Origin of "Experiment vs. Expert Opinion" quote?

I’ve often used my favorite quote, “One experiment is worth a thousand expert opinions,” and I’ve attributed it to Thomas Edison. Recently, however, I went looking for other pithy Edison quotes to keep it company. Imagine my surprise at *not *finding that quote in the list of known Edison quotations!

A Google search showed that the quote is well used on the web, frequently attributed to that great thinker, “Unknown,” but occasionally attributed to others (Werner von Braun, Neil Armstrong, etc.).

Does anyone know the Straight Dope on the origin of this quote? My credibility in my business and teaching work hangs in the balance. Thanks, gang!..TRM

Werner Von Braun:
“One experiment conducted with the help of thousands of enslaved
untermenschen, for whose suffering and death I am directly
responsible, is worth a thousand expert opinions”

Can you give a credible cite as to that? Date, source?

I’m assuming that was meant as a joke. I may have stumped the panel with my question!

pan1 is pretty smart and doesn’t offer “joke” posts, at least not that I’ve seen. My question was quite serious.

I seriously don’t think it’s a quote from before the 1960s-70s. That’s just from a quick look.

The quote is at least from March of 1897, because if you look at the March 1897 edition of “Book News”, page 368, the “Asked and Answered” column, ML asks what the source of the quote is.

Yes, I found that page in my own research. Unfortunately, the question is not answered! It does land smack dab in the middle of Edison’s heyday, though.

Thanks to you both for adding this. I just did a quick look and found nothing. This makes it a different ball game.

For what it’s worth, The Shoe and Leather Reporter noted in 1896 that it was Robert H. Mathies, co-creator of an mechanized method for sewing the upper parts of shoes and boots onto their soles, who made that observation. (The following link goes to a free PDF of a reprinting that appeared in The New York Times.)


(Mathies seems to have died in 1863, though, so it’s a little hard to know where The Shoe and Leather Reporter got the quote. Unless Gordon McKay attributed it directly to Mathies, I guess.)

I thought it was Nikolaus Riehl but the quote used test rather than experiment and Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper used a similar phrase with accurate measurement replacing experiment.