Necessity is the mother of Invention

Posted by ESC on November 22, 2002

In Reply to: Necesity is the mother of Invention posted by Brian Sandine on November 22, 2002

: In response to your question, I offer the following excerpt from a speech by Leo Melamed. You may find the full text of his speech at

: "Today, I will speak of change, of need, but mostly of "necessity, the mother of invention". Victor Hugo succinctly expressed it in 1852 in his History of Crime: "A stand can be made against invasion by an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea." Hugo did not invent the thought, rather he inherited it from a long line of literary stars beginning with the original version Mater Artium Necessitas an undated anonymous Latin saying of ancient Rome. The Latin poet, Pesius Flaccus, was the first known author to use it in literature, circa 50 A.D. He put it, "the stomach is the teacher of the arts and the dispenser of invention." The saying took one form or another throughout the ensuing history of great literary thought until some 1500 years later when Leonardo Da Vinci wrote, "Necessity is the mistress and guardian of nature." William Shakespeare in his Julius Caesar wrote, "Nature must obey necessity," and the English dramatist, William Wycherly, in 1671, said it in the form we know it today. However it is said, it is no less true. Necessity will produce the indicated invention."

From the archives:

NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION - " Dire situations inspire ingenious solutions. If worse comes to worst, people will apply all their imagination and skill to deal with the problem. In Latin: 'Mater artium necessitas.' The adage has been traced back to 'Vulgaria' . In 1658, Richard Franck wrote in his 'Northern Memoirs': 'Art imitates Nature, and Necessity is the Mother of Invention.' The proverb was first attested in the United States in 'William Fitzhugh and His Chesapeake World' ." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

When I strike it rich and build my mansion, I think I'll name it Vulgaria. Has a nice ring to it.