You may have learnt something in your mother tongue that is of origin of English language. Like in the case of "fire car", you do not know what it is if you do not know Chinese, because it means "train with locomotive", but Chinese people know this better than the origin of English because when they first get in touch with such things, they do not know there is an original word in English. They think it is something inherent in their cultures.

Now I am doing a translation work, I am given a passage in Chinese which is said to be the words of the greatest scientist Albert Einstein. I know that it must be a translation because this guy is not a Chinese and could not have said the same in Chinese, then how can I translate it back into its original language, which is most probably English? I tried the google and got some finds, but there are so many quotes of this great man, it would take one week at least for me to read and sift them one by one to get my answer, and if it turns out that out of the many quotes I have found there is NOT even the one I look for, then it would be a big waste of my time and efforts, right? So I come here for help, hope you can help me if you happen to know the answer.

I cannot find out the English version of a quote of Albert Einstein, which is to the effect that:

science is not a book that cannot be or will not be finished writing because each great achievement will bring new problems and any development with the elapse of time will have new ideals for us to make breakthrough.

Since he is not a native speaker of English, the quote might be in German in origin, so if nobody can help me find out the English, is it acceptable for me to use my translation instead to be used in a paper?

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    By the way, in China the government has established the firewall so we cannot get access to facebook, google, twitter, and many other sources as easily as you imagin in the western part of the world. If I cannot get help from here, I don't know where I can (Africa or Antarctica perhaps?) Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 8:43
  • Sounds closer to Marianne Moore's elaboration than it does to Einstein. noliinsipientiuminiuriaspati.blogspot.com/2014/04/…
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 12:27
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    How do you know this quote is by Einstein? Shouldn't there have been an indication of the source of the quote (which book or paper Einstein wrote it in)?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:23
  • @ColleenV As I said earlier, it is part of a translation work and why I know it is said by Einstein, it is what the text to be translated so says in Chinese. Perhaps there is a mistake or not such a thing at all, who knows? That is why I come here to ask for help. Most of the time something which is difficult to a foreign language learner is nothing to a native speaker, obviously. Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 13:53
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    If the text doesn't actually cite the work that the quote is from, it will be difficult to get the exact quote. Often there will be many quotes from someone famous on a topic that they have a strong point of view on that have similar meaning but are phrased differently. It is also quite common for a quote to be attributed to someone famous that was actually written by someone less famous. If it is very difficult to tie a quote to a source, it is likely to be embellished or incorrectly attributed.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 15:08

1 Answer 1


Poor Einstein! He was a genuine genius between 1900 and 1920. He was also genuinely funny and seemed to enjoy scientific celebrity in a way that his peers (Bohr, Godel, Schrodinger) did not. There are hundreds of quotations, quips, jokes that are by him. But because of his fame, many people attribute quotes to Einstein that he never said.

There is a famous quote "If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." You can find many memes that attribute this to Einstein. They have the picture of Einstein next to the quote. And Einstein had complained about inflexible education systems. Unfortunately, this quote is not by Einstein. It has been around in one form or another since the 19 century, but was only attributed to Einstein in 2004.

The message is that just because a quote has Einstein's name next to it does not mean it is by Einstein.

A search of the internet finds a few hits for "Science is never a finished book". Some attribute it to Einstein, but do not give a source. As such I think we should consider that this is not a quote of Einstein.

In your newspaper you might say "A great scientist is said to have claimed that 'Science is a book that will never be finished...' ". That is, having done a reasonable amount of searching for the text and not found it, use your own translation, but don't attribute to Einstein.

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    "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet" - Albert Einstein
    – Andrew
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 15:14
  • "If present trends continue, within ten years every single quotation one encounters on the Internet will be attributed to either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain." - Winston Churchill
    – Nanigashi
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 17:35

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