Wednesday, November 25th is a big day for fans of scientific breakthroughs that re-shape our understanding of how the universe operates. One hundred years ago, Albert Einstein discovered the general theory of relativity.
Einstein was supposedly slow to talk—the man himself told his biographer he didn’t start speaking until at least age three. Stanford economist Dr. Thomas Sowell even coined the controversial term “Einstein Syndrome” to describe exceptionally bright people whose speech is delayed.
When Albert Einstein was five years old his father showed him a simple pocket compass. Einstein was mesmerized. What force exerted itself on the little needle to make it point in a single direction? This question stayed with Einstein for many years and has been noted as the beginning of his fascination with science.
Einstein’s mother, Pauline, was an accomplished pianist and wanted her son to love music too, so she started him on violin lessons. At first, Einstein hated playing the violin. When Einstein was 13-years old, he quickly changed his mind about the violin when he heard the music of Mozart. With a new passion for playing, Einstein continued to play the violin until the last few years of his life.
A few days after Zionist leader and first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann died on November 9, 1952, Einstein was asked if he would accept the position of being the second president of Israel. Einstein, age 73, declined the offer. In his official letter of refusal, Einstein stated that he lacked the “natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people.”
Einstein loved sailing, even though he wasn’t very good at it—his neighbors on Long Island frequently had to help him right his capsized boat Tinef (Yiddish for “worthless”). And even though Einstein never learned to swim, he kept sailing as a hobby throughout his life.
Part of Einstein’s charm was his disheveled look. In addition to his uncombed hair, one of Einstein’s peculiar habits was to never wear socks. To Einstein, socks were a pain because they often would get holes in them.
Einstein loved to smoke. In 1950, after accepting a life membership in the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club, Einstein said he believed “that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.”
More than two decades after publishing his Special Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein co-invented a refrigerator (with his former student Leo Szilard) that operated on compressed gases. Einstein was moved to create the device after reading about a Berlin family killed by toxic fumes from their fridge. The Einstein-Szilard refrigerator was patented in 1930 but was soon overshadowed by freon-based compressors that were more efficient, but more damaging to the environment.
Einstein himself did not create the atomic bomb or even work on the Manhattan Project (he was denied the security clearance by the U.S. Army, which looked askance at his left-leaning politics). But both Einstein’s letters to then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlining the theory of a uranium fission bomb and his famous formula, E=mc², linking mass and energy, helped spur the development of nuclear weapons. Einstein later regretted his involvement, telling Newsweek that “had I known that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, I would have done nothing.”
‘Albert Einstein’ is an anagram of ‘Ten elite brains’.
Image: Oren Jack Turner