Lewis Mumford Quotes

Lewis Mumford, 1895 – 1990

Born: 19 October 1895, Flushing, Queens, New York
Died: 26 January 1990, Amenia, New York

Mumford was raised at Flushing, Queens, New York and graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1912. He studied at City College of New York and The New School for Social Research but left without a degree due to tuberculosis. He joined the US Navy in 1918, serving as a radio electrician, and was discharged next year. He was editor of The Dial, a literary journal until he became the architecture critic for The New Yorker in 1931, a post he held until 1963. In addition to commenting on new buildings he wrote extensively about how the city worked, the relationships between people, buildings, and machines. He saw word and symbol as being the most important element of humanity, and wrote with insight on the development of cities and their effects on people and community. He continued to write after leaving The New Yorker, including the two volume The Myth of the Machine, a collection of essays, a memoir, and his autobiography. He died at home at age 94.

Lewis Mumford quotes:

A day spent without the sight or sound of beauty, the contemplation of mystery, or the search of truth or perfection is a poverty-stricken day; and a succession of such days is fatal to human life.
    Lewis Mumford

A man of courage never needs weapons, but he may need bail.
    Lewis Mumford

Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.
    Lewis Mumford

By fashion and built-in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by the mandatory consumption on an even larger scale.
    Lewis Mumford – The City in History (1961)

By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed.
    Lewis Mumford – “The Challenge of Renewal” in The Conduct Of Life (1951)

Don’t take the will for the deed; get the deed.
    Lewis Mumford

Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.
    Lewis Mumford – The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895 (1931)

Every new baby is a blind desperate vote for survival: people who find themselves unable to register an effective political protest against extermination do so by a biological act.
    Lewis Mumford – The City in History (1961)

Forget the damned motor car and build the cities for lovers and friends.
    Lewis Mumford – My Works and Days (1979)

Here was my city, immense, overpowering, flooded with energy and light… The world, at that moment , opened before me, challenging me, beckoning me, demanding something of me that it would take more than a lifetime to give, but raising all my energies by its own vivid promise to a higher pitch.
    Lewis Mumford – Sketches from Life: The Autobiography of Lewis Mumford (1982)

However far modern science and technics have fallen short of their inherent possibilities, they have taught mankind at least one lesson: Nothing is impossible.
    Lewis Mumford – Technics and Civilization (1934)

Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.
    Lewis Mumford

I would die happy if I knew that on my tombstone could be written these words, “This man was an absolute fool. None of the disastrous things that he reluctantly predicted ever came to pass!”
    Lewis Mumford – Address to the National Book Awards Committee, published in My Works and Days (1979)

I’m a pessimist about probabilities; I’m an optimist about possibilities.
    Lewis Mumford

If we are to create balanced human beings, capable of entering into world-wide co-operation with all other men of good will — and that is the supreme task of our generation, and the foundation of all its other potential achievements — we must give as much weight to the arousal of the emotions and to the expression of moral and esthetic values as we now give to science, to invention, to practical organization. One without the other is impotent.
    Lewis Mumford – Values for Survival (1946)

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