Albert Einstein: Person of the century

Tags: America, Gandhi, PERSON OF THE CENTURY, relativity, first Democratic President, Elected President, President Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Germany, Deal legislation, India, nonviolence, Einstein, South Africa, the Big Bang theory, general relativity, Du Bois D. Albert Einstein E. Henry Ford F. Anne, Indian handicrafts, Bambata Rebellion, Mohandas Gandhi, Indian independence, Albert Einstein, quantum physics, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, bigotry, moral sense
Content: PERSON OF THE CENTURY Albert Einstein: Person of the Century He was the pre-eminent scientist in a century dominated by science. The touchstones of the era--the atomic bomb, the Big Bang theory, quantum physics and electronics--all bear his unmistakable imprint
third person is"). To the world at
large, relativity seemed to pull the
He was the embodiment of pure intellect, the bumbling professor with the German accent, a comic clichй in a thousand films.
rug out from under perceived reality. And for many advanced thinkers of the 1920s, from Dadaists to Cubists to Freudians, that was a fitting credo, reflecting what science
Instantly recognizable, like Charlie
historian David Cassidy calls "the
Chaplin's Little Tramp, Albert Ein-
incomprehensiveness of the con-
stein's shaggy-haired visage was as
temporary scene--the fall of monar-
familiar to ordinary people as to the
chies, the upheaval of the social
matrons who fluttered about him in
order, indeed, all the turbulence of
salons from Berlin to Hollywood. Yet he was unfathomably profound-- the genius among geniuses who dis-
Einstein was relativity's rebel:
the 20th century." Einstein's galvanizing effect on the popular imagination continued
covered, merely by thinking about it, he combined rare throughout his life, and after it.
that the universe was not as it seemed. Even now scientists marvel at the
genius with a deep moral sense and a
Fearful his grave would become a magnet for curiosity seekers, Einstein's executors secretly scattered
daring of general relativity ("I still can't see how he thought of it," said the late Richard Feynman, no
total indifference to convention
his ashes. But they were defeated at least in part by a pathologist who carried off his brain in hopes of
slouch himself). But the great physi-
learning the secrets of his genius.
cist was also engagingly simple, trading ties and Only recently, Canadian researchers, probing
socks for mothy sweaters and sweatshirts. He those pickled remains, found that he had an
tossed off pithy aphorisms ("Science is a won- unusually large inferior parietal lobe--a center
derful thing if one does not have to earn one's liv- of mathematical thought and spatial imagery--
ing at it") and playful doggerel as easily as equa- and shorter connections between the frontal and
tions. Viewing the hoopla over him with temporal lobes. More definitive insights, though,
humorous detachment, he variously referred to are emerging from old Einstein letters and papers.
himself as the Jewish saint or artist's model. He These are finally coming to light after years of
was a cartoonist's dream come true.
resistance by executors eager to shield the great
Much to his surprise, his ideas, like Darwin's, relativist's image.
reverberated beyond science, influencing modern
Unlike the avuncular caricature of his later years
culture from painting to poetry. At first even many who left his hair unshorn, helped little girls with
scientists didn't really grasp relativity, prompt- their math homework and was a soft touch for al-
ing Arthur Eddington's celebrated wisecrack most any worthy cause, Einstein is emerging from
(asked if it was true that only three people un- these documents as a man whose unsettled private
derstood relativity, the witty British astrophysicist life contrasts sharply with his serene contemplation
paused, then said, "I am trying to think who the of the universe. He could be alternately warm-
time, december 31, 1999
hearted and cold; a doting father, yet aloof; an under- KEY DATES IN EINSTEIN'S LIFE
Halsman, who would take the most famous picture of
standing, if difficult, mate, BORN March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany
him (reproduced on the
but also an egregious flirt. 1902 Begins work at Swiss patent office
cover of Time's Person of
"Deeply and passionately [concerned] with the fate of
1905 Publishes three seminal papers on theoreti- the Century issue).
cal physics, including the special theory of relativity
Alerted by the emigrй
every stranger," wrote his 1916 Proposes general theory of relativity; is
Hungarian scientist Leo Szi-
friend and biographer proved correct three years later
lard to the possibility that
Philipp Frank, he "immedi- 1922 Wins Nobel Prize in Physics
the Germans might build an
ately withdrew into his shell" 1933 Emigrates to Princeton, N.J.
atom bomb, he wrote F.D.R.
when relations became 1939 Urges F.D.R. to develop atom bomb
of the danger, even though
intimate. He had a deep moral
1955 Dies in his sleep on April 18
he knew little about recent developments in nuclear
sense. At the height of World War I, he risked the physics. When Szilard told Einstein about chain re-
Kaiser's wrath by signing an antiwar petition, actions, he was astonished: "I never thought about
one of only four scientists in Germany to do so. that at all," he said. Later, when he learned of the
Yet, paradoxically, he helped develop a gyrocom- destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he
pass for U-boats. During the troubled 1920s, when uttered a pained sigh.
Jews were being singled out by Hitler's rising
Following World War II, Einstein became even
Nazi Party as the cause of Germany's defeat and more outspoken. Besides campaigning for a ban
economic woes, Einstein and his "Jewish physics" on nuclear weaponry, he denounced McCarthy-
were a favorite target. Nazis, however, weren't ism and pleaded for an end to bigotry and racism.
his only foes. For Stalinists, relativity represented Coming as they did at the height of the cold war,
rampant capitalist individualism; for some church- the haloed professor's pronouncements seemed
men, it meant ungodly atheism, even though Ein- well meaning if naive; Life magazine listed Ein-
stein, who had an impersonal Spinozan view of stein as one of this country's 50 prominent "dupes
God, often spoke about trying to understand how and fellow travelers." Says science historian David
the Lord (der Alte, or the Old Man) shaped the Cassidy: "He had a straight moral sense that oth-
ers could not always see, even other moral people."
In response to Germany's growing anti-Semi- Harvard physicist and historian Gerald Holton
tism, he became a passionate Zionist, yet he also ex- adds, "If Einstein's ideas are really naive, the
pressed concern about the rights of Arabs in any world is really in pretty bad shape." Rather it
Jewish state. Forced to quit Germany when the seems to him that Einstein's humane and demo-
Nazis came to power, Einstein accepted an ap- cratic instincts are "an ideal political model for the
pointment at the new Institute for Advanced Study 21st century," embodying the very best of this
in Princeton, N.J., a scholarly retreat largely creat- century as well as our highest hopes for the next.
ed around him. (Asked what he thought he should What more could we ask of a man to personify the
be paid, Einstein, a financial innocent, suggested past 100 years?
$3,000 a year. His hardheaded wife Elsa got that
upped to $16,000.) Though occupied with his lone- Questions
ly struggle to unify gravity and electromagnetism in 1. Why did Time's editors select Einstein as the
a single mathematical framework, he watched Person of the Century? What is your reaction to
Germany's saber rattling with alarm. Despite his this choice?
earlier pacifism, he spoke in favor of military action 2. In what ways have Einstein's ideas "reverber-
against Hitler. Without fanfare, he helped scores of ated beyond science"? What evidence does the
Jewish refugees get into an unwelcoming U.S., in- writer provide to show that Einstein had a deep
cluding a young photographer named Philippe sense of morality?
time, december 31, 1999
PERSON OF THE CENTURY Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Runner-Up The President of the United States weighs F.D.R.'s legacy and finds timeless fortitude, persistence and respect for the common man
President, he was part of the family.
My own grandfather felt the
When our children's children read the story of the 20th century, they will see that above all, it is the story of freedom's
same way. He came from a little town of about 50 people, had only a fourth-grade education and owned a small store. Still, he believed this President was a friend, a man who
triumph: the victory of democracy
cared about him and his family's
over fascism and totalitarianism; of
future. My grandfather was right
free enterprise over command econ-
about that. So were the millions of
omies; of tolerance over bigotry. And
Americans who met President
they will see that the embodiment
Roosevelt only through his radio
of that triumph, the driving force behind it, was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"The Presidency is not merely an
fireside chats. Roosevelt earned his place in the homes and hearts of a whole generation, and we should
In the century's struggle for free- administrative office. all be proud that his picture now
dom, Roosevelt won two decisive
hangs in the people's house, the
victories: first over economic That's the least of it.... White House.
depression and then over fascism. Though he was surrounded by turmoil, he envisioned a world of
It is pre-eminently a place of moral
As a state legislator, Governor and President, Roosevelt pioneered the politics of inclusion. He built a
lasting peace, and he devoted his life to building a new era of progress. Roosevelt's leadership steered not only America but also
leadership." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, September 1932
broad, lasting, national coalition uniting different regions, different classes and different races. He identified with the aspirations of
the world through the roughest seas
immigrants, farmers and factory
of the century. And he did it with a combination workers--"the forgotten Americans," as he called
of skilled statesmanship, innovative spirit and, them. He considered them citizens of America just
as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. put it, "a first-class as fully as he was.
Roosevelt knew in the marrow of his bones,
Even though Franklin Roosevelt was the from his own struggle with polio and his innate
architect of grand designs, he touched tens of grasp of the American temper, that restoring
millions of Americans in a very personal way. optimism was the beginning of progress. "The only
When I first worked on political campaigns in thing we have to fear is fear itself" was both the way
the 1960s, I could not help noticing the pictures he led his life and the way he led our nation.
of F.D.R. that graced the walls and mantels of so
No matter what the challenge, he believed that
many of the homes I visited. To ordinary Ameri- the facts were only one part of reality; the other part
cans, Roosevelt was always more than a great was how you react to them and change them for the
better. In the depths of the GREAT DEPRESSION, the
Clinton is the first Democratic President since gravest economic threat the country ever faced, he
F.D.R. to be elected to a second term.
lifted the nation to its feet and into action.
time, december 31, 1999
From his vision emerged the great American middle
conflagration. The whole system of international co-
class that has been the en- BORN Jan. 30, 1882 in Hyde Park, N.Y.
operation stems from his
gine of more than five 1913 Named Assistant Secretary of the Navy
commitment. It was Presi-
decades of progress and 1921 Contracts polio
dent Roosevelt, after all,
prosperity. From his new 1928-32 Serves as Governor of New York
who conceived and named
ideas flowed the seemingly 1932-36 Elected President; begins enacting New the United Nations, and he
endless array of programs Deal legislation
was one of the visionaries
and agencies of the New 1936-40 Re-elected to office; continues New Deal behind the establishment
Deal: bank reform, a massive public-works effort to
1940-44 Elected to an unprecedented third term; U.S. enters World War II
of the World Bank and the International Monetary
get America working again, rural electrification, the G.I.
1945 Attends Yalta Conference; dies two months later on April 12
Fund. In one of his last messages to Congress, he
Bill. And, of course, his most
said their creation "spelled
enduring domestic creation, social security, a the difference between a world caught again in
bond between generations that every President the maelstrom of panic and economic warfare, or
since has honored. Roosevelt proved that for mar- a world in which nations strive for a better life
kets to flourish, government must be devoted to through mutual trust, cooperation and assistance."
opportunity for all. He understood that the initia-
Much of my own political philosophy and
tive of individuals and the responsibilities of com- approach to governance is rooted in Roosevelt's
munity must be woven together.
principles of progress. Rather than cling to old ab-
To defeat the merciless aggression of fascism, stractions or be driven by the iron laws of ideology,
President Roosevelt created an international Roosevelt crafted innovations to the circumstances
alliance to defend the world's freedom, and he in which he found himself. He sought, above all,
committed the United States to lead. He proved practical solutions that worked for people.
that our liberty is linked to the destiny of the
Winston Churchill remarked that Franklin Roo-
world, that our security requires us to support sevelt's life was one of the commanding events in
democracy beyond our shores, that human rights human history. The triumph of freedom in the
must be America's cause. In the 20th century's face of depression and totalitarianism was not fore-
greatest crisis, President Roosevelt decisively, told or inevitable. It required political courage and
irrevocably committed our country to freedom's leadership. We now know what Roosevelt and his
generation made of their "rendezvous with destiny."
Early in World War II, he defined the Four Their legacy is our world of freedom. If the exam-
Freedoms that he said must be realized every- ple of Franklin Roosevelt and the American Cen-
where in the world: freedom of speech, freedom tury has taught us anything, it is that we will either
of worship, freedom from want, freedom from work together as One America to shape events or
fear. These were, in his own words, "essential we will be shaped by them. We cannot isolate our-
human freedoms." His expression of American selves from the world; we cannot lead in fits and
ideals helped make them the world's ideals. starts. Now, to this generation entering the new mil-
Because of that commitment and its embrace by lennium, as Roosevelt said, "much has been given"
every American President since, today we can and "much is expected."
say, for the first time in history, a majority of the
world's people live under governments of their Questions
own choosing.
1. What were the two decisive victories that Roo-
Roosevelt's leadership in war and his commit- sevelt won in the century's struggle for freedom?
ment to peace established the institutions of col- 2. In what ways is F.D.R.'s vision alive today, both
lective security that have prevented another world in the U.S. and internationally?
time, december 31, 1999
PERSON OF THE CENTURY Mohandas Gandhi: Runner-Up The liberator of South Africa reflects on the seminal and ground-breaking work of the liberator of India
By Nelson Mandela
a military dimension to our strug-
gle. Even then, we chose sabotage
India is gandhi's country of birth; South Africa his country of adoption. He was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed
because it did not involve the loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future Race Relations. Militant action became part of the African agenda officially supported by the Organi-
to his intellectual and moral genius,
zation of African Unity (o.a.u.) fol-
and he shaped the liberatory move-
lowing my address to the Pan-
ments in both colonial theaters.
African Freedom Movement of East
He is the embodiment of the rev-
and Central Africa (pafmeca) in
olution against colonialism. His strat-
1962, in which I stated, "Force is
egy of noncooperation, his assertion that we can be dominated only if we cooperate with our dominators, and
"Generations to come...will scarce
the only language the imperialists can hear, and no country became free without some sort of violence."
his nonviolent resistance inspired anticolonial and antiracist movements internationally in our century. Both Gandhi and I suffered colo-
believe such a one as this ever walked upon this earth."
Gandhi himself never ruled out violence absolutely and unreservedly. He conceded the necessity of arms in certain situations. He said, "Where
nial oppression, and both of us mobilized our respective peoples
--Albert Einstein
choice is set between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence... I
against governments that violated
prefer to use arms in defense of honor
our freedoms.
rather than remain the vile witness of dishonor..."
The Gandhian influence dominated freedom
Violence and nonviolence are not mutually
struggles on the African continent right up to the exclusive; it is the predominance of the one or the
1960s because of the power it generated and the other that labels a struggle.
unity it forged among the apparently powerless.
Gandhi arrived in South Africa in 1893 at the
Nonviolence was the official stance of all major age of 23. Within a week he collided head on
African coalitions, and the South African a.n.c. with racism. His immediate response was to flee
remained implacably opposed to violence for most the country that so degraded people of color, but
of its existence.
then his inner resilience overpowered him with a
Gandhi remained committed to nonviolence; I sense of mission, and he stayed to redeem the dig-
followed the Gandhian strategy for as long as I nity of the racially exploited, to pave the way for
could, but then there came a point in our struggle the liberation of the colonized the world over
when the brute force of the oppressor could no and to develop a blueprint for a new social order.
longer be countered through passive resistance
He left 21 years later, a near maha atma (great
alone. We founded Unkhonto we Sizwe and added soul). There is no doubt in my mind that by the
time he was violently removed from our world, he
Mandela served as South Africa's first democrat- had transited into that state.
ically elected President from 1994 to 1999.
He was no ordinary leader. There are those
time, december 31, 1999
who believe he was divinely inspired, and it is difficult not
economic weapon against the colonizer in his call for
to believe with them. He BORN Oct. 2, 1869, in Porbandar, India swadeshi--the use of one's
dared to exhort nonviolence 1893 Goes to South Africa and battles for
own and the boycott of the
in a time when the violence the rights of Indians
oppressor's products, which
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had exploded on us; he exhorted morality when science, technology and the capitalist order had made it
1915-20 Begins his struggle for India's independence 1930 Leads hundreds on a long Salt March to Dandi to protest a tax on salt 1947 Negotiates an end to 190 years of British colonial rule in India
deprive the people of their skills and their capital. A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in particular is due to
redundant; he replaced self- 1948 Killed by a fanatic opposed to Gandhi's the continuing dependence
interest with group interest tolerance of other religions
on foreign markets for manu-
without minimizing the im-
factured goods, which under-
portance of self. In fact, the interdependence of mines domestic production and dams up domestic
the social and the personal is at the heart of his skills, apart from piling up unmanageable foreign
philosophy. He seeks the simultaneous and debts. Gandhi's insistence on self-sufficiency is a
interactive development of the moral person and basic economic principle that, if followed today,
the moral society.
could contribute significantly to alleviating Third
His philosophy of Satyagraha is both a person- World poverty and stimulating development.
al and a social struggle to realize the Truth, which
He stepped down from his comfortable life to
he identifies as God, the Absolute Morality. He join the masses on their level to seek equality
seeks this Truth, not in isolation, self-centeredly, with them. "I can't hope to bring about econom-
but with the people. He said, "I want to find God, ic equality... I have to reduce myself to the level of
and because I want to find God, I have to find God the poorest of the poor."
along with other people. I don't believe I can
Gandhi remains today the only complete cri-
find God alone. If I did, I would be running to the tique of advanced industrial society. Others have
Himalayas to find God in some cave there. But criticized its totalitarianism but not its productive
since I believe that nobody can find God alone, I apparatus. He is not against science and tech-
have to work with people. I have to take them nology, but he places priority on the right to work
with me. Alone I can't come to Him."
and opposes mechanization to the extent that it
His awakening came on the hilly terrain of the usurps this right. Large-scale machinery, he holds,
so-called Bambata Rebellion, where as a passion- concentrates wealth in the hands of one man
ate British patriot, he led his Indian stretcher- who tyrannizes the rest. He favors the small
bearer corps to serve the Empire, but British bru- machine; he seeks to keep the individual in con-
tality against the Zulus roused his soul against trol of his tools, to maintain an interdependent
violence as nothing had done before. He deter- love relation between the two, as a cricketer with
mined, on that battlefield, to wrest himself of all his bat or Krishna with his flute. Above all, he
material attachments and devote himself com- seeks to liberate the individual from his alien-
pletely and totally to eliminating violence and serv- ation to the machine and restore morality to the
ing humanity. The sight of wounded and whipped productive process.
Zulus, mercilessly abandoned by their British per-
secutors, so appalled him that he turned full circle Questions
from his admiration for all things British to cele- 1. Compare Mandela's approach to ending
brating the indigenous and ethnic. He resuscitated apartheid in South Africa to Gandhi's campaign
the culture of the colonized and the fullness of for Indian independence. How were the two
Indian resistance against the British; he revived leaders' strategies alike and different?
Indian handicrafts and made these into an 2. What caused Gandhi to denounce the British?
time, december 31, 1999
Voices of the Century
Through their actions, the leaders, thinkers and inventors of the 20th century had a profound impact on the course of history. But these figures have left another important legacy: their words. On this page are collected quotations from 15 of the century's A. Rachel Carson
most significant figures. Some of these statements will probably be familiar to you; others will be new. Working with a group of classmates, do some research, pool your knowledge and match each quotation to its source. Make educated guesses where necessary--and don't forget to use the process of elimination!
B. Winston Churchill C. W.E.B. Du Bois D. Albert Einstein E. Henry Ford F. Anne Frank G. Sigmund Freud
________ 1. "This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself--nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." ________ 2. "An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind." ________ 3. "The great masses of the people...will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one."
H. Mohandas Gandhi I. Adolf Hitler J. Helen Keller K. John F. Kennedy L. Martin Luther King Jr. M. Charles Lindbergh N. Eleanor Roosevelt O. Franklin D. Roosevelt
________ 4. "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing, in the words of the old Negro spiritual, `Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, We are free at last.' " ________ 5. "Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself." ________ 6. "Science, freedom, beauty, adventure; what more could you ask of life? Aviation combined all the elements I loved."
________ 7. "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
________ 8. "I fall, I stand still...I trudge on, I gain a little...I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory."
________ 9. "Cannot the nation that has absorbed 10 million foreigners absorb 10 million Negro Americans?"
________ 10. "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
________ 11. "The poets and philosophers before me discovered the unconscious; what I discovered was the scientific method by which the unconscious can be studied."
________ 12. "I can feel the sufferings of millions; and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquillity will return again."
________ 13. "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes."
________ 14. "I will build a car for the great low in price that no man will be unable to own one."
________ 15. "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
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