A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 21, 2015
“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas”

Linus Pauling (1901-1994), a winner of both the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the Nobel Peace Prize, was indirectly quoted in September 1961:

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

The saying (often ending in “lots of ideas” or “many ideas") has been frequently cited, although it’s not known when and in what form Pauling first said it. Pauling was quoted with this saying in a 1990 syndicated newspaper article:

“I’m interested in everything. Lots of things carry over from one field to another. To get good ideas, you have to have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones. The knack is to recognize the problems you have some chance of solving.”

Other interviews with Linus Pauling revealed that Pauling first told this to medical researcher David Harker (1906-1991) back in the 1930s. The Pauling Blog, in 2008 (see below), published the text of a letter from Harker to Pauling, dated February 20, 1961.


Wikiquote: Linus Pauling
Linus Carl Pauling (February 28 1901 – August 19 1994) was an American quantum chemist and biochemist, a pioneer in the application of quantum mechanics to chemistry, and one of the founders of molecular biology. He received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954, and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962; he is the only people in history to receive two unshared Nobel Prizes.
(...)
If you want to have good ideas you must have many ideas. Most of them will be wrong, and what you have to learn is which ones to throw away.
. As quoted by Francis Crick in his presentation “The Impact of Linus Pauling on Molecular Biology” (1995)

5 September 1961, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), “Morning Mail: Research and Good Ideas,” sec. 1, pg. 4, col. 6:
Dr. Linus Pauling sums this up: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” Ideas lead to research, research leads to results, so that the best way to obtain a useful result is to have a lot of results.
(...)
-- James T. Streator, 1030 Spaight st.

10 July 1974, The Herald (Wheeling, IL), “For a Happy Life” by Fritchie Saunders, sec. 2, pg. 9, col. 1:
Ponder this by Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.’’

Google Books
The Art of Creative Thinking
By Robert Wallace Olson
New York, NY: Barnes & Noble
1980
Pg. 69:
“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas,” wrote Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling.

22 February 1981, Lexington (KY) Herald, “Age Hasn’t Sapped Vigor Of Chemist Linus Pauling” by Robert Locke (AP), pg. D-1, col. 6:
Max Delbruck of Caltech, who shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Medicine, said Pauling’s “contributions are immense. He is immensely imaginative; he has a lot of ideas. An astonishing number of them are right. A lot of them are wrong, too. But he’s never been afraid of being wrong.”

Google Books
The Achievement Factors:
Candid Interviews With Some of the Most Successful People of Our Time

By B. Eugene Griessman
San Marcos, CA: Slawson Communications
1990
Pg. 186:
Linus Pauling told me of an incident that occurred back in the 1930s. One of his doctoral students had asked him how he went about getting good ideas. And Pauling replied: “You have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.”

Google News Archive
11 April 1990, The Times (Beaver, PA), “Linus Pauling faithful to Vitamin C” by Janet Wiscombe (Knight-Ridder Newspapers), pg. 1, col. 3:
“I’m interested in everything,” he added simply. “Lots of things carry over from one field to another. To get good ideas, you have to have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones. The knack is to recognize the problems you have some chance of solving.”

Google Books
Force of Nature:
The Life of Linus Pauling

By Thomas Hager
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
1995
Pg. 529:
One especially welcome partygoer was David Harker, Pauling’s student in the 1930s and later a competitor in protein studies. Harker and Pauling had their ups and downs, but now the crowd laughed as Harker told anecdotes about his student days. One that stuck in everyone’s mind later became a signature quote of Pauling’s. “Dr. Pauling, how do you have so many good ideas?” Harker remembered asking his mentor. Pauling thought a moment and said, “Well, David, I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.”

The Pauling Blog
Clarifying Three Widespread Quotes
Posted on October 28, 2008 by scarc
(...)
Pauling delighted in recounting a specific quote on his “method” for having good ideas.  The quote shows up in many forms at various spots on the web, but is probably best recited as follows:

The best way to have good ideas is to have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.

The provenance of this famous quote is traced to a letter written to Pauling by a former graduate student, David Harker, in commemoration of Pauling’s sixtieth birthday.  Here’s the urtext:

[Excerpt from a letter by David Harker to Linus Pauling, February 20, 1961.]
As one of your graduate students, I learned a tremendous amount from you, but the notion you gave me that has helped me most arose during the following exchange (circa 1935):

Harker: “Dr. Pauling, how do you manage to have so many good ideas?”
Pauling: “Oh! I just have lots of ideas, and throw away the bad ones.”

I think these words contain the essence of the true scientific method.


Listen: Pauling recounts the circumstances of this quote: ...

Google Books
Business with a Purpose:
Starting, Building, Managing and Protecting Your New Business

By Darrell Griffin
Denver, CO: Outskirts Press
2010
Pg. 431:
The first and foremost principle of generating a good idea is to generate a LOT of new ideas.

Twitter
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9:09 PM - 21 Jun 2015

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Sunday, June 21, 2015 • Permalink