In 1905, Albert Einstein stepped onto the world stage and, with his theories of relativity, toppled the principles of armed Newtonian physics and reshaped 250 years' worth of scientific assumptions. Now a panel of scientists has paused to reflect upon their personal feelings about the man and his legacy.
One unique aspect of Einstein’s genius was his proclivity for personifying nature as God, notes Professor Edward P. Tyron of the City University of New York. He admires Einstein's penchant for viewing the exploration of natural laws as something akin to reading the mind of God. Other scientists of his time adhered to the principle that matter lived only as an illusion of order in a chaotic universe.
Einstein resisted the notion. When noting elements of apparent randomness in nature, for example, Einstein commented that “God does not play dice.” Other physicists regard Einstein's referring to the Almighty as an irritating and misleading tendency. “I find myself frustrated at Einstein's constant and inappropriate use of the term “God,” when he really meant something else,” says Dr, Lawrence Krauss of Case Western University. Einstein's choice of vocabulary, in Krauss's opinion, has resulted in generations of individuals misrepre- senting his ideas.
Einstein's ability to reason through problems by probing his imagination constituted another aspect of his genius. “He exploited this iconic thinking to maximal effect with his gedankenexperiments, thought experiments involving elevators, light beams, railway cars, observers, and the like,” says Professor Christof Koch of Caltech. Although philosophers had previously used the technique, they often extracted contradictory conclusions. But because Einstein's intuitive capacity was superior, his thought experiments led to deductions that could be substantiated empirically.
Others respect Einstein's contributions to society as much as his contributions to science. “When viewed from centuries hence, notes Bran Ferren, chief creative officer of Applied Minds, “Einstein’s most significant contribution to civilization will not be as arguably the greatest physicist of the modern world but rather as an inspirational role model.” Einstein ignited the imagination of countless young minds and spurred them to attain significant achievements of their own. The sum total of their contributions to society, says Ferren, can never outweigh Einstein's individual accomplishments.