Quote Origin: We Have Not Got Any Money, So We Have Got To Think
Winston Churchill? Ernest Rutherford? Henry Tizard? Apocryphal?
Question for Quote Investigator: When access to money is restricted it becomes more difficult to accomplish tasks. Deeper and more creative thought is required to make progress. Here are four versions of a pertinent expression:
(1) We have not got any money, so we have got to think.
(2) We haven’t any money so we’ve got to think.
(3) We have run out of money. I guess we’ll have to think.
(4) We are running short of money, so we must begin to think.
This notion has been ascribed to the prominent New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford and to the famous British statesman Winston Churchill. I am skeptical because I have not seen a solid citation. Would you please explore this topic?
Reply from Quote Investigator: In 1952 English chemist Henry Tizard was awarded the Messel Medal of the Society of Chemical Industry. He delivered a speech at a meeting of the organization on July 9th which was reported in the journal “The Chemical Age” on July 19th. Tizard employed the saying in his speech, but he credited colleague Ernest Rutherford. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:¹
It was just as easy, Sir Henry said, to waste money on research as on anything else — especially if it were the taxpayers’ money. In this connection he recalled a remark once made by the late Lord Rutherford concerning the advantage held by scientists — ‘We have not got any money, so we have got to think.’
Tizard clearly felt that the saying was valuable because he used it twice during his speech:²
It was more important to strengthen our technology than to expand our science. We must avoid the luxury of employing first-class scientists on second-class projects. Science was not enough; and he again quoted Lord Rutherford’s words, ‘We have not got any money, so we have got to think.’
The above passages from 1952 are the earliest matches known to QI. Ernest Rutherford died in 1937. The accuracy of the quotation and its ascription is based upon the memory and veracity of Tizard.
Attributions to Winston Churchill appeared by the 1990s, but he died in 1965. The saying does not appear in the comprehensive reference “Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words” compiled by Richard M. Langworth.³ QI believes that the linkage to Churchill is not substantive.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
A germane anecdote about Ernest Rutherford was reported by his colleague H. R. Robinson in 1943 in “The Proceedings of the Physical Society”. Rutherford spoke about the importance of improvisation when money was restricted. The contrivance Rutherford suggested in the passage below was impractical, but he was manifestly interested in money-saving ideas:⁴
… I unwisely asked him to authorize the payment of a few shillings for new spring balances for the sonometers in the elementary laboratory. So badly had the time been chosen that this precipitated a tempest, and “Why must you always have money? Why can’t you learn to improvise? Why don’t you hang beakers on the ends of the wires and load them by pouring in water?”
The speech Tizard delivered when he received the Messel Medal in 1952 was reported in “The Chemical Age” as mentioned previously. Tizard’s address was also described in the journal “Chemical & Process Engineering” in August 1952 which printed a slightly shorter version of the quotation:⁵
. . . he recalled Rutherford’s advice in a similar situation, ‘We haven’t any money so we’ve got to think.’
In September 1952 the influential journal “Nature” reported on Tizard’s speech. Thus, the remark achieved further distribution:⁶
Money can be wasted on research as easily as on anything else, and his discourse stems essentially from a typically shrewd comment made to him many years ago by Lord Rutherford on learning of a large endowment for research received by a physics laboratory in the United States: “We haven’t any money”, remarked Lord Rutherford, “so we’ve got to think”; and the core of Sir Henry’s address lies in his insistence that it is imperative for us to select the right targets in research and development.
In December 1954 “The Engineer” magazine of London published a piece containing a variant of the saying:⁷
The challenge is in reality a twofold one in that we are both short of fuel and short of money for capital investment. So we must draw heavily on that other resource upon which Lord Rutherford placed his reliance in another connection and I take the liberty of adapting his words to the present context: — “We haven’t enough fuel so we’ve got to think.”
In 1961 the journal “Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society” published a profile of Henry Thomas Tizard by R. V. Jones and William S. Farren. The article included an excerpt from Tizard containing an instance of the saying. Interestingly, Rutherford’s name was omitted:⁸
‘It is more important now to strengthen our technology than to expand our science; more important to do things than to write about how they might be done. Science is not enough. We haven’t any money, so we’ve got to think.’
In 1977 “The Harvest of a Quiet Eye: A Selection of Scientific Quotations” included the following entry:⁹
[Lord] Ernest Rutherford 1871–1937
We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think.
in R V Jones Bulletin of the Institute of Physics 1962 13 102
In 1997 a columnist in “The Day” newspaper of New London, Connecticut tentatively attributed an instance to Winston Churchill:¹⁰
Didn’t Winston Churchill, in the midst of World War II, say to the Allied leaders something like, “Well, gentlemen we have run out of money. I guess we’ll have to think.”
In 2008 “I Fail to Miss Your Point: A Personal Collection of Quips, Quotes, Inspirational Stories and Other Stuff” by Jim O’Bryon presented another phrasing:¹¹
We are running short of money so we must begin to think. (Lord Rutherford)
In 2011 a commentator in a Tacoma, Washington newspaper attributed another instance to Churchill:¹²
Winston Churchill captured the present moment when he declared, “Gentlemen, we have run out of money. Now we have to think.”
In conclusion, Ernest Rutherford deserves credit for this saying based on the testimony of Henry Tizard. Rutherford died in 1937, and Tizard gave him credit during an address in 1952; hence, some uncertainty remains. The precise phrasing differed in reports of the speech published in “The Chemical Age” (July 19, 1952) and in “Chemical & Process Engineering” (August 1952). QI suggests using the version in the earliest citation. The ascription to Winston Churchill is unsupported.
Image Notes: Picture of miscellaneous currency from John McArthur at Unsplash. The image has been cropped.
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Jonathan Lighter and Dan Goncharoff who participated in a mailing list thread about old sayings back in 2011 which ultimately led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Goncharoff pointed to the intriguing 1943 citation. Thanks also to Bill Sweetman’s email inquiry which helped to motivate this research. Additional thanks to Barry Popik for his helpful investigation.
 1952 July 19, The Chemical Age: The Weekly Journal of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry, Volume 67, Issue 1723, Article: SCI Chooses American President: Seventy-First Annual General Meeting Held at Aberdeen, Start Page 77, Quote Page 79, London, England. (Verified with scans)
 1952 July 19, The Chemical Age: The Weekly Journal of Chemical Engineering and Industrial Chemistry, Volume 67, Issue 1723, Article: SCI Chooses American President: Seventy-First Annual General Meeting Held at Aberdeen, Start Page 77, Quote Page 80, London, England. (Verified with scans)
 2013 (Kindle Edition), Churchill By Himself: In His Own Words by Winston S. Churchill, Compiled and edited by Richard M. Langworth, (Quotation is absent.) RosettaBooks.
 1943 May 1, The Proceedings of the Physical Society, Volume 55, Part 3, Number 309, Article: Rutherford: Life and Work To the Year 1919, With Personal Reminiscences of the Manchester Period by H. R. Robinson (Queen Mary College, University of London), The First Rutherford Memorial Lecture of the Physical Society, Delivered November 6, 1942, Start Page 161, Quote Page 179, IOP Publishing, Printed by Taylor and Francis, London. (Verified with scans)
 1952 August, Chemical & Process Engineering, Volume 33, Number 8, World News: Messel Address, Quote Page 448, Column 1 and 2, Leonard Hill Limited, London. (Verified with scans)
 1952 September 13, Nature, Volume 170, Number 4324, Article: Application of Science in Industry, Start Page 427, Quote Page 427, Column 2, Nature Publishing Group. London, England. (Verified with microfilm) link
 1954 December 31, The Engineer, Volume 198, Number 5162, Productivity, Fuel Availability and Its Efficient Use by K. T. Spencer, Start Page 923, Quote Page 925, Column 3, London, England. (Verified with scans)
 1961 November, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Volume 7, Henry Thomas Tizard. 1885–1959 by R. V. Jones and William S. Farren, Start Page 313, Quote Page 343, The Royal Society, London. (JSTOR) link
 1977, The Harvest of a Quiet Eye: A Selection of Scientific Quotations, Selected by Alan L. Mackay, Section: Ernest Rutherford 1871–1937, Quote Page 131, The Institute of Physics, Bristol and London. (Verified with scans)
 1997 January 19, The Day, Letter From: Penny Parsekian (New London), Letter Title: Place should be pleasant, coherent, Quote Page D3, Column 3, New London, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)
 2008 Copyright, “I Fail to Miss Your Point”: A Personal Collection of Quips, Quotes, Inspirational Stories and Other Stuff by Jim O’Bryon, Chapter JJ: Managing Your Money, Quote Page 230, Xulon Press: Salem Media Group, Irving, Texas. (Google Books Preview)
 2011 January 25, The News Tribune, Leaders must find creative answers to budget crisis by Katie Baird, Quote Page A11, Column 4 and 5, Tacoma, Washington. (Newspapers_com)