9/13/2010

Albert Einstein: Extraordinary in Many Ways

In September of 2010, my wife and I went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland, to see an exhibit on the life and work of Albert Einstein, the famous physicist. We spent an enjoyable afternoon there, looking at the photographs and documents on display, and we learned a great deal about the man and his varied activities.

Albert Einstein was, to put it mildly, an extraordinary person. In the first half of the 20th century, his groundbreaking theories challenged many of the standard presumptions in the field of physics. In particular, his special and general theories of relativity changed the way in which we think about time, light, and space. For that reason alone, Albert Einstein deserves to be remembered and honored. He also pursued studies in regard to other pressing questions, including the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion, and he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

Although Albert Einstein was primarily known for his deep, thoroughgoing ability to comprehend an enormous range of weighty matters, he was not possessed of a dour temperament, and his own perspective on things was marked by a decided element of impish humor. When a child wrote a letter to Einstein, asking him how long the universe would last, Einstein responded, "Wait and see."

It was not only as a scientist that Albert Einstein made a worthy name for himself. In addition to pursuing his singular discoveries in physics, he spoke out strongly against war, nuclear weapons, fascism, capitalism, and racism. During his early years, when he lived in Europe, and also during his later years in the United States, he chose to take a number of courageous stands, even when he knew that it would put him at odds with both the policies of the government and the opinions of the general public. Most of his views were directly opposed to the right-wing mentality that usually determines the harsh course of American actions.

Albert Einstein was extraordinary in many ways. He constantly used the power of his formidable mind to extend the accepted bounds of human thought. As a major figure of worldwide renown, who continually used his rare stature to actively promote peace, human rights, and intellectual freedom, he was one of the greatest, and also one of the boldest, thinkers in history.