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Necessity is the mother of invention

刊登日期: 2017.05.13
作者: Grace Tse  

What is the most important invention in history? There is no definite answer. Some may say the wheel while some may suggest the light bulb. Perhaps most of us agree that the internet is the most important invention when billions of people in the world are connected by smartphones and computers. What was the driving force behind all these inventions throughout history? 

The following English proverb may tell us what made human beings produce these innovative things : 

Necessity is the mother of invention(需要乃發明之母). 

Do you agree that when we really need something, we will try the hardest to find a way of doing it ? 

The author of this proverb is uncertain. Some scholars said that the original idea came from the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato(柏拉圖), in his classic “Republic”(《理想國》). This proverb became well-known in the early 16th century in England. However, it first appeared in Latin(拉丁文), not in English. 

The earliest English form of this proverb was found in 1658 in the book entitled “Northern Memoirs” written by Richard Franck, a British army captain and author. 

In many languages, the word “mother ” metaphorically means the source which produces or nurtures something. You may have heard of a Chinese proverb, which literally means “failure is the mother of success” (失敗乃成功之母). However, this Chinese proverb is not common in the English language. 

Today is Mother’s Day in Hong Kong. Let us send our best wishes to our own mother, who gives birth to us and loves us so much! 


Definite 明確的
Driving force 推動力
Innovative 創新的
Philosopher 哲學家
Classic 經典作品
Metaphorically 比喻的方式
Source 源泉
Nurtures 培育

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