FACT CHECK: Did Abraham Lincoln Say, ‘The Best Way To Predict The Future Is To Create It’?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that President Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Verdict: False

The first known instance of the saying appeared roughly a century after Lincoln’s death.

Fact Check:

This expression has multiple variations. In a 2009 book, the management consultant Peter Drucker was quoted as saying, “You cannot predict the future, but you can create it.”

Ilya Prigogine, recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize in chemistry, apparently said, “The way to cope with the future is to create it.”

The website Quote Investigator has tracked down these and other variations of the phrase, none of which credibly belong to the nation’s 16th president.

The statement appears nowhere in his collected writings, according to Daniel Worthington, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. “I am not familiar with the quote, and I could not find it in any of our documents, so I have my doubts Lincoln said it,” he told The Daily Caller in an email.

The saying may have originated with Dennis Gabor, the physicist who won the 1971 Nobel Prize for inventing holography. “The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented,” he wrote in a 1963 book. “It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is.”

Alan Kay, the former chief scientist of Atari, is credited with the particular wording found in the Facebook post.

David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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