Albert Einstein

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Einstein daydreaming at the Swiss patent office.
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Though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me. I am a revolutionary.
—Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was a German theoretical physicist of the highest caliber. Unfortunately, being one of the most influential scientists in history means his quotes are appropriated by theists and atheists alike.[1] As one of the founders of modern physics,[notes 1] he contributed to quantum mechanics, and developed the special and general theories of relativity. He advocated a one-world government hoping that it would put an end to "an infantile sickness" known as nationalism. He was also a socialist.[2] Einstein believed the Soviet Union could be persuaded to join and that this would solve the incipient Cold War: "Better to let Russia see that there is nothing to be achieved by aggression, but there are advantages in joining [a world government]: Then the Russian regime's attitude will probably change and they will take part without compulsion."[3] As someone who fits the stereotypical image of a scientist, he was a cartoonist's dream come true.

Major contributions to science[edit]

  • Statistical mechanics — demonstrating the reality of atoms with Brownian motion, and explaining why the sky is blue, Einstein's model of solids.
  • Special relativity — a more general theory of motion than Newton's laws that is fully consistent with Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. Fundamental predictions are time dilation, length contraction, and loss of simultaneity. It has been fully incorporated into the Standard Model of particle physics and modern gravitation theory.
  • General relativity — the modern theory of gravity, predicting, among other things, gravitational waves, gravitational time dilation, expanding (or contracting) Universe, and black holes. This is considered to be his magnum opus. Einstein's principle of equivalence, Einstein's field equations, the Einstein summation convention, the Einstein-de Sitter space, the Einstein-Rosen bridge, and the Einstein-Kahler metric are thus named in his honor.
  • Old quantum theory — explanation of the photoelectric effect using Planck's quantum hypothesis, recognition of wave-particle duality, description of atoms as quantum harmonic oscillators, quantum theory of radiation, quantum theory of monoatomic ideal gases, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox.
  • Quantum statistical mechanics — Bose-Einstein statistics, prediction of light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (laser), Bose-Einstein condensation.

Myths[edit]

Being a famous scientist, Albert Einstein is subject to many myths. Some common ones are that Einstein...

...worked on the Manhattan Project.
Wrong. While his work in physics was crucial to the project's success, Einstein wasn't involved due to the US government seeing him as a security risk due to his pacifist leanings. However, it is true that he was appointed Adviser on Highly Explosive Materials by the U.S. Navy.
...failed math
By his own words "I never failed in mathematics … Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus."
...was a Soviet spy
While Albert Einstein was an admitted socialist and somewhat of a USSR apologist, he wasn't a spy.
...failed in school
No. He was pretty good in almost all things education. This view is most likely based on the fact that German and Swiss grades are exactly reversed from each other (6 being the best in Switzerland and the worst in Germany) and the first biographers were mostly German. The only thing he ever did fail at was getting into university at age sixteen — incidentally due to a failed French test. Also, he got into ETH Zurich, a famous school in Switzerland.
...had autism.
This is based on heavy speculation. The diagnosis of autism existed during Dr. Einstein's lifetime, but he was never diagnosed, so he cannot himself dispute this label (how convenient). Psychologist Simon Baron-Chohen (cousin to Sacha, of Borat fame) is the only half-serious researcher who entertained this possibility (throwing in Isaac Newton as well), for which he was dragged by his peers [4]. In any case, the idea Einstein had autism is a fringe theory that is embraced only by few if any serious historians or psychiatric professionals[citation NOT needed], and proponents of autistic supremacy.

Social and political views[edit]

Einstein was one of the many co-signatories of Magnus Hirschfeld's petition to repeal a law in the German Penal Code which made male homosexual acts illegal. Unfortunately, these efforts were ultimately futile - in fact, the German Imperial government attempted to broaden its scope to women as well. The attempt failed when they couldn't quite agree what gentle, delightful woman-on-woman sex looked like. The law survived the fall of both the German Empire and the Weimar Republic unscathed. The Nazi era did widen its scope and penalties to horrifying levels, while still not minding lesbianism that much. It was only repealed in 1989 by the GDR, and in 1994 for the whole of reunified Germany, nearly a century after Einstein had signed the petition.[5]

Einstein was one of the founding members (though not a particularly active one) of the German Democratic Party (GDP), which fell under the wing of social liberalism, a mix of regulated market economy, support for increased civil / social rights, and pacifism [6] [7]. It became know as the "party of the Jews and professors", and had a comparatively high number of active women in it. The GDP eventually merged with the People's National Reich Association (which was more to the right than the GDP, though not quite as scary as the name suggests) in 1930 to form the German State Party, leading to an ever-decreasing representativity in the Reichstag. In 1933, under increasing harassment by the Nazis, the party dissolved itself, and after only a few months all parties but the NSDAP became illegal. Later on, Einstein's political views steered increasingly leftwards until finally settling on socialism, earning him dramatic accusations of being an anarchist and/or communist. [8] That, along with his advocacy for pacifism and a global democratic movement, apparently earned dr. Einstein a rather verbose file at an Alphabet Agency.[9]

An avowed pacifist, he came to call his co-signing of the letter to Roosevelt his great mistake, even though he believed at the time that Nazi Germany might be on the verge of producing fission bombs [10], which would not have been an exciting development if true.[citation NOT needed]

After his move to the US, he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, considering racism to be the US's "worst disease" [11]. When William du Bois was accused of acting as an agent for a foreign state, on account of his being the chair of the Peace Information Centre, an anti-(nuclear)-war organisation, and even though the NAACP refused to state its support for him, Einstein's offer to testify on du Bois' behalf made the corresponding judge shaite his knickers and drop the case.[12]

His travel diaries from 1922, when he visited Asia, were rediscovered in 2018, and aroused some degree of controversy regarding his stereotypical remarks on contemporary Chinese and Japanese culture, even if he did express at least a fair amount of affinity and respect for the latter.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Family guy[edit]

Mileva Marić and Einstein

A. You will make sure:

1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

Mileva Marić was a brilliant physicist and mathematician herself (who may have contributed to Einstein's work, though it's not clear whether and how much),[14][15] yet Einstein treated her like a servant. The above excerpt is part of a letter detailing the conditions upon which he would continue to live with his wife; he also told her to expect no intimacy for him, to avoid saying anything negative about him, and to be quiet and leave if he asked her.[16][17]

He also cheated on both his first and second wife. He even said he wished that his second son (who had schizophrenia) was never born.[18] (Imagine struggling with schizophrenia and then realizing your own father wishes you didn't exist.)

He wasn't totally heartless, though. His loved ones reported that he was truly heartbroken after the death of his second wife.[19]

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about Albert Onestone.

Further reading[edit]

  • Pais, Abraham. "Subtle Is the Lord-- " : The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. Oxford University Press, 1982. This is a technical scientific biography of Einstein.

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. The other founder of modern physics is Max Planck, who discovered that light comes in discrete packets now called photons.

References[edit]