How to check quotation accuracy

8 Apr

Recently I saw a this quotation used as a tagline on an email:

“Great discoveries and achievements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.” – Alexander Graham Bell.

I am always suspicious about quotations, so I investigated. The easiest way to check on the veracity of a quotation is to use Google Books. Google Books allows you to limit your search to specific time frames. Since Bell died in 1922, you would expect his remarks to appear sometime in his lifetime. In the fact if you set your search to for the time between 1800 and 1990 you will not find it. I could not find it until I extended my search to the year 2000. This doesn’t prove that Bell never said these words. Perhaps, he said something very similar, that I could not find with my Google search, but I am skeptical.

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