Re: earliest memetics paper?

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue 10 Feb 2004 - 08:22:10 GMT

  • Next message: derek gatherer: "Re: earliest memetics paper?"

    At 02:41 PM 09/02/04 +0000, derek wrote:
    >I came across the following title in the library - I
    >think this may be the earliest use of the 'contagion
    >metaphor' to describe the spread of ideas.
    >"A plea for the Protestant faith; or, an antidote
    >against the infectious contagion of antichristian
    >darkness; vended by Mr. Alexander Pirie which
    >the morality of national covenants is asserted ... /
    >by a member of the Associate Session at
    >published in Glasgow in 1771

    Another statement encapsulating the meme about memes is "Ideas have a life of their own." I have referred to this is "an age-old saying," but now that I look around, it might not be. There are about a hundred places where Google finds it on the web, and 65 on Google groups.

    However, I could find no attributions or even dated sources, and it does not show up in any of quotations sites I looked at. The first use on Usenet is in 1992--leaving open the unsettling possibility that I coined the phrase in the _Whole Earth Review_ version of my 1987 _Analog_ article. (Or that the editor slipped it in as part of a new third paragraph?)

    It *sounds* like it should be an age-old saying.

    A few years ago I was involved in tracking down the origin of the "Ancient Chinese curse," "May you live in interesting times."

    Dr. DeLong (a Professor at SUNY-Albany) did a huge detective job looking for the origin of the saying after Chinese scholars said "It isn't ours." Because I was aware of his search, I incidentally spotted what is probably the origin of the saying (Eric Frank Russell, 1950) and sent it off to him.

    If anyone can locate a source for "Ideas have a life of their own" earlier than 1987, I would sure appreciate hearing about it.

    Keith Henson

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