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A very popular quote attributed to Albert Einstein but did he really say it? If so, what is the original document containing the original explanation of it?

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I thought it was Richard Feynman, but maybe not: – Andrew Grimm Apr 3 '12 at 6:14
@AndrewGrimm He apparently says the contrary as this quote seems to be atributed to him: "If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize." – Renan Apr 3 '12 at 20:04
@Renan: He said both, in different contexts. He was asked for a brief quote of what he won the Nobel for, and he said if it could be summarized in a sentence, it wouldn't be worth the prize. But when asked to explain the spin-statistics theorem in an undergraduate lecture in the 1960s-1970s (don't know when) he said he couldn't reduce it to the undergraduate level, so we don't understand it well enough. This seems to have motivated his 1986 Dirac lecture on the spin-statistics theorem. – Ron Maimon Apr 6 '12 at 2:47
It would be quite amazing if Einstein said anything at all in the 60's being that he died in the 50's! You seem to be refering to Feynman, however I do believe it is an Einstein quote. – user9112 Nov 4 '12 at 6:04
seems somewhat inconsistent with another quote attributed to Einstein, that "everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler", which perhaps implies that not everything should be expected to be simple. – Dikran Marsupial Sep 18 '13 at 17:57

2 Answers 2

The quote "An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid." is popularly attributed to Lord Rutherford of Nelson in as stated in Einstein, the Man and His Achievement By G. J. Whitrow, Dover Press 1973. Einstein is unlikely to have said it since his theory of relativity was very abstract and based on sophisticated mathematics.

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The short answer is: probably no he didn't say this quote. There is no citation supporting this claim.

Another unsourced variants:

You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.

If you can't explain something to a six-year-old, you really don't understand it yourself.

But if you open page 418 of Einstein: His Life and Times (1972) by Ronald W. Clark, it says that Louis de Broglie did attribute a similar statement to Einstein:

To de Broglie, Einstein revealed an instinctive reason for his inability to accept the purely statistical interpretation of wave mechanics. It was a reason which linked him with Rutherford, who used to state that "it should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid." Einstein, having a final discussion with de Broglie on the platform of the Gare du Nord in Paris, whence they had traveled from Brussels to attend the Fresnel centenary celebrations, said "that all physical theories, their mathematical expressions apart ought to lend themselves to so simple a description 'that even a child could understand them.' "

See all misattributed Einstein quotes here:

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So... isn't the answer "Yes" then? – Pacerier Jun 10 at 9:43

protected by Community Nov 4 '12 at 14:24

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