Sunday, June 8, 2008
In his biography of Einstein Mr. H. Gordou Garbedian relates that an
American newspaper man asked the great physicist for a definition of his
theory of relativity in one sentence. Einstein replied that it would take him
three days to give a short definition of relativity. He might well have added
that unless his questioner had an intimate acquaintance with mathematics and
physics, the definition would be incomprehensible.
To the majority of people Einstein's theory is a complete mystery. Their
attitude towards Einstein is like that of Mark Twain towards the writer of a
work on mathematics: here was a man who had written an entire book of
which Mark could not understand a single sentence. Einstein, therefore, is
great in the public eye partly because he has made revolutionary discoveries
which cannot be translated into the common tongue. We stand in proper awe
of a man whose thoughts move on heights far beyond our range, whose
achievements can be measured only by the few who are able to follow his
reasoning and challenge his conclusions.
There is, however, another side to his personality. It is revealed in the
addresses, letters, and occasional writings brought together in this book.
These fragments form a mosaic portrait of Einstein the man. Each one is, in a
sense, complete in itself; it presents his views on some aspect of progress,
education, peace, war, liberty, or other problems of universal interest. Their
combined effect is to demonstrate that the Einstein we can all understand is no
less great than the Einstein we take on trust.