Who said this?
May 25, 2007 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Who originally said "The half of knowledge is knowing where to find it"?

It's carved in stone (literally) on a building (Dodd Hall) at Florida State University and mentioned in numerous places on the Web, but I can't seem to find a definitive source. No one at FSU seems to know either.
posted by ostranenie to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
Well, this page claims it was said by Samuel Johnson, and this page claims it's from Montaigne. I can't find any corroboration for either, unfortunately.

I did, however, find many sources saying that Francis Bacon wrote that "A wise question is half of knowledge." Obviously that doesn't have the same meaning, but it's similar enough that I thought it worth mentioning.

It seems likely that the true source is and will remain anonymous.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:16 AM on May 25, 2007

Who originally said "The half of knowledge is knowing where to find it"?

Dammit! I know that too, but can't find it anywhere.

Or is that I can find it easily, but have no idea what to do with it? It's always one or the other.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:28 AM on May 25, 2007

According to official FSU publications and the kind reference librarians at Strozier, the author is unknown. All that The Guide to FSU and Tallahassee by Murray Laurie says is that it's "a most suitable inscription for the school's first library" (p. 79).
posted by leesh at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2007

Boswell reports Johnson saying:

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."

Not quite the quote.
posted by Phanx at 7:45 AM on May 25, 2007

It seems to be a modified version of the latin motto from the notoriously difficult King William's College Quiz (also known as the General Knowledge Paper) which reads:

"Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est"
"To know where to find anything is, after all, the greatest part of education"

The quiz was started in 1904, but there is no citation for the quote, so it may be an original statement.
posted by mjbraun at 8:33 AM on May 25, 2007

For what it's worth, neither Bartlett's nor any of the Oxford quotation books contain the quote, at least not the version contained in the original question. They both corroborate Phanx's reference to the Life of Johnson, though, for whatever that's worth. Maybe the people who designed the library derived a pithier version to keep the inscription short?

Searching gutenberg.org comes up with nothing connecting the original quote and Johnson or Montaigne. In fact, I can't find anything approaching the original quote anywhere on Gutenberg. I'm going to go with leesh and suggest that its origins are thoroughly unknown.

On preview, mjbraun's suggestion about the College Quiz latin motto could be correct, as (according to Wikipedia), Dodd Hall was constructed in 1923, time enough for the quiz to have percolated down to Florida even given the slow pace of communication and transport of the time.
posted by jedicus at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2007

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