In January 2022, French tennis player Gael Monfils tweeted an inspirational quote and said it originally came from "T.E.," meaning Thomas Edison. According to Monfils, Edison once said, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." We were able to confirm that this quote was correctly attributed to the American inventor.
Monfils' tweet apparently referenced what was reported as a "heartbreaking" loss in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
When fact-checking quotes from famous historical figures who died long ago, we sometimes find that the oldest record of the quote was published after the birth of the internet. This usually means that the quote is fake. A good quote from a long-dead person has usually appeared in books and archived newspaper articles published prior to the creation of websites and social media.
The oldest printing of this quote with Edison's name that we were able to find was published in The St. Albans Daily Messenger newspaper on June 2, 1958. This means that it didn't magically appear for the first time on the internet or in another recent source. (Edison died on Oct. 18, 1931.)
After locating the newspaper evidence from 1958, we spoke with Kathleen Carlucci, the museum director at the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park in New Jersey. By phone, Carlucci confirmed that the quote, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up," did come from Edison. She also told us, "That is a good quote. It's also similar to another quote that was written [by Edison] in 1893, which was, 'I have got so much to do and life is so short that I have got to hustle.'"
To learn more about the context of when and where Edison said these words, we reached out to the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. We received a response from Paul Israel, the director and general editor of the project. Israel told us that he wasn't able to find any additional records that we hadn't already reviewed. He also added that he was unsure of the quote's origins.
This story will be updated if more details come to light.
Carlucci, Kathleen. Museum Director, Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park. Phone, 28 Oct. 2022.
"Gael Monfils: 'I'm Not Losing The Faith' | ATP Tour | Tennis." ATP Tour, 25 Jan. 2022, https://www.atptour.com/en/news/monfils-australian-open-2022-qf-reaction.
Israel, Paul. Director and General Editor, Thomas A. Edison Papers Project, 31 Oct. 2022.
Monfils, Gael. Twitter, 25 Jan. 2022, https://twitter.com/gael_monfils/.
"Seniors Open '58 Exercises at Richford." The St. Albans Daily Messenger via Newspapers.com, 2 June 1958, https://www.newspapers.com/image/660305919/.
"Thomas Edison." Britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Edison.