According to a new book, entitled Einstein and the Quantum, written by A. Douglas Stone, Albert Einstein’s contributions towards the various fields of science, and the extent of his genius, may have been significantly overlooked.
Stone, who is the chair of Yale’s Department of Applied Physics, argues, such was the magnitude of Einstein’s phenomenal works, the man could have been “… worthy of four Nobel Prizes…” In reality, the remarkable physicist was only awarded a single Nobel Prize.
Throughout his book, Stone waxes lyrical about Einstein, highlighting his many accomplishments, and talking about his advancement of numerous concepts in quantum theory, and garnering enormous recognition for his theory of relativity.
Einstein was, of course, renowned for his work as a physicist. However, he also contributed a great deal to philosophy, with most of his philosophical reflections having been driven by academic study.
A young philosopher, called Robert Thornton, after completing his Ph.D. at Minnesota, was due to begin teaching physics at the University of Puerto Rico. Before beginning his tutelage, he wanted to combine both scientific and philosophical perspectives to present a modern physics course to his students and, therefore, requested a few supportive words from Einstein. Here is what the great man had to say:
“So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is—in my opinion—the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.”
To celebrate the great man and his many scientific achievements, we thought we would gather a list of some of the most interesting Einstein facts and trivia, alongside some of his most memorable quotes.
The Assassination List
During 1933, Albert Einstein made a trip to the United States, before deciding not to return back to Germany, as a consequence of the Nazi uprising, spearheaded by the infamous Adolf Hitler.
Later that year, Einstein made a voyage to Belgium, at which time he was informed that his cottage had been ransacked, and his sailboat appropriated. Einstein immediately went to the German consulate in Antwerp, where he officially renounced his citizenship to Germany.
The situation in fascist Germany deteriorated rapidly, during that same year, with anti-Semitic activities becoming the norm, and the instatement of laws that barred Jewish members of German society from holding formal occupations.
Einstein was placed on an assassination target list, with a $5,000 bounty placed upon his head, whilst many of his publications had been burnt. Ruminating over the atrocities, Einstein had this to say to fellow physicist Max Born:
“… I must confess that the degree of their brutality and cowardice came as something of a surprise.”
It seemed Einstein was never entirely comfortable signing autographs. Remarkably, he elected to charge one dollar for the privilege. The proceedings from his “autograph business” would later be given to charity. According to Ronald W. Clark, who authored Einstein: The Life and Times, he also charged five dollars for the signing of memorabilia.
Einstein was known for a number of charitable acts. When en route to a series of lectures in Pasadena, California, he agreed to perform two radio broadcasts. Each speech generated $1,000, which he donated to a charitable organization that aided the impoverished people of Berlin.
Now, the man’s autographs can sell for extreme sums of money. A signed photograph of Einstein sticking his tongue out, was sold for an incredible $74,000 by RR Auction in 2009.
University Entrance Examination
The cerebral powerhouse that is Albert Einstein, upon applying for early admission to a Swiss polytechnic school, actually failed his entrance examination first time round. He managed to successfully pass the mathematics and science sections of the test – his core strengths – but failed the remainder (languages, history etc.)
At the behest of the Principal of the Polytechnic, Einstein then went on to complete his secondary schooling at the Aargau Cantonal School, based in Switzerland.
The Manhattan Project
During 1939, it had been reported that the Nazi German regime was engaged in atomic bomb research efforts. Troubled by these findings, Einstein, alongside Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd, attempted to warn the American government.
The pair drafted a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, outlining the dangers of remaining idle, and recommended that additional research be conducted to explore the uranium research, whilst bolstering America’s supply of uranium.
Many suggest that Einstein’s role was pivotal in coaxing America into an arms race against the Nazis, leading to the Manhattan Project. Led by the United States, and supported by both Canada and the United Kingdom, the Manhattan Project yielded the very first atomic bombs, costing close to $2 billion.
In issuing his requests for research development of the atomic bomb, Einstein went against his pacifist instincts. In a conversation with Linus Pauling, an esteemed American scientist, academic and fellow peace activist, Einstein looked back, retrospectively, at his involvement in the inception of the atomic bomb:
“I made one great mistake in my life – when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atomic bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.”
Einstein for Israeli President
Following the death of the Zionist leader of Israel, Chaim Azriel Weizmann, in 1952, Einstein was offered the place of President of Israel. The position was offered by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.
However, Einstein rejected the offer, despite having been “deeply moved” by the extraordinary gesture:
“All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official function.”
Unusually, Einstein also seemed to have an aversion to socks. Seemingly, the genius-level physicist virtually never wore socks. However, generally, Einstein was not one for formal attire.
“When I was young, I found out that the big toe always ended up making a hole in the sock. So, I stopped wearing socks.”
Einstein’s Illegitimate Daughter
Einstein’s very first wife was Mileva Marić, both of whom attended the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich. The pair’s relationship began to flourish, and they both studied and read books together.
In 1901, however, before the couple had been wed, they took a romantic trip to Lake Como, located in Italy. It is alleged that Marić was found to be pregnant, after the vacation had drawn to a conclusion. With the couple unmarried, and with the eminent physicist unable to provide financial support for a family, Einstein’s lover returned home to her parents.
During 1987, early communications between Einstein and Marić were published, exposing these startling revelations. The fate of their illegitimate daughter, who was named Lieserl, remains a mystery. Reports suggest that she either died from scarlet fever, or she survived the disease and was then given up for adoption.
Later, the pair became estranged. Einstein then proposal a contractual agreement, where he outlines Marić’s precise responsibilities, including the following:
- Clothes and laundry is kept in good order
- Three meals are made and delivered to his room
- His room is kept tidy, with his desk untouched
- Contact was to be limited, and purely social in nature
Marriage to His Cousin
Another, not to well known, fact is that Einstein married his German cousin. Elsa Einstein was Albert’s second wife. Elsa was born with the Einstein surname, which she lost when she married textile merchant Max Löwenthal.
After Elsa’s divorce from Löwenthal in 1908, she then sparked a relationship with Albert. As the pair’s mothers were sisters, Elsa and Albert were first cousins. The couple were later married in 1919, resulting in Elsa reclaiming the Einstein name.
Albert Einstein had some incredible moments in life. However, even in death, the man was subject to remarkable dealings (or at least his corpse was).
Einstein died of internal bleeding, which was found to be caused by an abdominal aortic aneurysm that had ruptured. One of Einstein’s final quotes was in utterance to surgeons’ recommendations on corrective surgery:
“I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”
A pathologist, named Thomas Stoltz Harvey, performed Einstein’s autopsy at Princeton Hospital, New Jersey. Harvey removed the brain tissue and preserved it, intact, with formalin. Before cutting the brain into 240 different sections, he took vast numbers of photographs.
A study was performed many years later by Marian C. Diamond and her colleagues, working from the University of California, which sought to measure the ratio between non-neuronal glial cells and neurons. They perceived high levels of glia for every neuronal cell.
However, after obtaining Harvey’s original images of Einstein’s brain, from the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Maryland, further discoveries were made. Parts of Einstein’s cerebral cortex showed huge numbers of convolutions, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with abstract thinking.
We hope you have enjoyed our list of Albert Einstein’s top quotes and facts. When exploring the life and times of the theoretical physicist, it seems his personal life and philosophical outlook were as exceptional as his scientific discoveries.
By: James Fenner
Related Article: Einstein’s Corpus Callosum Explains His Genius-Level Intellect
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