Monday, July 2, 2018

My hero / Albert Einstein by Graham Farmelo


Albert Einstein

My hero: Albert Einstein by Graham Farmelo


It’s 100 years since Einstein completed his theory of relativity, transforming our understanding of the universe

Graham Farmelo
Saturday 28 November 2015


T
ime magazine chose well when it named Albert Einstein as the most influential person of the 20th century. As well as being a peerless scientist, he showed great wisdom and integrity – he was an outstanding humanitarian. One hundred years ago, he completed his theory of relativity, setting out a theory of gravity that would surpass Isaac Newton’s and which continues to shape our understanding of the universe today.

Einstein had emerged 10 years earlier, apparently from nowhere, to give the world’s leading scientists a series of physics lessons they would never forget. During his 20-year golden streak, ending in 1925, he did more than anyone else to reshape the understanding of space, time, energy, matter and gravity. He pioneered the crucial idea that symmetry is at the heart of fundamental laws of nature. He could be practically minded, too: with his Hungarian friend Leo Szilard, he came up with an innovative design for a fridge, which they patented in 1930.

Although he valued his solitude – he once said he would happily live in a lighthouse – he was a considerate colleague and friend. His astonishing insight into nature was matched by his understanding of human affairs, and his quotations and popular essays still reward re-reading. Deeply engaged with politics, he spoke out against hypernationalism and fought against the persecution of Jews and other minorities. His friend and colleague in the 1950s, Nándor Balázs, once told me that Einstein’s main weakness was his impatience with people beating a path to his door. On one occasion, a young woman travelled all the way from Bombay to Princeton, simply to talk to him. He reluctantly agreed, groaning: “I suppose I have to go and play God again.” When I asked Balázs whether Einstein was a saint, he shot back: “No, he was better than that – he was human.”

THE GUARDIAN






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