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Albert Einstein, Historical and Cultural Perspectives

Albert Einstein, Historical and Cultural Perspectives: The Centennial Symposium in Jerusalem

Gerald Holton
Yehuda Elkana
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvrpt
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  • Book Info
    Albert Einstein, Historical and Cultural Perspectives
    Book Description:

    Based on papers presented at the Jerusalem Einstein Centennial Symposium in March 1979, this volume sets forth an articulated sequence of chapters on the impact of Einstein's work, not only in science but in humanistic studies and problems such as international security in the nuclear age.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5543-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: EINSTEIN AND THE SHAPING OF OUR IMAGINATION
    (pp. vii-xxxii)
    Gerald Holton

    The one-hundredth anniversary of Albert Einstein’s birth occasioned an outpouring of celebrations and scholarly meetings all over the world, and in the most diverse forums. These were touching and sometimes overwhelming testimonies to the continuing role that Einstein’s ideas and ideals still play, both in the aspirations of contemporary scientists and in the popular imagination.

    Those who attended several of these occasions in 1979 and 1980 will, I believe, generally agree on the special significance of the international meeting held in Jerusalem from 14 to 23 March 1979—the Jerusalem Einstein Centennial Symposium. The organizing idea was the ambitious one...

  2. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON EINSTEIN’S SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTIONS

    • THE SPECIAL RELATIVITY THEORY: EINSTEIN’S RESPONSE TO THE PHYSICS OF 1905
      (pp. 3-26)
      Arthur I. Miller

      Imagine that you are on the editorial board of a prestigious physics journal and that you receive a paper that is unorthodox in style and format. Its title has little to do with most of its content; it has no citations to current literature; a significant portion of its first half seems to be philosophical banter on the nature of certain basic physical concepts taken for granted by everyone; the only experiment explicitly discussed could be explained adequately using current physical theory and is not considered to be of fundamental importance. Yet, with a minimum of mathematics, the little-known author...

    • THE QUEST FOR UNITY: GENERAL RELATIVITY AND UNITARY FIELD THEORIES
      (pp. 27-38)
      Peter G. Bergmann

      A centenary jubilee is a good time to evaluate an outstanding individual’s intellectual contributions. Enough time has elapsed to free us of the fashions of the moment; yet that time is sufficiently short so that some of us who came directly under that person’s influence are still alive. Albert Einstein, who earned the greatest fame of all physicists in his own lifetime, has come to serve as a focus for a vast range of endeavors, both humane and scientific, on the occasion of his one-hundredth birthday. Having had the privilege of being associated with Einstein in my youth, I am...

    • FLUCTUATIONS AND STATISTICAL PHYSICS IN EINSTEIN’S EARLY WORK
      (pp. 39-58)
      Martin J. Klein

      “He was one of that class of geniuses who early learn to trust themselves in an essential way, whatever moments of doubt they may have,” who are soon “propounding the great questions and attempting the great answers.”¹ Lionel Trilling’s words about Keats provide an unexpectedly apt description of the young Einstein and his way of doing physics. Einstein recognized his unusual youthful confidence in his own thoughts about the natural world as he looked back on his early years while preparing his scientific autobiography. He had had no faith in his ability to select the centrally important problems in mathematics...

    • EINSTEIN AND QUANTUM PHYSICS
      (pp. 59-76)
      Max Jammer

      The subject “Einstein and Quantum Physics” has a number of remarkable features. From the purelyhumanpoint of view, it presents the heroic and tragic struggle of one of the greatest physicists of all time to proceed, unyieldingly and true to himself, along a lonely road, one aloof from the mainstream of physics but for him the only road to a deeper insight into the mysteries of the nature of matter. From thehistoricalpoint of view, it offers the unique case of a scientist decisively furthering the rise and development of a scientific theory and subsequently rejecting, no less...

  3. RECEPTION OF EINSTEIN’S SCIENTIFIC IDEAS

    • THE EARLY YEARS OF RELATIVITY
      (pp. 79-90)
      P. A. M. Dirac

      I am very happy to have this opportunity of talking at the Einstein Symposium because I am a very great admirer of Einstein.

      In this Symposium we have heard many historical talks. Historians collect all the documents they can find referring to their subject, assess those documents, collate them, and then give us a detailed account of what happened. I am not going to give you a talk of that nature, because I am not a historian. What I would like to talk to you about is the arrival of relativity as it appeared to someone who lived through it....

    • SOME EINSTEIN ANOMALIES
      (pp. 91-106)
      Banesh Hoffmann

      The official topic of this session is the reception of Einstein’s scientific ideas. My contribution is not on that subject. But, in a sense, it is closely related: its topic could indeed be described as the reception of Einstein’s scientific ideas—but by Einstein himself. I want to consider some puzzling aspects of his writings and to venture to draw from them hints as to some of his possible thought processes.

      In his “Autobiographical Notes,” written at age sixty-seven, Einstein tells of the sense of awe and wonder that seized him at the age of four or five when he...

    • THE RECEPTION OF EINSTEIN’S IDEAS: TWO EXAMPLES FROM CONTRASTING POLITICAL CULTURES
      (pp. 107-136)
      Loren R. Graham

      The advent of the theory of relativity was a brilliant and startling event that attracted the attention of a wide public. Laypeople often found it irresistible, yet baffling. In response to the challenge, writers in many countries attempted to make the theory accessible to nonscientists. In the process of interpreting relativity in a way that eased comprehension, these authors often attached philosophical or ideological messages to the theory that were rooted in their own preferences about the meaning of science for social values.

      Einstein himself was opposed to attempts to use the theory of relativity as a vehicle for a...

  4. EINSTEIN’S IMPACT ON SCHOLARSHIP AND TWENTIETH-CENTURY CULTURE

    • EINSTEIN AND THE SCIENCE OF LANGUAGE
      (pp. 139-150)
      Roman Jakobson

      In an address broadcast in September 1941 to a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Sciences and entitled “The Common Language of Science,”¹ Einstein reminded his listeners that at a most advanced stage of development language, despite all its deficiencies, “becomes an instrument of reasoning in the true sense of the word.” One may add that for Einstein himself language, from its rudiments to the various stages of increased development, became, especially during the American, the most retrospective, period of his life, a favorite theme of intense metalinguistic reasoning. The scientist’s heightened attention to these questions and...

    • PSYCHOANALYTIC REFLECTIONS ON EINSTEIN’S CENTENARY
      (pp. 151-174)
      Erik H. Erikson

      Whoever has read Albert Einstein remembers one or the other statement of his that affirmed his belief in the revelatory order of the Universe. This he was apt to express in such assurances as that God does not play dice (“Er wuerfelt nicht”). But it seems to me that we mortals cannot help playing a kind of card game with the lives of our famous men. We all have before us a by now standard series of biographic data reported by Einstein or by others. We can only put these data on cards, shuffle them, and spread them out before...

    • RELATIVITY AND RELATIVISM
      (pp. 175-204)
      Nathan Rotenstreich

      The sayinghabent sua fataapplies not only to the fate of books but also to that of words and formulas by the very fact that they are liable to become stereotypes and turn into slogans, are exposed to misconception, or aid in the reinforcement of certain trends. The terms “relativity” and “theory of relativity” as Einstein employed them to characterize his theories, are a case in point. Before commenting upon these terms, let me make some general observations on the framework of the present analysis, though I am aware of being ill-qualified to appreciate all aspects of Einstein’s theory....

    • THE MYTH OF SIMPLICITY
      (pp. 205-252)
      Yehuda Elkana

      There are two alternative dramaturgic approaches to history: the perspective of Greek drama, and the perspective of the epic theater. Since theater, good theater, is indeed a mirror of all that there is, an analysis of these two world-views will lend us the two general perspectives for viewing history.

      Greek drama is a development of the inevitable. Fate is immutable, and man can influence only in minor details the when and where of his own destiny. The very tension that we experience in drama is caused by our knowledge of the inevitable. It is only our sense of pending doom...

    • EINSTEIN AND THE LIGHT OF REASON
      (pp. 253-278)
      Yaron Ezrahi

      Around 1660, the Fellows of the Accademia del Cimento in Florence assembled to perform an experiment that would test Christiaan Huygens’s theory that Saturn does not really consist of separate globes and that the changing appearances of the planet that had baffled earlier observers were produced by the ring around it. Committed to “finding out the truth by means of experimental tests,”¹ the Fellows constructed a small model of Saturn according to the proportions stated by Huygens. On the basis of the memorandum written of the experiment, we know that “the model was set up at the end of a...

  5. EINSTEIN AND DEVELOPMENTS IN THE JEWISH WORLD

    • EINSTEIN AND ISRAEL
      (pp. 281-292)
      Isaiah Berlin

      When the mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek, and Professor Aryeh Dvoretsky, President of the Israel Academy, invited me to speak about Albert Einstein, my instinctive (and some might think, right) reaction was to decline this great and wholly unexpected honor. My reason was obvious enough: Einstein’s chief title to immortal fame is his transcendent scientific genius, about which, like the vast majority of mankind, I am totally incompetent to speak. Einstein was universally revered as the most revolutionary innovator in the field of physics since Newton. The exceptional respect and attention that were everywhere paid to his person and to...

    • ON EINSTEIN AND THE PRESIDENCY OF ISRAEL
      (pp. 293-296)
      Yitzhak Navon

      This symposium is under the auspices of the President of Israel, but not because of his knowledge of Einstein’s philosophy and theories. I almost would say, “On the contrary.” I remember Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asking Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter for his opinion of a certain leading personality in the United States. “Well, he has some gaps in his ignorance,” said the Justice. Perhaps I can join that club.

      Actually, we in Israel are much concerned with gaps. My experience in the political field has shown me that there are three principal gaps. One is the social gap between...

    • JEWISH AND UNIVERSAL SOCIAL ETHICS IN THE LIFE AND THOUGHT OF ALBERT EINSTEIN
      (pp. 297-318)
      Uriel Tal

      To the question “Just what is a Jew?” Einstein in November 1938 replied that two features have been characteristic of Jewish life:

      the democratic ideal of social justice, coupled with the ideal of mutual aid and tolerance among all men. Even the most ancient religious scriptures of the Jews are steeped in these social ideals, which have powerfully affected Christianity and Mohammedanism and have had a benign influence upon the social structure of a great part of mankind….

      The second characteristic trait of Jewish tradition is the high regard in which it holds every form of intellectual aspiration and spiritual...

    • EINSTEIN’S GERMANY
      (pp. 319-344)
      Fritz Stern

      There was nothing simple about Einstein, ever. His simplicity concealed an impenetrable complexity. Even the links to his native Germany were prematurely ambiguous. At a time when most Germans thought their country a hospitable home, a perfect training ground for their talents, Einstein was repelled; in 1894, as a fifteen-year-old, he left Germany and became a Swiss citizen. Twenty years later, a few weeks before the outbreak of the Great War, he returned to Germany and remained for eighteen years of troubled renown, years in which he appreciated what was congenial and opposed what was antipathetic in Germany. Long before...

  6. EINSTEIN AND THE NUCLEAR AGE

    • EINSTEIN AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY
      (pp. 347-368)
      Paul Doty

      Next to physics, Einstein’s most enduring passion was directed at abolishing war. This passion consumed increasing amounts of his time from approximately 1915 onward for four decades until his death. Retracing this part of his life can be rewarding at several levels. It reveals the mainsprings of his essentially humanitarian outlook. It shows the struggle and redirection that came on several occasions when pacifism conflicted with values he held even higher. And it shows the development of his abiding conviction that peace could become a normal part of the human condition only through the evolution of a world authority with...

    • EINSTEIN AND THE POLITICS OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
      (pp. 369-394)
      Bernard T. Feld

      Albert einstein was the most highly appreciated and, at the same time, the least understood scientist of this era. For over a third of a century—from the end of the First World War until his death in 1955—he represented to the people of the world the epitome of the modern scientist. He was respected, even revered by all, from the Indian day laborer in the slums of Calcutta to the Queen Mother of the Belgians. His visage, from which honesty, kindliness, integrity, and wisdom glowed as from a beacon, was as well known, and for a longer period...

  7. WORKING WITH EINSTEIN:: REMINISCENCES BY ASSOCIATES AND FRIENDS

    • REMINISCENCES
      (pp. 397-400)
      Peter G. Bergmann

      I find it much easier to talk about physics than about physicists, but tonight I am to do the latter. Perhaps I should follow in the steps of Nathan Rosen, whom I also succeeded more than once, and tell you how I came to work with Einstein. I arrived in Princeton in 1936, not as a native-born American, but as a refugee from Hitler Germany. I had managed to complete my formal academic education in Prague, at the institute of Professor Philipp Frank. At the time, I did not know that he was a close friend of Professor Einstein.

      I...

    • REMINISCENCES
      (pp. 401-404)
      Banesh Hoffmann

      Let me start by telling about my first meeting with Einstein. It was around 1935 in Princeton. I had made some relativistic calculations, and a friend suggested that I go to see Einstein to ask his opinion of my work, The idea of my going to see Einstein seemed to me preposterous. I was far too scared. My friend almost had to push me to the door of Einstein’s office. I knocked timidly, and Einstein called out the single word “come” with a friendly, rising inflection. I entered in fear and trembling, and there was Einstein sitting in a comfortable...

    • REMINISCENCES
      (pp. 405-408)
      Nathan Rosen

      In my contacts with Albert Einstein, two occasions stand out particularly strongly in my memory: the first time I met him and the last time I saw him. So let me describe them both, with the addition of a little bit about what happened in between.

      As for my first meeting with Einstein, I have to go back somewhat in time. After completing my undergraduate studies in engineering at MIT, I decided to spend a year doing graduate work there in theoretical physics. In addition to taking courses, I also had to do a master’s thesis. At that time Einstein...

    • MUSICAL AND PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF ALBERT EINSTEIN
      (pp. 409-416)
      Boris Schwarz

      I am not a scientist. I am a musician who wants to share with you some of my musical and personal reminiscences of Albert Einstein.

      These reminiscences reach back to the 1920s in Berlin. About 1923 I was introduced to Professor Einstein as a promising teenage violinist. Invited to come with my violin to the Einstein apartment in the Haberlandstrasse, I had to walk for some two hours from my home in the Grunewald because Berlin was in the grip of a transportation strike. With me was my father, Joseph Schwarz, a well-known concert pianist.

      I still remember the apartment:...

    • REMINISCENCES
      (pp. 417-424)
      Ernst G. Straus

      My mother told me that the first time that Albert Einstein came to our house was when I was only three years old, on the occasion of the founding session of the Council of the Hebrew University. It was October 1925, and our house was just around the corner from the Oktoberwiese, the place for the big annual fair in Munich. According to my mother, Einstein said that he would much rather be there than at a session. He did indeed leave early, and my mother had her suspicions as to where he went, but there is no proof.

      I...