What Einstein didn’t say about bees – UPDATED



In the 100th anniversary year since Albert Einstein published the paper on his General Theory of Relativity, it’s saddening to think that one of the things that he will be best remembered for is something he did not say.  There are various versions of it, but they all amount to the same thing:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

This statement could be dissected and disproved in numerous ways:  for example, there’s over 20,000 species of bees, so what is “the bee”?  Plus most of our crops are not bee (or even insect) pollinated, they are wind pollinated grasses such as wheat and rice.  Etc. etc.

But what is particularly annoying about it is – EINSTEIN NEVER SAID IT!  As far as anyone is aware he had no interest in bees whatsoever and the original source was a Canadian beekeepers’ journal in the 1940s.

It’s even more annoying that, despite the fact that we’ve known the statement is both factually incorrect and not by the great man, documentary film makers and journalists are STILL using it to support their work.  The latest example I’ve seen is this documentary, the poster of which is shown above.

Rant over: back to reading paperwork for a meeting this afternoon.


UPDATE:  I’d forgotten that Tom Breeze at University of Reading posted a fuller account of Einstein’s (non) quote last year – here’s the link.


Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Biodiversity and culture, Ecosystem services, History of science, Honey bees, Pollination

20 responses to “What Einstein didn’t say about bees – UPDATED

  1. I agree, it’s very irrittating that people still use this quote without checking its origin and without questioning its truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is something so off about the bee body in that picture. It’s almost like someone took the body of a syrphid fly and photoshopped bee wings and a head onto it.


  3. Everyone needs a good rant now & then! Laying considerations about the author and the validity of the statement aside, I must say that I find the possibility of the ultimate loss honey bees disturbing. They are fascinating creatures, serve a valid purpose, and pose no threat to our existence.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely agree Zeke. However globally the number of hives (and therefore bees) has increased over time, not gone down. It’s only in certain parts of the world that there has been a decline.


    • One quibble – there is the threat posed to those allergic to bee stings. And the significance of the threat comes back to whether one is allergic or not. But I will agree in the larger sense. Bees are more than worth the trouble.


  4. Thank you for saying that he didn’t say it, infuriatingly this supposed quote is being repeated everywhere and by organisations who should know better.

    Liked by 1 person

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