  • “It is not a simple matter to differentiate unsuccessful from successful experiments. . . . [Most] work that is finally successful is the result of a series of unsuccessful tests in which difficulties are gradually eliminated.”
  • Set goals, challenge yourself, and achieve them. Live a healthy life…and make every moment count. Rise above the obstacles and focus on the positive.”
  • “The reason many people fail is not for lack of vision but for lack of resolve and resolve is born out of counting the cost.”

Quotes from other inventors who innovated in the means of locomotion

  • “There is one thing I believe in and believe in passionately, the love that man has for innovation will never die.” – Karl Benz, inventor of the first car
  • “I have been branded with folly and madness for attempting what the world calls impossibilities.”- Richard Trevithick, inventor of the high-pressure steam engine and the first train pulled by a locomotive
  • “However I may be straightened in my pecuniary circumstances, the great honor of being a useful subject can never be taken away from me, which to me far exceeds riches.” – Richard Trevithick, inventor of the high-pressure steam engine and the first train pulled by a locomotive
  • “They strangled me with the tie.” – Clément Ader, inventor of aviation
  • “The forces of nature cannot be eliminated but they may be balanced one against the other.” – Ferdinand von Zeppelin, father of airships and inventor of the zeppelin
  • “When I saw that Moses’ version of the Genesis of the world did not fit sufficiently in many ways with Aristotle and the rest of the philosophers, I began to have doubts about the truth of all philosophers and started to investigate the secrets of nature.” – Gerard Mercator, inventor of cartography
  • “Sic itur ad astra: thus, we shall go to the stars.” – The brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne de Montgolfier, inventors of the hot-air balloon
  • “This train is my cathedral.” – Jacques Cooper, creator and designer of the TGV (High Speed Train)
  • “I never worked with a computer, I was much faster with my pencil. […] My first sketch was often the right one.” – Jacques Cooper, creator and designer of the TGV (High Speed Train)
  • “In the field of design, it is often wrong to be right too early.” – Jacques Cooper, creator and designer of the TGV (High Speed Train)

4. Quotes from inventors and disruptors who have facilitated our daily lives

Great Inventors and Innovators

Quotes from Nikola Tesla, inventor of alternating current (household electricity)

  • “Great moments are born great opportunities.”
  • “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
  • “I don’t care if they stole my idea… I care that they don’t have any of their own.”
  • “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.”
  • “The goal of an inventor is to find solutions to preserve life. Whether it’s by putting certain energies to work for humanity, perfecting devices, or inventing devices that make life more comfortable, he or she is helping to make our existence safer.”
  • “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
  • “Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them.”
  • “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter—for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come and point the way. He lives, works, and hopes.”
  • “The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain.”
  • “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
  • “What one man calls God, another calls the laws of physics.”

Quotes from the creators of GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), digital kings

  • “Almost everyone who has had an idea that’s somewhat revolutionary or wildly successful was first told they’re insane.” – Larry Page, co-founder of Google
  • “If what we are doing is not seen by some people as science fiction, it’s probably not transformative enough.” – Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
  • “Too many rules will stifle innovation.” – Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google
  • “If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it’s within your reach.” – Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, creator of iPhone, iPod, iPad
  • “Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me — they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone.” – Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, creator of iPhone, iPod, iPad
  • “I learned not to worry so much about the outcome, but to concentrate on the step I was on and to try to do it as perfectly as I could when I was doing it.” – Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, creator of iPhone, iPod, iPad
  • “Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, creator of iPhone, iPod, iPad
  • “Innovation is a situation that you choose because you have a burning passion for something.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, creator of iPhone, iPod, iPad
  • “The greatest risk is to take no risk at all.” – Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
  • “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.”- Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon)
  • “My view is there’s no bad time to innovate.” -Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
  • “People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn’t they? People feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines… There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft

Quotes from other innovators who have made everyday life easier or more comfortable

  • “You must be ready to give up even the most attractive ideas when experiment shows them to be wrong.” – Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery and the electric cell
  • “If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.” – Spencer Silver, inventor of the post-it sticky note
  • “The most ancient of rules is the one that consists in referring to a previous experiment, either identical or analogous, postulating therefore the repetitive character of the situations we are led to live.” – Roland Moreno, inventor of the smart card
  • “Isn’t questioning better than walking at a steady pace?” – Roland Moreno, inventor of the smart card
  • “Living in the midst of abundance we have the greatest difficulty in seeing that the supply of natural wealth is limited and that the constant increase of population is destined to reduce the American standard of living unless we deal more sanely with our resources.” – Wallace Hume Carothers, inventor of plastics
  • “A lot of times it’s an asset to not know everything about everything… A lot of really great, innovative things have happened when people just didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be possible.” – Drew Houston, creator of Dropbox
  • “In a lot of ways, it’s not the money that allows you to do new things. It’s the growth and the ability to find things that people want and to use your creativity to target those.” – Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber Taxi Services
  • “Our ‘overnight’ success took 1,000 days.” – Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb property rental platform
  • “Entrepreneurship is an emotional yo-yo.” – Frederic Mazzella, founder of the carpooling platform Blablacar

5. Quotes from industrial pioneers

Henry Ford, pioneer of the automobile industry

  • “The object of education is not to fill a man’s mind with facts; it is to teach him how to use his mind in thinking.”
  • “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
  • “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”
  • “A poor man is not the one without a cent. A poor man is the one without a dream.”
  • “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again. This time more intelligently.”
  • “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: faster horses.”
  • “You can do anything if you have enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes rise to the stars. With it, there is accomplishment.”
  • “It is not the employer who pays the wages, but the client.”
  • The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
  • “Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.”
  • “The two most important things in any company do not appear in its balance sheet: its reputation and its men.”
  • “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, as long as it is black.”
  • “Impossible means that you haven’t found a solution yet.”
  • “Obstacles are those frightening things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

Quotes from Thomas A. Edison, father of the electrical industry, inventor of the power plant and the light bulb

  • “Work while others are wishing.”
  • “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
  • “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.”
  • “Most of my ideas belonged to other people who never bothered to develop them.”
  • “Each time you fail, you have eliminated another wrong option.”
  • “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  • “There’s a way to do it better – find it.”
  • “I’ve realized that most of my best ideas have followed a good night’s sleep.”
  • “Continued innovation is the best way to beat the competition.”
  • “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”
  • “I owe my success to the fact that I never had a clock in my workroom.”
  • “I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source.”
  • “The greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child.”
  • “I find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”
  • “Consider data without prejudice.”
  • “I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them.”
  • “The First 40 hours of work per week are for survival. Everything after that is for success.”
  • “To do much clear thinking a person must arrange for regular periods of solitude when they can concentrate and indulge the imagination without distraction.”
  • “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
  • “Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
  • “Before you reject an idea, find at least five good things about it.”

6. Quotes from great inventors in the field of arts and entertainment

  • “The great plague of humanity is conformity.” – Auguste Lumiere, inventor of the cinema
  • “I found a way to freeze the images in the darkroom and capture the light as it passed. I linked it together! I forced the sun to paint me pictures.” – Louis Daguerre, inventor of photography
  • “The discovery I am announcing to the public is one of the few which, by their principles, their results, and the beneficial influence they exert on the arts, count among the most useful and extraordinary inventions.” – Louis Daguerre, inventor of photography
  • “Only a few words are needed to tell the truth.” – Joseph Haydn, pioneer of the symphony
  • “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, pioneer of classical music
  • “Most entrepreneurial ideas will sound crazy, stupid and uneconomic, and then they’ll turn out to be right.” – Reed Hastings, creator of movie rental platform Netflix

What about you, do you know of any such inspirational quotes from other inventors, pioneers, innovators, or disruptors? If so, feel free to share them in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *