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In The Children's Encyclopedia, edited by Arthur Mee which was in print from 1908 to 1964 (Vol 3, p 1614), there is an essay about Energy in which the following is asserted:

A man of science once said that there was enough energy in a glass of water to lift the whole of the Royal Navy into the air as high as St. Paul's Cathedral.

Can anyone help me locate the source of this quote? Who stated this? When? In what context? I figure the quote has to date roughly post 1697 when the building was consecrated and sufficiently before 1908 to allow for writing, editing and publication. I also assume it would have been an English physicist or scientist, probably London-based, given the reference point to the cathedral.

Any ideas would be gratefully received.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is about history, not physics, and as such it should be posted on History of Science and Mathematics. (Please don't cross-post, though - flag for a moderator to migrate.) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 21 '18 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ That said, I feel it's quite likely that the 'man of science' the quote refers to is simply Einstein, through his identification of $E=mc^2$ in special relativity; the application to the glass of water and the Royal Navy is then a simple calculation that could well be due to Arthur Mee. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 21 '18 at 18:33
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    $\begingroup$ To me this has the ring of a twentieth century pronouncement but, more to the point, what does it mean? I'm sure no-one would have spoken of the $energy$ in a glass of water before the work of Joule and others in the mid-nineteenth century. And to supply the amount of energy needed to lift the ships as stated one would make some inroads into the rest mass of the water, so I'm pretty sure that the 'man of science' is trying to explain the significance of $E=mc^2$. That would make it post-1905 (Einstein's Special Relativity paper published). $\endgroup$ – Philip Wood Feb 23 '18 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ And yes, the pointer to Einstein is indeed a guess, but there's very little else that can pack that kind of energy ─ lifting 100k tonnes by 100m takes about 1.2mg's worth of $mc^2$ equivalent, and none of the physical processes in the work of Joule and his contemporaries would be able to pack that amount of energy into that little mass. As to whether the quote is by Mee or someone else, some additional context from the text around that quote would probably be quite helpful. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 23 '18 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ Note that GR isn't from 1911 either ─ that's from 1915. If you came here for the physics insights, then the answer really is that there is nothing other than SR that would pack that much energy, and indeed pre-1905 the claim would've been laughed off immediately as ridiculous. I don't think you'll find a previous instance of that quote, it admits a clear reading as Mee paraphrasing Einstein's "all mass has energy" in a way that's appropriate for his audience by putting in the particular numbers himself. Mee's statement is a strict subset/consequence of Einstein's. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Feb 23 '18 at 19:59

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