Albert Einstein, The Human Side (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
In the popular view, the image of Albert Einstein, without doubt the greatest scientific mind of our century, is that of the recluse, complete with disordered, flowing white hair and somewhat disheveled clothing. To a certain extent, that image has validity; certainly Einstein was a kind of recluse, living in a world of physics, deep in the recesses of high-level abstraction.
Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann present a different image of the man, however, an image unknown to most of us: that of “the human side” of the theoretical physicist. Dukas was Einstein’s secretary from 1928 until his death in 1955, and since then she has been a trustee of his literary estate and archivist of his papers. Hoffmann, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Queens College, CUNY, worked with Einstein on research for the general theory of relativity. A few years ago, Dukas and Hoffmann collaborated on the prizewinning biography, Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel. This time they have taken examples from Einstein’s personal correspondence to show his concerns in nonscientific as well as scientific areas.
Born in Ulm, Germany, in 1879, Einstein’s first fascination with science came as the result of a gift from his father—a compass. As its needle always pointed north, Einstein grasped both the truth of the laws of nature and the demonstrability of those laws. By the age of twelve, he was reading scientific books, and by nineteen he was studying in Zurich,...
(The entire section is 1620 words.)
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