Ralph Waldo Emerson is often quoted as saying “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” But he never said it. What he did say, in a journal entry in 1855, was:
I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn, or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.
In 1889 Sarah Yule and Mary Keene wrote an anthology called Borrowings, in which they revised the quotation substantially:
If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap, than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.
This was eventually distilled to the phrase we use today. Of course, the phrase itself has been shown to be vastly incorrect in today’s world of venture capital and intellectual property warfare, but that’s a different sort of debunking.