[Ads-l] Saying: Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world and humanity's greatest invention

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 10 06:40:51 UTC 2019

Way back in 2011 Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal asked me about
an undated dubious quotation in which Albert Einstein asserted that
"Compounding interest is the most powerful force in the universe." I
replied to Jason with various citations. The topic is complex because
there are several pertinent variant phrases, e.g.:

Compound interest is man’s greatest invention.
Compound interest is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.
Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world.
Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.
Compound interest is more complicated than relativity theory.

Fred's YBQ has a citation dated 1983 in which Einstein supposedly
calls compound interest the "greatest invention of all times". The
late date signaled the unreliability of the attribution.

Barry Popik's website has an entry for a variant: "Eighth Wonder of
the World (compound interest)." Popik gives a citation circa 1989 in
which Einstein supposedly stated that "compound interest is the eighth
wonder of the world." The first citation on his webpage attributes the
saying to Baron Rothschild in 1965.

The QI website now has two germane articles.

The Eighth Wonder of the World Is Compound Interest

First close match in an April 27, 1925 advertisement for The Equity
Savings & Loan Company published in the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” of
[Begin excerpt]
The Eighth Wonder of the World—is compound interest.
[End excerpt]

Compound Interest Is Man’s Greatest Invention

First strong match in a June 28, 1916 advertisement:
[Begin excerpt]
Finally he said: “Gentlemen, if the man who invented compound interest
had of secured a patent on his idea he would have had without any
doubt the greatest invention the world has ever produced.”
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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