Albert Einstein was the embodiment of pure intellect, the bumbling professor with the German accent, a comic cliche in a thousand films. Instantly recognizable, like Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, Albert Einstein’s shaggy-haired visage was as familiar to ordinary people as to the matrons who fluttered about him in salons from Berlin to Hollywood. Yet he was unfathomably profound — the genius among geniuses who discovered, merely by thinking about it, that the universe was not as it seemed.
Even now scientists marvel at the daring of general relativity (“I still can’t see how he thought of it,” said the late Richard Feynman, no slouch himself). But the great physicist was also engagingly simple, trading ties and socks for mothy sweaters and sweatshirts. He tossed off pithy aphorisms (“Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one’s living at it”) and playful doggerel as easily as equations. Viewing the hoopla over him with humorous detachment, he variously referred to himself as the Jewish saint or artist’s model. He was a cartoonist’s dream come true.
Much to his surprise, his ideas, like Darwin’s, reverberated beyond science, influencing modern culture from painting to poetry. At first even many scientists didn’t really grasp relativity, prompting Arthur Eddington’s celebrated wisecrack (asked if it was true that only three people understood relativity, the witty British astrophysicist paused, then said, “I am trying to think who the third person is”). To the world at large, relativity seemed to pull the 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 historian David Cassidy calls “the incomprehensiveness of the contemporary scene–the fall of monarchies, the upheaval of the social order, indeed, all the turbulence of the 20th century.”
The person who reads too much and uses his brain too little will fall into lazy habits of thinking.
- Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.
- Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.
- The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.
- I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
- Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.
- Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.
- Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
- The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
- We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
- Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
- Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you, mine are still greater.
- Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.
- I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
- In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep.
The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there’s no risk of accident for someone who’s dead.
- The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking…
- the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.
- Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.
Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.
- I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
- If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.
- Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.
- The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
- Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
- Try not to become just a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
- It´s not that I´m so smart; it´s just that I stay with problems longer.
- Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.
- I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
- The person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
- Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.
- If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk?
- The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
- When the solution is simple, God is answering.
- Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?
- An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.
- The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.
- Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
- When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.
- A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.
- If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.
- Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.
- It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
- Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.
- Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
- The only justifiable purpose of political institutions is to ensure the unhindered development of the individual.
- Work is the only thing that gives substance to life.
- Never lose a holy curiosity.
- When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.
- Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.