There Is No Such Thing as a New Idea

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

American author and humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910). The quote appears in the biography of Mark Twain written by Albert Bigelow Paine (Volume 3, Part 1, 1900-07). Twain was discussing the copyrighting of ideas with some colleagues during a train ride in 1906. Interestingly, Twain was born just two weeks after Halley’s Comet passed near the Earth in 1835, and he died a day after it approached near the Earth again in 1910, when the comet appeared its brightest in its history (the comet appears every 76 years). And what is truly remarkable is that Twain predicted it; sometime in 1909, the famous author stated: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'”

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