At first glance, his utter lack of fashion sense, untameable hair and walrus-inspired moustache didn’t particularly inspire thoughts of genius. Yet with his remarkable vision and scientific acumen Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) forever changed the way we look at how the world and the universe work. From lowly patent clerk to world-renowned physicist, he remains a quintessential symbol of mankind’s progress through the last century and beyond. He even has his own bobble head, and it’s been sixty five years since he was alive. Now that’s famous!
Born in Germany, Einstein moved to the United States in 1933, where he lived the rest of his life. Since he was Jewish, going back to Germany after 1933 meant certain persecution, despite his fame at that time. It is without question that the Nazis – who were in power in Germany then – would have made him work on weapons of mass destruction for their war effort, and to watch while his fellow Jews were suffering death and displacement from their homes at the hands of these oppressors would have been overwhelming for anyone, even a guy like Einstein.
There’s no question he was a genius, though he would humbly dispute the distinction. Which, given that he was awarded a Nobel prize for Physics, is some serious humility. Though he was (and still is) best known for his general and special theories of relativity – which accurately predict the motion of bodies in space and time – Einstein was a lot more than a researcher. He was also a voice of reason in an unreasonable period of our history, a time of great unrest in many nations and of world war.
Einstein wasn’t against defeating enemies of freedom like Nazi Germany, but he was a
humanist first and foremost. He was instrumental in pointing out to leaders in the west that using atomic energy to create weapons – never mind using them in wartime – was a mistake.
He and other leading scientists of the 1940’s realized that development and use of the atomic bomb would result in an arms race. This suggestion was to be proven right during the Cold War, when the USA and USSR (Russia) built and stockpiled a great number of nuclear arms.
For decades, the world was under threat of nuclear annihilation, and Einstein devoted the last years of his life attempting to derail the situation.
Einstein didn’t only communicate with heads of state. He answered letters from schoolchildren, from students at universities around the globe, and even from housewives. When people reached out to him, he responded to their curiosity about his work and about what made the universe tick. With his good nature, openness and respect for life, he gained a reputation as being honest and trustworthy.
Einstein once wrote that, “The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self.”*
This can be interpreted to mean each person has the ability to reach beyond his or her own self-interests.
Albert Einstein – a great man who did great things humbly – taught us that not only are black holes real and that gravity can curve space. But that each of us has the ability to be an amazing person in the service we perform for others. Thanks, Al!
Ciao for now!
Blogger | Writer
THE BLOCK BARD
- Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934