Here’s a fun one. In today’s paper, we ran [an editorial](http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/opinions/editorials/article_5bdbecd8-2d4c-11e2-96d7-0019bb2963f4.html) criticizing the way elections have been handled in Gallatin County and beyond. The editorial opens with a paraphrase of a quote from Albert Einstein.
> Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting the same result.
The keen reader — which apparently was not me yesterday when I copyedited this editorial — will note that the sense of the paraphrase is wrong. It should be:
> Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting **a different** result.
I regret the error. However, this is where the fun begins.
I began looking into the quote to find out what Einstein actually said only to find that, in all likelihood, *he never actually said or wrote the witticism about insanity.*
According to Ryan Howes, [writing in Psychology Today](http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200907/the-definition-insanity-is), the quote has been attributed to Einstein, Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. A good summary of the various places the quote has been used can be found [here](http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/insanity_is_doing_the_same_thing_and_expecting_different_results/).
Franklin and Twain are almost certainly not the sources of the quote, witty as those fellows were. Online, sources commonly attribute the quote to Einstein in his *Letters to Solovine: 1906-1955,* although no one seems to be able to produce a page from that volume that holds the quote ([and Google books searches have also come up empty](http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Albert_Einstein#definition_of_insanity…)).
An earlier version of the quote came from author Rita Mae Brown’s novel *Sudden Death,* published by Bantam in 1983. In the novel, Brown writes:
> Unfortunatley, Susan didn’t remember what Jane Fulton once said. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
However, [the Wikiquote page for Rita Mae Brown](http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Rita_Mae_Brown) has this interesting tidbit: An even earlier version of the quote can be found in the Narcotics Anonymous “Basic Text,” released in November 1981 ([PDF](http://amonymifoundation.org/uploads/NA_Approval_Form_Scan.pdf)). And [here’s some more evidence](http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2010/10/definition-of-insanity.html) that the quote was published even earlier, in a Hazelden Foundation pamphlet from 1980.
At any rate, it doesn’t look like Einstein came up with the gem, but as one of the sites I found on this wild goose chase put it: It’s not surprising that it has been attributed to Einstein, since everything but the Book of Genesis has been attributed to him at some point.