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I have a vague memory of some prominent scientist in the time just before quantum mechanics got going bragging that physics was solved except for a few edge cases and some slightly more precise measurements. I am trying to find the original wording and source of the quote, but I can't remember the exact wording well enough for simple Googling to be effective.

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closed as off-topic by Qmechanic Jan 30 at 5:53

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“In this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." -Philipp von Jolly, 1878.

He said it to Max Planck, who was his student at the time, advising Planck not to go into physics. Ironically, Planck would go on to do work which opened up the field of quantum mechanics.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp_von_Jolly

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“While it is never safe to affirm that the future of Physical Science has no marvels in store even more astonishing than those of the past, it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established and that further advances are to be sought chiefly in the rigorous application of these principles to all the phenomena which come under our notice. It is here that the science of measurement shows its importance — where quantitative work is more to be desired than qualitative work. An eminent physicist remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals.” - Albert A. Michelson, 1894

Source: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_A._Michelson

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  • $\begingroup$ I have always had the impression that "An eminent physicist remarked" referred to Kelvin. Your link dates this unsubstantiated claim to the 1980s, which is before I started reading on the subject. $\endgroup$ – rob Jan 30 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ Anna’s Wolfram link claims Kelvin said it in 1900. If that’s true, and it probably isn’t, Michelson could not have been quoting him in 1894. Of course, since “physics is understood” was a widely held view, Kelvin could have said something like this before 1894, and Michelson could have been quoting him, but, according to Wikiquote, there is no evidence for this. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Jan 30 at 5:59
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I also had some trouble finding it , did not remember it was Lord Kelvin. Here is the quote :

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, All that remains is more and more precise measurement."

A second link :

Kelvin is also known for an address to an assemblage of physicists at the British Association for the advancement of Science in 1900 in which he stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." A similar statement is attributed to the American physicist Albert Michelson.

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  • $\begingroup$ According to en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_A._Michelson, this is misattributed to Lord Kelvin. There is no evidence that he ever said anything of the sort. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Jan 30 at 5:30
  • $\begingroup$ @G.Smith possibly, but it is a meme now, the link is quotes of lord Kelvin $\endgroup$ – anna v Jan 30 at 5:32
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    $\begingroup$ Lots of false things are memes now. $\endgroup$ – G. Smith Jan 30 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ Memes would like you to believe that ducks are a great source of advice and that penguins can rotate their waist by 180 degrees. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jan 30 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak The transformation of "meme" from Dawkins's coinage, as "a unit of transmissible but modifiable cultural information," to its current meaning of "a photograph with a sentence fragment on it," is one of the delicious ironies of the twenty-first century. Attribution of this quote to Kelvin is a "meme" in the first sense: I've encountered it in several otherwise-reputable contexts. $\endgroup$ – rob Jan 30 at 5:44

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