Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a theoretical physicist and humanist who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time. He is most famous for his Special and General Theories of Relativity, but contributed in other areas of physics. He won the Nobel Prize in physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. —text only version
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- A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.
- "My Future Plans" an essay written at age 17 for school exam (18 September 1896) The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 1 (1987) Doc.22
- Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Letter to Jost Winteler (1901), quoted in The Private Lives of Albert Einstein by Roger Highfield and Paul Carter (1993), p. 79. Einstein had been annoyed that Paul Drude, editor of Annalen der Physik, had dismissed out of hand some criticisms Einstein made of Drude's electron theory of metals.
- Dear Habicht, / Such a solemn air of silence has descended between us that I almost feel as if I am committing a sacrilege when I break it now with some inconsequential babble... / What are you up to, you frozen whale, you smoked, dried, canned piece of soul...?
- Opening of a letter to his friend Conrad Habicht in which he describes his four revolutionary "Annus Mirabilis" papers. (May 1905)
- E = mc²
- The equivalence of matter and energy was originally expressed by the equation m = L/c², which easily translates into the far more well known E = mc² in Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? published in the Annalen der Physik (27 September 1905) : "If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/c²."
- In a later statement explaining the ideas expressed by this equation, Einstein summarized: "It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing — a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation E = mc², in which energy is put equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa. The mass and energy were in fact equivalent, according to the formula mentioned before. This was demonstrated by Cockcroft and Walton in 1932, experimentally."
- Atomic Physics (1948) by the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, Ltd. (mp3 audio file of Einstein's voice)
- The mass of a body is a measure of its energy content.
- "Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?" ("Does the inertia of a body depend upon its energy content?"), Annalen der Physik 18, 639-641 (1905). Quoted in Concepts of Mass in Classical and Modern Physics by Max Jammer (1961), p. 177.
- We shall therefore assume the complete physical equivalence of a gravitational field and a corresponding acceleration of the reference system.
- Statement of the equivalence principle in Yearbook of Radioactivity and Electronics (1907)
- Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension.
- Letter to H. Zangger (10 March 1914), quoted in The Curious History of Relativity by Jean Eisenstaedt (2006), p. 126.
- Variant: "Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size." As quoted by Abraham Pais in Subtle is the Lord:The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (1982), p. 235. ISBN 0-192-80672-6
- In living through this "great epoch," it is difficult to reconcile oneself to the fact that one belongs to that mad, degenerate species that boasts of its free will. How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will! In such a place even I should be an ardent patriot!
- Letter to Paul Ehrenfest, early December 1914. Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol 8, Doc. 39. Quoted in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p.3.
- How does it happen that a properly endowed natural scientist comes to concern himself with epistemology? Is there not some more valuable work to be done in his specialty? That's what I hear many of my colleagues ask, and I sense it from many more. But I cannot share this sentiment. When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching — that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness — I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology. They happily began discussions about the goals and methods of science, and they showed unequivocally, through tenacious defense of their views, that the subject seemed important to them.
Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve such authority over us that we forget their earthly origins and accept them as unalterable givens. [Begriffe, welche sich bei der Ordnung der Dinge als nützlich erwiesen haben, erlangen über uns leicht eine solche Autorität, dass wir ihres irdischen Ursprungs vergessen und sie als unabänderliche Gegebenheiten hinnehmen.] Thus they might come to be stamped as "necessities of thought," "a priori givens," etc. The path of scientific progress is often made impassable for a long time by such errors. [Der Weg des wissenschaftlichen Fortschritts wird durch solche Irrtümer oft für längere Zeit ungangbar gemacht.] Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analysing long-held commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up, individually, out of the givens of experience. Thus their excessive authority will be broken. They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with given things be far too superfluous, or replaced if a new system can be established that we prefer for whatever reason.
- p. 101
- Obituary for physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (Nachruf auf Ernst Mach), Physikalische Zeitschrift 17 (1916)
- Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.
- Letter to H. Zangger (1917). Quoted in A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman (2005), p. 110, and in Albert Einstein: A Biography by Albrecht Fölsing (1997), p. 399.
- Sometimes paraphrased as "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
- I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.
- Letter to Alfred Kneser (7 June 1918); Doc. 560 in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 8
- I have also considered many scientific plans during my pushing you around in your pram!
- Letter to his son Hans Albert Einstein (June 1918)
- Make a lot of walks to get healthy and don’t read that much but save yourself some until you’re grown up.
- Letter to his son Eduard Einstein (June 1918)
- Dear mother! Today a joyful notice. H. A. Lorentz has telegraphed me that the English expeditions have really proven the deflection of light at the sun.
- Postcard to his mother Pauline Einstein (1919)
- By an application of the theory of relativity to the taste of readers, today in Germany I am called a German man of science, and in England I am represented as a Swiss Jew. If I come to be represented as a bête noire, the descriptions will be reversed, and I shall become a Swiss Jew for the Germans and a German man of science for the English!
- "Einstein On His Theory", The Times (London), 28 November 1919 , quoted in Herman Bernstein: Celebrities of Our Time. New York 1924. p. 267 archive.org. Einstein's original German text in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. Volume 7. Doc. 25 p. 210, and at germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org after Albert Einstein, Mein Weltbild. Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934, p. 220-28. Manuscript at alberteinstein.info.
- Variant: If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew. (Address to the French Philosophical Society at the Sorbonne (6 April 1922); French press clipping (7 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 36-378] and Berliner Tageblatt (8 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 79-535])
- Variant translation: If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will say I am a man of the world. If it's proven wrong, France will say I am a German and Germany will say I am a Jew.
- Variant: If relativity is proved right the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.
- How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he'll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.
- Poem by Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton UP 1999, p. 43; Original German manuscript "Zu Spinozas Ethik" Einstein Archives 31-18.00
- We may assume the existence of an aether; only we must give up ascribing a definite state of motion to it, i.e. we must by abstraction take from it the last mechanical characteristic which Lorentz had still left it. … But this ether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable inedia, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it.
- On the irrelevance of the luminiferous aether hypothesis to physical measurements, in an address at the University of Leiden (5 May 1920)
- I am neither a German citizen, nor do I believe in anything that can be described as a "Jewish faith." But I am a Jew and glad to belong to the Jewish people, though I do not regard it in any way as chosen.
- Letter to Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, 3  April 1920, as quoted in Alice Calaprice, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010), p. 195; citing Israelitisches Wochenblatt, 42 September 1920, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 7, Doc. 37, and Vol. 9, Doc 368.
- Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht.
- Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.
- Remark made during Einstein's first visit to Princeton University. (April 1921)] as quoted in Einstein (1973) by R.W. Clark, Ch. 14. "God is slick, but he ain’t mean" is a variant translation of this (1946) Unsourced variant: "God is subtle but he is not malicious."
- When asked what he meant by this he replied. "Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse." (Die Natur verbirgt ihr Geheimnis durch die Erhabenheit ihres Wesens, aber nicht durch List.) As quoted in Subtle is the Lord — The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982) by Abraham Pais einsteinandreligion.com
- Originally said to Princeton University mathematics professor Oscar Veblen, May 1921, while Einstein was in Princeton for a series of lectures, upon hearing that an experimental result by Dayton C. Miller of Cleveland, if true, would contradict his theory of gravitation. But the claimed discrepancy was quite small and required special circumstances (hence Einsteins's remark). The result turned out to be false. Some say by this remark Einstein meant that Nature hides her secrets by being subtle, while others say he meant that nature is mischievous but not bent on trickery. [The Yale Book of Quotations, ed. Fred R. Shapiro, 2006]
- Variant translation: God may be sophisticated, but he's not malicious.
- As quoted in Cherished Illusions (2005) by Sarah Stern, p. 109
- I have second thoughts. Maybe God is malicious.
- Said to Vladimir Bargmann, as quoted in Einstein in America (1985) by Jamie Sayen , indicating that God leads people to believe they understand things that they actually are far from understanding; also in The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), ed. Fred R. Shapiro
- When a man after long years of searching chances on a thought which discloses something of the beauty of this mysterious universe, he should not therefore be personally celebrated. He is already sufficiently paid by his experience of seeking and finding. In science, moreover, the work of the individual is so bound up with that of his scientific predecessors and contemporaries that it appears almost as an impersonal product of his generation.
- From the story "The Progress of Science" in The Scientific Monthly edited by J. McKeen Cattell (June 1921), Vol. XII, No. 6. The story says that the comments were made at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences at the National Museum in Washington on April 25, 26, and 27. Einstein's comments appear on p. 579, though the story may be paraphrasing rather than directly quoting since it says "In reply Professor Einstein in substance said" the quote above.
- [I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. ...The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.
- In response to not knowing the speed of sound as included in the Edison Test: New York Times (18 May 1921); Einstein: His Life and Times (1947) Philipp Frank, p. 185; Einstein, A Life (1996) by Denis Brian, p. 129; "Einstein Due Today" (February 2005) edited by József Illy, Manuscript 25-32 of the Einstein Paper Project; all previous sources as per Einstein His Life and Universe (2007) by Walter Isaacson, p. 299
- Unsourced variants: "I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book" and "Never memorize what you can look up in books." (The second version is found in"Recording the Experience" (10 June 2004) at The Library of Congress, but no citation to Einstein's writings is given.)
- I was sitting in a chair in the patent office at Bern when all of sudden a thought occurred to me: If a person falls freely he will not feel his own weight. I was startled. This simple thought made a deep impression on me. It impelled me toward a theory of gravitation.
- Einstein in his Kyoto address (14 December 1922), talking about the events of "probably the 2nd or 3rd weeks" of October 1907, quoted in Why Did Einstein Put So Much Emphasis on the Equivalence Principle? by Dr. Robert J. Heaston in Equivalence Principle – April 2008 (15th NPA Conference) who cites A. Einstein. “How I Constructed the Theory of Relativity,” Translated by Masahiro Morikawa from the text recorded in Japanese by Jun Ishiwara, Association of Asia Pacific Physical Societies (AAPPS) Bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 17-19 (April 2005).
- May they not forget to keep pure the great heritage that puts them ahead of the West: the artistic configuration of life, the simplicity and modesty of personal needs, and the purity and serenity of the Japanese soul.
- Comment made after a six-week trip to Japan in November-December 1922, published in Kaizo 5, no. 1 (January 1923), 339. Einstein Archive 36-477.1. Appears in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 269.
- Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the "old one." I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.
- Letter to Max Born (4 December 1926); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7.
- Einstein himself used variants of this quote at other times. For example, in a 1943 conversation with William Hermanns recorded in Hermanns' book Einstein and the Poet, Einstein said: "As I have said so many times, God doesn't play dice with the world." (p. 58)
- Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.
- Objecting to the placing of observables at the heart of the new quantum mechanics, during Heisenberg's 1926 lecture at Berlin; related by Heisenberg, quoted in Unification of Fundamental Forces (1990) by Abdus Salam ISBN 0521371406
- Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.
- p.157 London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
- Response to atheist Alfred Kerr in the winter of 1927, who after deriding ideas of God and religion at a dinner party in the home of the publisher Samuel Fischer, had queried him "I hear that you are supposed to be deeply religious" as quoted in The Diary of a Cosmopolitan (1971) by H. G. Kessler
- Ich glaube an Spinozas Gott, der sich in der gesetzlichen Harmonie des Seienden offenbart, nicht an einen Gott, der sich mit Schicksalen und Handlungen der Menschen abgibt.
- Translation: I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
- 24 April 1929 in response to the telegrammed question of New York's Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein: "Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words." Einstein replied in only 27 (German) words. The New York Times 25 April 1929
- Expanding on this he later wrote: "I can understand your aversion to the use of the term 'religion' to describe an emotional and psychological attitude which shows itself most clearly in Spinoza... I have not found a better expression than 'religious' for the trust in the rational nature of reality that is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to human reason."
- As quoted in Einstein : Science and Religion by Arnold V. Lesikar
- If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.
- Said to Samuel J Woolf, Berlin, Summer 1929. Cited with additional notes in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice and Freeman Dyson, Princeton UP (2010) p 230
- Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
- Letter to his son Eduard (5 February 1930), as quoted in Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), p. 367
- I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it.
- The really good music, whether of the East or of the West, cannot be analyzed.
- Interview with Rabindranath Tagore (14 April 1930), published in The Religion of Man (1930) by Rabindranath Tagore, p. 222, and in The Tagore Reader (1971) edited by Amiya Chakravarty
- To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.
- Aphorism for a friend (18 September 1930) [Einstein Archive 36-598]; as quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel (1988) by Banesh Hoffman
- I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.
- Attributed in The Encarta Book of Quotations to an interview on the Belgenland (December 1930), which was the ship on which he arrived in New York that month. According to The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2010), p. 18, the quote also appears as "Aphorism, 1945-1946" in the Einstein Archives 36-570. Calaprice speculates that "perhaps it was recalled later and inserted into the archives under the later date." According to a snippet on google books, the phrase '"I never think of the future," he said. "It comes soon enough."' appears in The Literary Digest: Volume 107 on p. 29, in an article titled "We May Not 'Get' Relativity, But We Like Einstein" from 27 December 1930. The snippet also discusses the "welcome to Professor Einstein on the Belgenland" in New York.
- Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. You cannot subjugate a nation forcibly unless you wipe out every man, woman, and child. Unless you wish to use such drastic measures, you must find a way of settling your disputes without resort to arms.
- From a speech to the New History Society (14 December 1930), reprinted in "Militant Pacifism" in Cosmic Religion (1931). Also found in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice, p. 158.
- It is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.
- From a letter to Harmann Huth, 27 December 1930. Supposedly published in German magazine Vegetarische Warte, which existed from 1882 to 1935. Einstein Archive 46-756. Quoted in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 281.
- Der Glaube an eine vom wahrnehmenden Subjekt unabhängige Außenwelt liegt aller Naturwissenschaft zugrunde.
- First sentence of "Maxwells Einfluss auf die Entwicklung der Auffassung des Physikalisch-Realen". Manuscript at the Hebrew University Jerusalem alberteinstein.info
- The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science.
- From "Maxwell's Influence on the Evolution of the Idea of Physical Reality," 1931. Available in Einstein Archives: 65-382.
- The scientific organization and comprehensive exposition in accessible form of the Talmud has a twofold importance for us Jews. It is important in the first place that the high cultural values of the Talmud should not be lost to modern minds among the Jewish people nor to science, but should operate further as a living force. In the second place, The Talmud must be made an open book to the world, in order to cut the ground from under certain malevolent attacks, of anti-Semitic origin, which borrow countenance from the obscurity and inaccessibility of certain passages in the Talmud.
To support this cultural work would thus mean an important achievement for the Jewish people.
- From a letter by Albert Einstein to Professor Chaim Tchernowitz (31 December 1930) of the Jewish Institute of Religion in New York (Hebrew Union College). Jewish Telegraphic Agency (Jewish Daily Bulletin)
- I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
- Interview with George Sylvester Viereck (January 1931)
- Why does this magnificent applied science which saves work and makes life easier bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it. In war it serves that we may poison and mutilate each other. In peace it has made our lives hurried and uncertain. Instead of freeing us in great measure from spiritually exhausting labor, it has made men into slaves of machinery, who for the most part complete their monotonous long day's work with disgust and must continually tremble for their poor rations. ... It is not enough that you should understand about applied science in order that your work may increase man's blessings. Concern for the man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours; concern for the great unsolved problems of the organization of labor and the distribution of goods in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.
- Quote from a speech to students at the California Institute of Technology, in "Einstein Sees Lack in Applying Science", The New York Times (16 February 1931).
- Today, in twelve countries, young men are resisting conscription and refusing military service. They are the pioneers of a warless world.
- I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.
- Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms (1931) by Albert Einstein, p. 97; also in Transformation : Arts, Communication, Environment (1950) by Harry Holtzman, p. 138. This may be an edited version of some nearly identical quotes from the 1929 Viereck interview below.
- Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas; he must burst it open, and that in his youth, and so try to test his ideas on reality.
- Miscellaneous, Cosmic Religion, p. 104 (1931)
- I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one ?
- From Cosmic religion: with other opinions and aphorisms (1931), Albert Einstein, pub. Covici-Friede. Quoted in The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (May 30, 2000); Page 208, ISBN 0691070210
- For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible. Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have any hold on him.
- As quoted in Has Science Discovered God? : A Symposium of Modern Scientific Opinion (1931) by Edward Howe Cotton, p. 101
- As an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents... I congratulate you on the great successes of your life's work.
- Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
- In answer to a question asked by the editors of Youth, a journal of Young Israel of Williamsburg, NY. Quoted in the New York Times, June 20, 1932, pg. 17.
- Unsourced variant: Only a life in the service of others is worth living.
- Our experience hitherto justifies us in trusting that nature is the realization of the simplest that is mathematically conceivable. I am convinced that purely mathematical construction enables us to find those concepts and those lawlike connections between them that provide the key to the understanding of natural phenomena. Useful mathematical concepts may well be suggested by experience, but in no way can they be derived from it. Experience naturally remains the sole criterion of the usefulness of a mathematical construction for physics. But the actual creative principle lies in mathematics. Thus, in a certain sense, I take it to be true that pure thought can grasp the real, as the ancients had dreamed.
- from On the Method of Theoretical Physics, p. 183. The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933). Quoted in Einstein's Philosophy of Science
- It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.
- "On the Method of Theoretical Physics" The Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford (10 June 1933); also published in Philosophy of Science, Vol. 1, No. 2 (April 1934), pp. 163-169., p. 165. [thanks to Dr. Techie @ www.wordorigins.org and JSTOR]
- There is a quote attributed to Einstein that may have arisen as a paraphrase of the above quote, commonly given as “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” or “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.” See this article from the Quote Investigator for a discussion of where these later variants may have arisen.
- This may seem very similar to Occam's razor which advocates the simplest solution. However, it is normally taken to be a warning against too much simplicity. Dubbed 'Einstein's razor', it is used when an appeal to Occam's razor results in an over-simplified explanation that leads to a false conclusion.
- The earliest known appearance of Einstein's razor is an essay by Roger Sessions in the New York Times (8 January 1950), where Sessions appears to be paraphrasing Einstein: “I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler.”
- Another early appearance, from Time magazine (14 December 1962): “We try to keep in mind a saying attributed to Einstein—that everything must be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”
- There is not the slightest indication that [nuclear energy] will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.
- "Atom Energy Hope is Spiked By Einstein / Efforts at Loosing Vast Force is Called Fruitless," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (29 December 1934) It was following the breakthroughs by Enrico Fermi and others did the use of nuclear power become plausible.
- I never failed in mathematics. Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.
- Response to being shown a "Ripley's Believe It or Not!" column with the headline "Greatest Living Mathematician Failed in Mathematics" in 1935. Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (2007), p. 16.
- All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.
- "Physics and Reality" in the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 221, Issue 3 (March 1936)
- Variant translation: "The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking." As it appears in the "Physics and Reality" section of the book "Out of My Later Years" by Albert Einstein (1950).
- It has often been said, and certainly not without justification, that the man of science is a poor philosopher. Why then should it not be the right thing for the physicist to let the philosopher do the philosophizing? Such might indeed be the right thing to do a time when the physicist believes he has at his disposal a rigid system of fundamental laws which are so well established that waves of doubt can't reach them; but it cannot be right at a time when the very foundations of physics itself have become problematic as they are now. At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation, the physicist cannot simply surrender to the philosopher the critical contemplation of theoretical foundations; for he himself knows best and feels more surely where the shoe pinches. In looking for an new foundation, he must try to make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities.
- "Physics and Reality" in the Journal of the Franklin Institute Vol. 221, Issue 3 (March 1936), Pages 349-382
- One may say "the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."
- From the article "Physics and Reality" (1936), reprinted in Out of My Later Years (1956). The quotation marks may just indicate that he wants to present this as a new aphorism, but it could possibly indicate that he is paraphrasing or quoting someone else — perhaps Immanuel Kant, since in the next sentence he says "It is one of the great realizations of Immanuel Kant that the setting up of a real external world would be senseless without this comprehensibility."
- The eternally incomprehensible thing about the world is its comprehensibility.
- In the endnotes to Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, note 46 on p. 628 says that "Gerald Holton says that this is more properly translated" as the variant above, citing Holton's essay "What Precisely is Thinking?" on p. 161 of Einstein: A Centenary Volume edited by Anthony Philip French.
- The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.
- This version was given in Einstein: A Biography (1954) by Antonina Vallentin, p. 24, and widely quoted afterwards. Vallentin cites "Physics and Reality" in Journal of the Franklin Institute (March 1936), and is possibly giving a variant translation as with Holton.
- The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.
- As quoted in Speaking of Science (2000) by Michael Fripp
- The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility ... The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.
- As quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 462. In the original essay "The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle" appears at the end of the paragraph that follows the paragraph in which "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility" appears.
- From the article "Physics and Reality" (1936), reprinted in Out of My Later Years (1956). The quotation marks may just indicate that he wants to present this as a new aphorism, but it could possibly indicate that he is paraphrasing or quoting someone else — perhaps Immanuel Kant, since in the next sentence he says "It is one of the great realizations of Immanuel Kant that the setting up of a real external world would be senseless without this comprehensibility."
- All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom. It is no mere chance that our older universities developed from clerical schools. Both churches and universities — insofar as they live up to their true function — serve the ennoblement of the individual. They seek to fulfill this great task by spreading moral and cultural understanding, renouncing the use of brute force.
The essential unity of ecclesiastical and secular institutions was lost during the 19th century, to the point of senseless hostility. Yet there was never any doubt as to the striving for culture. No one doubted the sacredness of the goal. It was the approach that was disputed.
- "Moral Decay" (1937); Later published in Out of My Later Years (1950)
- By the way, there are increasing signs that the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the revolution. Though we find it difficult to imagine this kind of internal thing, those who know Russia best are all more or less of the same opinion. I was firmly convinced to begin with that it was a case of a dictator's despotic acts, based on lies and deception, but this was a delusion.
- Letter to Max Born (no date, 1937 or 1938); The Born-Einstein Letters (translated by Irene Born) (Walker and Company, New York, 1971) ISBN 0-8027-0326-7. Born commented: "The Russian trials were Stalin's purges, with which he attempted to consolidate his power. Like most people in the West, I believed these show trials to be the arbitrary acts of a cruel dictator. Einstein was apparently of a different opinion: he believed that when threatened by Hitler the Russians had no choice but to destroy as many of their enemies within their own camp as possible. I find it hard to reconcile this point of view with Einstein's gentle, humanitarian disposition."
- I consider it important, indeed urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and, also, generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.
- In a comment explaining why he joined the American Federation of Teachers local number 552 as a charter member (1938)
- Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility or the meaning of such a comparison. But he certainly believes that, as his knowledge increases, his picture of reality will become simpler and simpler and will explain a wider and wider range of his sensuous impressions. He may also believe in the existence of the ideal limit of knowledge and that it is approached by the human mind. He may call this ideal limit the objective truth.
- The Evolution of Physics (1938) (co-written with Leopold Infeld)
- Fundamental ideas play the most essential role in forming a physical theory. Books on physics are full of complicated mathematical formulae. But thought and ideas, not formulae, are the beginning of every physical theory. The ideas must later take the mathematical form of a quantitative theory, to make possible the comparison with experiment.
- The Evolution of Physics (1938) (co-written with Leopold Infeld)
- The moral decline we are compelled to witness and the suffering it engenders are so oppressive that one cannot ignore them even for a moment. No matter how deeply one immerses oneself in work, a haunting feeling of inescapable tragedy persists. Still, there are moments when one feels free from one's own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments, one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable: life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only being.
- Letter to Queen Mother Elisabeth of Belgium (9 January 1939), asking for her help in getting an elderly cousin of his out of Germany and into Belgium. Quoted in Einstein on Peace edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (1960), p. 282.
- The standard bearers have grown weak in the defense of their priceless heritage, and the powers of darkness have been strengthened thereby. Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character; it becomes lack of power to act with courage proportionate to danger. All this must lead to the destruction of our intellectual life unless the danger summons up strong personalities able to fill the lukewarm and discouraged with new strength and resolution.
- Speech made in honor of Thomas Mann in January 1939, when Mann was given the Einstein Prize given by the Jewish Forum. Quoted in Einstein Lived Here by Abraham Pais (1994), p. 214.
- Generations to come, it may well be, will scarce believe that such a man as this one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this Earth.
- Statement on the occasion of Gandhi's 70th birthday (1939) Einstein archive 32-601, published in Out of My Later Years (1950).
- Variant: Generations to come, it may be, will scarcely believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.
- Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration...
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable—though much less certain—that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat or exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
- Letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt (August 2, 1939, delivered October 11, 1939); reported in Einstein on Peace, ed. Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (1960, reprinted 1981), pp. 294–95.
- Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.
- Letter to Morris Raphael Cohen, professor emeritus of philosophy at the College of the City of New York, defending the appointment of Bertrand Russell to a teaching position (19 March 1940).
- Variant: Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thoughts in clear form.
- Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem—in my opinion—to characterize our age.
- "The Common Language of Science", a broadcast for Science, Conference, London, 28 September 1941. Published in Advancement of Science, London, Vol. 2, No. 5. Reprinted in Ideas and Opinions (1954), the quote appearing on this page.
- People like you and I, though mortal of course like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live...[We] never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.
- In a letter to Otto Juliusburger, September 29, 1942. Available in Einstein Archives 38-238.
- Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
- Letter to high school student Barbara Lee Wilson (7 January 1943), Einstein Archives 42-606
- Why is it nobody understands me and everybody likes me?
- As quoted in New York Times article "The Einstein Theory of Living; At 65 he leads the simplest of lives — and grapples with the most complex thoughts." (12 March 1944)
- Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me?
- As quoted in The Dark Side of Shakespeare : An Elizabethan Courtier, Diplomat, Spymaster, & Epic Hero (2003) by W. Ron Hess
- Everyone likes me, yet nobody understands me.
- As quoted in "The culture of Einstein" at MSNBC (18 March 2005)
- I think that it is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs.
- I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like someone who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.
- The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thoughts are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be "voluntarily" reproduced and combined. There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above-mentioned elements. . . . The above-mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.
- Answer to a survey written by the French mathematician Jaques Hadamard, from Hadamard's An Essay on the Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (1945). Reprinted in Ideas and Opinions (1954). His full set of answers to the questions can be read on p. 3 here.
- I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.
- Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (2 July 1945), responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert to Christianity, quoted in an article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2, (1997)
- Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.
- From the article "Atomic Education Urged by Einstein", The New York Times (25 May 1946). The article reported on a telegram sent out by Einstein to "several hundred prominent Americans", asking for contributions to a nationwide campaign by the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists to "to let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential" in the age of atomic weapons.
- According to "A Brief History of the Bulletin from the former homepage of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 'In May 1946, Einstein, one of the Bulletin's godfathers, wrote in an early Bulletin fund-raising letter: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."'
- Variant: "Our world is faced with a crisis which has never before been envisaged in its whole existence; it gives the power to make far-reaching decisions on good and evil. The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking, and thus we are being driven unarmed towards a catastrophe. ... the solution of this problem lies in the heart of humankind."
- This version appears in Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography by Carl Seelig, the English translation by Mervyn Savill (1956), p. 223. It may be that the difference in wording here owes to the fact that Seelig translated Einstein's English telegram into German, and then Mervyn Savill translated it back into English without realizing the version in Seelig's book was itself a translation from English. If this is the case, it is unclear where the phrase "the solution of this problem lies in the heart of humankind" came from, as it does not seem to correspond to anything in the original telegram. It may be a variant of some comment that appeared in his later interview with Michael Amrine (which was printed in the New York Times Magazine on 23 June 1946, and is also reproduced on this page) where he expanded on the message of the telegraph; for example, it may be a retranslated version of his comment "Science has brought forth this danger, but the real problem is in the minds and hearts of men."
- It is easier to denature plutonium than it is to denature the evil spirit of man.
- A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.
- From "Atomic Education Urged by Einstein", New York Times (25 May 1946), and later quoted in the article "The Real Problem is in the Hearts of Man" by Michael Amrine, from the New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946). A slightly modified version of the 23 June article was reprinted in Einstein on Peace by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (1960), and it was also reprinted in Einstein on Politics by David E. Rowe and Robert Schulmann (2007), p. 383.
- In The New Quotable Einstein (2005), editor Alice Calaprice suggests that two quotes attributed to Einstein which she could not find sources for, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them" and "The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them," may both be paraphrases of the 1946 quote above. A similar unsourced variant is "The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."
- In the 23 June article Einstein expanded somewhat on the original quote from the 25 May article:
- Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels."
- Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we knew it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.
- In the light of new knowledge, a world authority and an eventual world state are not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, they are necessary for survival. In previous ages a nation's life and culture could be protected to some extent by the growth of armies in national competition. Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
- The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessary solving of an existing one. One could say it has affected us quantitatively, not qualitatively.
- As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable.
- From "Einstein on the Atomic Bomb," part 1, an interview by Raymond Swing in Atlantic Monthly (November 1945).
- The position in which we are now is a very strange one which in general political life never happened. Namely, the thing that I refer to is this: To have security against atomic bombs and against the other biological weapons, we have to prevent war, for if we cannot prevent war every nation will use every means that is at their disposal; and in spite of all promises they make, they will do it. At the same time, so long as war is not prevented, all the governments of the nations have to prepare for war, and if you have to prepare for war, then you are in a state where you cannot abolish war.
This is really the cornerstone of our situation. Now, I believe what we should try to bring about is the general conviction that the first thing you have to abolish is war at all costs, and every other point of view must be of secondary importance.
- Address to the symposium "The Social Task of the Scientist in the Atomic Era" at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (17 November 1946)
- You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. The very prevention of war requires more faith, courage and resolution than are needed to prepare for war. We must all do our share, that we may be equal to the task of peace.
- Message sent to Congressman Robert Hale of Portland, Maine (4 December 1946), to be used at a world government meeting in Portland on 11 December. Quoted in Einstein on Peace edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (1960), p. 397.
- Er ist eine Skala der Proportionen, die das Schlechte schwierig und das Gute leicht macht.
- Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger.
- Discussing the letter he sent Roosevelt raising the possibility of atomic weapons. from "Atom: Einstein, the Man Who Started It All," Newsweek Magazine (10 March 1947)
- When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
- Cited as conversation between Einstein and János Plesch in János : The Story of a Doctor (1947), by János Plesch, translated by Edward FitzGerald
- I agree with your remark about loving your enemy as far as actions are concerned. But for me the cognitive basis is the trust in an unrestricted causality. "I cannot hate him, because he must do what he does." That means for me more Spinoza than the prophets.
- On the Christian maxim "Love thy enemy", in a letter to Michele Besso (6 January 1948)
- I just want to explain what I mean when I say that we should try to hold on to physical reality.
We are ... all aware of the situation regarding what will turn out to be the basic foundational concepts in physics: the point-mass or the particle is surely not among them; the field, in the Faraday-Maxwell sense, might be, but not with certainty. But that which we conceive as existing ("real") should somehow be localized in time and space. That is, the real in one part of space, A, should (in theory) somehow "exist" independently of that which is thought of as real in another part of space, B. If a physical system stretches over A and B, then what is present in B should somehow have an existence independent of what is present in A. What is actually present in B should thus not depend the type of measurement carried out in the part of space A; it should also be independent of whether or not a measurement is made in A.
If one adheres to this program, then one can hardly view the quantum-theoretical description as a complete representation of the physically real. If one attempts, nevertheless, so to view it, then one must assume that the physically real in B undergoes a sudden change because of a measurement in A. My physical instincts bristle at that suggestion.
However, if one renounces the assumption that what is present in different parts of space has an independent, real existence, then I don't see at all what physics is supposed to be describing. For what is thought to be a "system" is after all, just conventional, and I do not see how one is supposed to divide up the world objectively so that one can make statements about parts.
- "What must be an essential feature of any future fundamental physics?" Letter to Max Born (March 1948); published in Albert Einstein-Hedwig und Max Born (1969) "Briefwechsel 1916-55", and in Potentiality, Entanglement and Passion-at-a-Distance: Quantum Mechanical Studies for Abner Shimony, Volume Two edited by Robert Cohen, Michael Horn, and John Stachel (1997), p. 121.
- Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.
- As quoted by Virgil Henshaw in Albert Einstein : Philosopher Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp
- Since the mathematicians have invaded the theory of relativity, I do not understand it myself anymore.
- As quoted in the essay "To Albert Einstein's Seventieth Birthday" by Arnold Sommerfeld, in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp (p. 102). The essay, originally published as "Zum Siebzigsten Geburtstag Albert Einsteins" in Deutsche Beiträge (Eine Zweimonatsschrift) Vol III, No 2, 1949, was translated specifically for the book by Schilpp.
- I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth — rocks!
- As quoted in an interview with Alfred Werner, published in Liberal Judaism 16 (April-May 1949), 12. Einstein Archive 30-1104, as sourced in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 173.
- Differing versions of such a statement are attributed to conversations as early as 1948 (e.g. The Rotarian, 72 (6), June 1948, p. 9: "I don't know. But I can tell you what they'll use in the fourth. They'll use rocks!"). Another variant ('I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones') is attributed to an unidentified letter to Harry S. Truman in "The culture of Einstein" by Alex Johnson, MSNBC, (18 April 2005). However, prior to 1948 very similar quotes were attributed in various articles to an unnamed army lieutenant, as discussed at Quote Investigator : "The Futuristic Weapons of WW3 Are Unknown, But WW4 Will Be Fought With Stones and Spears". The earliest found was from “Quote and Unquote: Raising ‘Alarmist’ Cry Brings a Winchell Reply” by Walter Winchell, in the Wisconsin State Journal (23 September 1946), p. 6, Col. 3. In this article Winchell wrote:
Joe Laitin reports that reporters at Bikini were questioning an army lieutenant about what weapons would be used in the next war.
“I dunno,” he said, “but in the war after the next war, sure as Hell, they’ll be using spears!”
- It seems plausible, therefore, that Einstein may have been quoting or paraphrasing an expression which he had heard or read elsewhere.
- A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience.
- I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.
- Letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 September 1949), from article by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic magazine, Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997)
- The reciprocal relationship of epistemology and science is of noteworthy kind. They are dependent on each other. Epistemology without contact with science becomes an empty scheme. Science without epistemology is — insofar as it is thinkable at all — primitive and muddled. However, no sooner has the epistemologist, who is seeking a clear system, fought his way through to such a system, than he is inclined to interpret the thought-content of science in the sense of his system and to reject whatever does not fit into his system. The scientist, however, cannot afford to carry his striving for epistemological systematic that far. He accepts gratefully the epistemological conceptual analysis; but the external conditions, which are set for him by the facts of experience, do not permit him to let himself be too much restricted in the construction of his conceptual world by the adherence to an epistemological system. He therefore must appear to the systematic epistemologist as a type of unscrupulous opportunist: he appears as realist insofar as he seeks to describe a world independent of the acts of perception; as idealist insofar as he looks upon the concepts and theories as free inventions of the human spirit (not logically derivable from what is empirically given); as positivist insofar as he considers his concepts and theories justified only to the extent to which they furnish a logical representation of relations among sensory experiences. He may even appear as Platonist or Pythagorean insofar as he considers the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensible and effective tool of his research.
- Contribution in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, P.A. Schilpp, ed. (The Library of Living Philosophers, Evanston, IL (1949), p. 684). Quoted in Einstein's Philosophy of Science.
- Striving for peace and preparing for war are incompatible with each other, and in our time more so than ever.
- From a 16 June 1950 U.N. radio interview, the transcript of which appears in the section "The Pursuit of Peace" in his book Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- Taken on the whole, I would believe that Gandhi's views were the most enlightened of all the political men in our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit... not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in what we believe is evil.
- United Nations radio interview recorded in Einstein's study, Princeton, New Jersey, (1950)
- A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
- Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972). However, The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (Princeton University Press, 2005: ISBN 0691120749), p. 206, has a different and presumably more accurate version of this letter, which she dates to February 12, 1950 and describes as "a letter to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words":
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.
- Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972). However, The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (Princeton University Press, 2005: ISBN 0691120749), p. 206, has a different and presumably more accurate version of this letter, which she dates to February 12, 1950 and describes as "a letter to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words":
- I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.
- Statement upon joining the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club. (1950)
- I believe, indeed, that overemphasis on the purely intellectual attitude, often directed solely to the practical and factual, in our education, has led directly to the impairment of ethical values. I am not thinking so much of the dangers with which technical progress has directly confronted mankind, as of the stifling of mutual human considerations by a "matter-of-fact" habit of thought which has come to lie like a killing frost upon human relations. ... The frightful dilemma of the political world situation has much to do with this sin of omission on the part of our civilization. Without "ethical culture," there is no salvation for humanity.
- "The Need for Ethical Culture" celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Ethical Culture Society, founded by Felix Adler (5 January 1951) (the full remarks can be found in Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein and Carl Seelig).
- One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike—and yet it is the most precious thing we have.
- Letter to Hans Muehsam (9 July 1951), Einstein Archives 38-408, quoted in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein (2010) by Alice Calaprice, p. 404
- I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
- Letter to Carl Seelig (11 March 1952), Einstein Archives 39-013
- A truly rational theory would allow us to deduce the elementary particles (electron,etc.) and not be forced to state them a priori.
- Letter to Michele Besso (10 September 1952), Letter n°190, Correspondance, 1903-1955, by Pierre Speziali, Michele Angelo Besso, published by Hermann, 1972
- It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community. These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not—or at least not in the main—through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the "humanities" as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history and philosophy.
- "Education for Independent Thought" in The New York Times, 5 October 1952. Reprinted in Ideas and Opinions (1954).
- I think that only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.
- Letter to Michele Besso (8 October 1952). According to Scientifically speaking: a dictionary of quotations, Volume 1, p. 154, the letter is reprinted on p. 487 of Correspondance 1903-1955 by Michele Besso.
- What lead me more or less directly to the special theory of relativity was the conviction that the electromotive force acting on a body in motion in a magnetic field was nothing else but an electric field.
- Letter to the Michelson Commemorative Meeting of the Cleveland Physics Society (1952), as quoted by R.S.Shankland, Am J Phys 32, 16 (1964), p35, republished in A P French, Special Relativity, ISBN 0177710756
- The strange thing about growing old is that the intimate identification with the here and now is slowly lost; one feels transposed into infinity, more or less alone, no longer in hope or fear, only observing.
- Letter to Queen Mother Elisabeth of Belgium (12 January 1953), Einstein Archive 32-405. Quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel by Banesh Hoffman (1973), p. 261, and also partially quoted (with a reference to the exact date of the letter) in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (2007), p. 536.
- What I particularly admire in him is the firm stand he has taken, not only against the oppressors of his countrymen, but also against those opportunists who are always ready to compromise with the Devil. He perceives very clearly that the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.
- Einstein's tribute to Pablo Casals (30 March 1953), in Conversations with Casals (1957), page 11, by Josep Maria Corredor, translated from Conversations avec Pablo Casals : souvenirs et opinions d'un musicien (1955).
- Variant: The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.
- Variant: The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.
- Development of Western Science is based on two great achievements, the invention of the formal logical system (in Euclidean geometry) by the Greek philosophers, and the discovery of the possibility to find out causal relationships by systematic experiment (Renaissance). In my opinion one has not to be astonished that the Chinese sages have not made these steps. The astonishing thing is that these discoveries were made at all.
- It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.
- Appears in Ideas and Opinions in the section "Address on Receiving Lord & Taylor Award" (4 May 1953)
- To think with fear of the end of one's life is pretty general with human beings. It is one of the means nature uses to conserve the life of the species. Approached rationally that fear is the most unjustified of all fears, for there is no risk of any accidents to one who is dead or not yet born. In short, the fear is stupid but it cannot be helped.
- Letter to Eileen Danniheisser (1953), quoted in Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel by Banesh Hoffman (1973), p. 261. The exact date, or the name of his correspondent, is not given in the snippet of the book available online, but the quote appears after the letter to the Queen of Belgium from 12 January 1953, and is prefaced by "Nine months later, in words that recall the beliefs of an early atomic speculator, the Roman poet Lucretius, Einstein had written to an inquirer", followed by the quote. The name "Eileen Danniheisser" is given in Time: Volume 144, where it is mentioned in the snippets here and here that she had written Einstein "about her obsessive thoughts of death as a child".
- The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them.
- Gutkind Letter (3 January 1954), "Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion relatively clear". The Guardian. 13 May 2008.
- In long intervals I have expressed an opinion on public issues whenever they appeared to me so bad and unfortunate that silence would have made me feel guilty of complicity.
- From an address to the Chicago Decalogue Society (20 February 1954), reprinted in a section titled "Human Rights" in Ideas and Opinions.
- It is my belief that there is only one way to eliminate these evils, namely, the establishment of a planned economy coupled with an education geared toward social goals. Alongside the development of individual abilities, the education of the individual aspires to revive an ideal that is geared toward the service of our fellow man, and that needs to take the place of the glorification of power and outer success.
- If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances.
- Letter to the editor of The Reporter about the situation of scientists in America (13 October 1954).
- The idea of achieving security through national armament is, at the present state of military technique, a disastrous illusion.
- Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- The theory of relativity is a beautiful example of the basic character of the modern development of theory. That is to say, the hypotheses from which one starts become ever more abstract and more remote from experience. But in return one comes closer to the preeminent goal of science, that of encompassing a maximum of empirical contents through logical deduction with a minimum of hypotheses or axioms. The intellectual path from the axioms to the empirical contents or to the testable consequences becomes, thereby, ever longer and more subtle. The theoretician is forced, ever more, to allow himself to be directed by purely mathematical, formal points of view in the search for theories, because the physical experience of the experimenter is not capable of leading us up to the regions of the highest abstraction. Tentative deduction takes the place of the predominantly inductive methods appropriate to the youthful state of science. Such a theoretical structure must be quite thoroughly elaborated in order for it to lead to consequences that can be compared with experience. It is certainly the case that here, as well, the empirical fact is the all-powerful judge. But its judgment can be handed down only on the basis of great and difficult intellectual effort that first bridges the wide space between the axioms and the testable consequences. The theorist must accomplish this Herculean task with the clear understanding that this effort may only be destined to prepare the way for a death sentence for his theory. One should not reproach the theorist who undertakes such a task by calling him a fantast; instead, one must allow him his fantasizing, since for him there is no other way to his goal whatsoever. Indeed, it is no planless fantasizing, but rather a search for the logically simplest possibilities and their consequences.
- Ideas and Opinions (1954), pp. 238-239. Quoted in Einstein's Philosophy of Science
- Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
- Letter to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955) as quoted in Science and the Search for God Disturbing the Universe (1979) by Freeman Dyson Ch. 17 "A Distant Mirror" ; also quoted at Einstein's God (NPR)
- Sometimes misquoted as "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
- Variant: "He has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubborn illusion." Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (2008), p. 540.
- Variant: "Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Quoted in Albert Einstein: The Miracle Mind by Tabatha Yeatts (2007), p. 116.
- Variant: "In quitting this strange world he has once again preceded me by a little. That doesn't mean anything. For those of us who believe in physics, this separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however tenacious." Quoted in The Structure of Physics by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker (1985), p. 288.
- Variant: "Now he has departed a little ahead of me from this quaint world. This means nothing. For us faithful physicists, the separation between past, present, and future has only the meaning of an illusion, though a persistent one." Quoted in Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer (2002), p. 161.
- Variant: "Now he has preceded me by a little bit in his departure from this strange world as well. This means nothing. For those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however tenacious this illusion may be." Quoted in Einstein: A Biography by Jürgen Neff (2007), p. 402.
- The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day. The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity.
- Statement to William Miller, as quoted in LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)
- Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.
- As quoted by LIFE magazine (2 May 1955)
- During that year in Aarau the question came to me: If one runs after a light wave with [a velocity equal to the] light velocity, then one would encounter a time-independent wavefield. However, something like that does not seem to exist! This was the first juvenile thought experiment which has to do with the special theory of relativity. Invention is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure.
- From his "Autobiographische Skizze" (18 April 1955), original German version here. Translation from Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais (1982), p. 131. Pais notes that when he said "during that year", he was referring to some time between October 1895 and early fall 1896.
- Variant: "Innovation is not the product of logical thought, even though the final product is tied to a logical structure."
- Original German version: Während dieses Jahres in Aarau kam mir die Frage: Wenn man einer Lichtwelle mit Lichtgeschwindigkeit nachläuft, so würde man ein zeitunabhängiges Wellenfeld vor sich haben. So etwas scheint es aber doch nicht zu geben! Dies war das erste kindliche Gedanken-Experiment, das mit der speziellen Relativitätstheorie zu tun hat. Das Erfinden ist kein Werk des logischen Denkens, wenn auch das Endprodukt an die logische Gestalt gebunden ist. ("Autobiographische Skizze", p. 10)
- The work on satisfactory formulation of technical patents was a true blessing for me. It compelled me to be many-sided in thought, and also offered important stimulation for thought about physics. Following a practical profession is a blessing for people of my type. Because the academic career puts a young person in a sort of compulsory situation to produce scientific papers in impressive quantity, a temptation to superficiality arises that only strong characters are able to resist.
- From his "Autobiographische Skizze" (18 April 1955), original German version here. Translation from Einstein from 'B' to 'Z' by John J. Stachel (2001), p. 5.
- Variant: "Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought. [Academia] places a young person under a kind of compulsion to produce impressive quantities of scientific publications — a temptation to superficiality." As quoted in "Who Knew?" at NationalGeographic.com (May 2005).
- Original German version: Formulierung technischer Patente ein wahrer Segen für mich. Sie zwang zu vielseitigem Denken, bot auch wichtige Anregungen für das physikalische Denken. Endlich ist ein praktischer Beruf für Menschen meiner Art überhaupt ein Segen. Denn die akademische Laufbahn versetzt einen jungen Menschen in eine Art Zwangslage, wissenschaftliche Schriften in impressiver Menge zu produzieren — eine Verführung zur Oberflächlichkeit, der nur starke Charaktere zu widerstehen vermögen. ("Autobiographische Skizze", p. 12)
- That is simple my friend: because politics is more difficult than physics.
- Response to being asked why people could discover atomic power, but not the means to control it, as quoted in The New York Times (22 April 1955)
- Und was einer selbständig denkt ohne Anlehnung an das Denken und Erleben anderer, ist auch im besten Falle Ziemlich ärmlich und monoton.
- Translation: What a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.
- Article in Der Jungkaufmann, April 1952, Einstein Archives 28-972
Attributed from memory and posthumous publications
- Posthumous quotes can be particularly problematic, especially where earlier sources are not cited at all.
- I made one great mistake in my life—when I signed that letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification—the danger that the Germans would make them!
- Written by Linus Pauling in his diary after a conversation with Einstein (16 November 1954). Quoted in The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2005), p. 175. Calaprice writes that the quote was copied directly from Pauling's diary.
- Variant: "I made one mistake in my life—when I signed that letter to President Roosevelt advocating that the bomb should be built. But perhaps I can be forgiven for that because we all felt that there was a high probability that the Germans were working on this problem and that they might succeed and use the atomic bomb to become the master race." Appears in The Expanded Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2000), p. 185. However, in The New Quotable Einstein Calaprice writes "The longer version quoted in the previous editions of this book (copied from secondary sources) is not in the diary."
- When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
- A comment recalled by János Plesch in János, the Story of a Doctor (1947), p. 207. Also quoted in Einstein: the Life and Times by Ronald W. Clark (1971), p. 118.
- Variant: "When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come close to the conclusion that the gift of imagination has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing absolute knowledge." From The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2010), p. 26. This book attributes it to Einstein and the Humanities (1979) by Dennis Ryan, p. 125, but Calaprice seems to have copied it wrong, since searching "inside the book" on this book's amazon page using the word "gift" shows that p. 125 actually gives the same quote as in János, the Story of a Doctor.
- God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically.
- Attributed to Einstein by his colleague Léopold Infeld in his book Quest: An Autobiography (1949), p. 279.
- I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.
- Attributed to Einstein by his colleague Léopold Infeld in his book Quest: An Autobiography (1949), p. 291.
- Yes, we now have to divide up our time like that, between politics and our equations. But to me our equations are far more important, for politics are only a matter of present concern. A mathematical equation stands forever.
- Earliest source located is the book Brighter than a Thousand Suns: A Personal History of the Atomic Scientists by Robert Jungk (1958), p. 249, which says that Einstein made the comment during "a walk with Ernst Straus, a young mathematician acting as his scientific assistant at Princeton."
- Variant: "Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity." From A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking (2005), p. 144.
- Earlier, Straus recalled the German version of the quote in Helle Zeit, Dunkle Zeit: In Memoriam Albert Einstein (1956) edited by Carl Seelig, p. 71. There the quote was given as Ja, so muß man seine Zeit zwischen der Politik und unseren Gleichungen teilen. Aber unsere Gleichungen sind mir doch viel wichtiger; denn die Politik ist für die Gegenwart da, aber solch eine Gleichung is etwas für die Ewigkeit.
- Was mich eigentlich interessiert, ist, ob Gott die Welt hätte anders machen können; das heisst, ob die Forderung der logischen Einfachheit überhaupt eine Freiheit lässt.
- Quoted by Ernst G. Straus, who was Einstein's assistant from 1944 to 1948, in Carl Seelig, Helle Zeit—Dunkel Zeit (Europa Verlag, Zurich, 1956), p. 72
- What I am really interested in is knowing whether God could have created the world in a different way; in other words, whether the requirement of logical simplicity admits a margin of freedom.
- As translated in Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion (Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 124
- What I'm really interested in is whether God could have made the world in a different way; that is, whether the necessity of logical simplicity leaves any freedom at all.
- As translated in Gerald Holton, The Scientific Imagination: Case Studies (Cambridge University Press, 1978), p. xii.
- How it happened that I in particular discovered the relativity theory, it seemed to lie in the following circumstance. The normal adult never bothers his head about space-time problems. Everything there is to be thought about it, in his opinion, has already been done in early childhood. I, on the contrary, developed so slowly that I only began to wonder about space and time when I was already grown up. In consequence I probed deeper into the problem than an ordinary child would have done.
- In Carl Seelig's Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), Seelig reports that Einstein said this to James Franck, p. 71.
- I sometimes ask myself how did it come that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up. Naturally, I could go deeper into the problem than a child with normal abilities.
- Variant translation which appears in Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald W. Clark (1971), p. 27.
- You see, when a blind beetle crawls over the surface of a globe he doesn't notice that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it.
- Attributed to Einstein in Carl Seelig's Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), p. 80. Said to have been a comment he made to his son Eduard when Eduard asked him, at age 9, "Why are you actually so famous, papa?"
- No, this trick won't work. The same trick does not work twice. How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?
- A comment to T. H. Morgan, as recalled by Henry Borsook. Einstein was visiting Cal Tech where Morgan and Borsook worked, and Morgan explained to Einstein that he was trying to bring physics and chemistry to bear on the problems of biology, to which Einstein gave this response. Borsook's recollection was published in Symposium on Structure of Enzymes and Proteins (1956), p. 284, as part of a piece titled "Informal remarks 'by way of a summary'". Context for this story is also given in The Molecular Vision of Life by Lily E. Kay (1993), p. 95.
- As far as I'm concerned I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.
- Attributed to Einstein in Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography by Carl Seeling (1956), p. 114. Einstein is said to have made this remark "when someone in his company grew angry about a mutual acquaintance's moral decline".
- The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes.
- Attributed by his friend Leo Mattersdorf, who also said that "From the time Professor Einstein came to this country until his death, I prepared his income tax returns and advised him on his tax problems." In a letter to Time magazine, 22 February 1963. See this post from The Quote Investigator for more background.
- In the matter of physics, the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see. A pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds.
- Conversations with Einstein by Alexander Moszkowski (1971), p. 69. This is just Moszkowski's English translation of a statement he attributed to Einstein in his 1922 book Einstein, Einblicke in seine Gedankenwelt, p. 77: "Was die Physik betrifft, fuhr Einstein fort, so darf für den ersten Unterricht gar nichts in Frage kommen, als das Experimentelle, anschaulich-Interessante. Ein hübsches Experiment ist schon an sich oft wertvoller, als zwanzig in der Gedankenretorte entwickelte Formeln." As Moszkowski makes clear in the original German text, this "quotation" is a paraphrasing of his conversation with Einstein.
- The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in our health, or we suffer in our soul, or we get fat.
- Attributed in Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald W. Clark (1971), p. 737. The only source given in the end notes is "personal information". Einstein is said to have made this comment when a box of candy was being passed around after dinner, and he said that his doctor wouldn't let him eat it. The book also says that 'A friend asked him why it was the devil and not God who had imposed the penalty. "What's the difference?" he answered. "One has a plus in front, the other a minus."'
- I love to travel, but I hate to arrive.
- A comment of Einstein's recalled by John Wheeler in Albert Einstein: His influence on physics, philosophy and politics edited by Peter C. Aichelburg, Roman Ulrich Sexl, and Peter Gabriel Bergmann (1979), p. 202.
- When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.
- An explanation of relativity which he gave to his secretary Helen Dukas to convey to non-scientists and reporters, as quoted in Best Quotes of '54, '55, l56 (1957) by James B. Simpson; also in Expandable Quotable Einstein (2005) edited by Alice Calaprice
- William Hermanns recorded a series of four conversations he had with Einstein and published them in his book Einstein and the Poet (1983), quoting Einstein saying this variant in a 1948 conversation: "To simplify the concept of relativity, I always use the following example: if you sit with a girl on a garden bench and the moon is shining, then for you the hour will be a minute. However, if you sit on a hot stove, the minute will be an hour." (p. 87)
- In the 1985 book Einstein in America, Jamie Sayen wrote "Einstein devised the following explanation for her [Helen Dukas] to give when asked to explain relativity: An hour sitting with a pretty girl on a park bench passes like a minute, but a minute sitting on a hot stove seems like an hour." (p. 130)
- On quantum theory I use up more brain grease (rough translation of German idiom) than on relativity.
- In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.
- Statement to German anti-Nazi diplomat and author Prince Hubertus zu Lowenstein around 1941, as quoted in his book Towards the Further Shore : An Autobiography (1968)
- Much later, when I was discussing cosmological problems with Einstein, he remarked that the introduction of the cosmological term was the biggest blunder he ever made in his life.
- George Gamow, in his autobiography My World Line: An Informal Autobiography (1970), p. 44. Here the "cosmological term" refers to the cosmological constant in the equations of general relativity, whose value Einstein initially picked to ensure that his model of the universe would neither expand nor contract; if he hadn't done this he might have theoretically predicted the universal expansion that was first observed by Edwin Hubble.
- We often discussed his notions on objective reality. I recall that during one walk Einstein suddenly stopped, turned to me and asked whether I really believed that the moon exists only when I look at it.
- As recalled by his biographer Abraham Pais in Reviews of Modern Physics, 51, 863 (1979): 907. Cited in Boojums All The Way Through by N. David Mermin (1990), p. 81.
- Then I would have felt sorry for the dear Lord. The theory is correct.
- When asked by a student what he would have done if Sir Arthur Eddington's famous 1919 gravitational lensing experiment, which confirmed relativity, had instead disproved it.
- As quoted in Reality and Scientific Truth : Discussions with Einstein, von Laue, and Planck (1980) by Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider, p. 74
- Variant: "I would have felt sorry for the dear Lord! The theory is, of course, all right." Quoted in The Physicist's Conception of Nature by Jagdish Mehra (1979), p. 131. This source attributes it to a conversation with Ilse Rosenthal-Schneider, author of the book the previous version is from.
- If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects.
- As quoted by Ernst Straus in Einstein: A Centenary Volume by A.P. French (1980), p. 32.
- Variant: "if you want to be a happy man, you should tie your life to a goal, not to other people and not to things." A quote from Ernst Straus' memoir of Einstein in Albert Einstein: Historical and Cultural Perspectives edited by Gerald Holton and Yehuda Elkana (1982), p. 420.
- If I can't picture it, I can't understand it.
- I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science. If there is any such concept as a God, it is a subtle spirit, not an image of a man that so many have fixed in their minds. In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.
- As quoted in The Private Albert Einstein (1992) by Peter A. Bucky and Allen G. Weakland, p. 86
- The physicists say that I am a mathematician, and the mathematicians say that I am a physicist. I am a completely isolated man and though everybody knows me, there are very few people who really know me.
- Statement recorded in the diary of his companion Johanna Fantova, quoted at the end of the New York Times story "From Companion's Lost Diary, A Portrait of Einstein in Old Age" by Dennis Overbye (24 April 2004).
- Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots.
- Albert Einstein in a letter to his cousin and second wife Elsa, during a visit to the University of Oxford, in collection donated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel by Einstein's stepdaughter Margot, as quoted in "Einstein in no-sock shock", New Scientist (15 July 2006)
Principles of Research (1918)
- In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them thither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside. Our Planck is one of them, and that is why we love him.
I am quite aware that we have just now lightheartedly expelled in imagination many excellent men who are largely, perhaps chiefly, responsible for the buildings of the temple of science; and in many cases our angel would find it a pretty ticklish job to decide. But of one thing I feel sure: if the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers. For these people any sphere of human activity will do, if it comes to a point; whether they become engineers, officers, tradesmen, or scientists depends on circumstances.
Now let us have another look at those who have found favor with the angel. Most of them are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected. What has brought them to the temple? That is a difficult question and no single answer will cover it.
- The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind is akin to that of the religious worshiper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.
- Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
- Variant translation: One of the strongest motives that lead men to art and science is escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one's own ever-shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from the personal life into the world of objective perception and thought. With this negative motive goes a positive one. Man seeks to form for himself, in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way. Into this image and its formation, he places the center of gravity of his emotional life, in order to attain the peace and serenity that he cannot find within the narrow confines of swirling personal experience.
- As quoted in The Professor, the Institute, and DNA (1976) by Rene Dubos; also in The Great Influenza (2004) by John M. Barry
- The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
- Variant, from Preface to Max Planck's Where is Science Going? (1933): The supreme task of the physicist is the discovery of the most general elementary laws from which the world-picture can be deduced logically. But there is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance, and this Einfühlung [literally, empathy or 'feeling one's way in']' is developed by experience.
Sidelights on Relativity (1922)
- Sidelights on Relativity (1922), translation by GB Jeffrey and W Perrett of "Äther und Relativitätstheorie" (Aether and Relativity Theory), a talk given on 5 May 1920 at the University of Leiden, and "Geometrie und Erfahrung" (Geometry and Experience), a lecture given at the Prussian Academy published in Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1921 (pt. 1), pp. 123–130
- How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality? Is human reason, then, without experience, merely by taking thought, able to fathom the properties of real things?
- One reason why mathematics enjoys special esteem, above all other sciences, is that its laws are absolutely certain and indisputable, while those of other sciences are to some extent debatable and in constant danger of being overthrown by newly discovered facts.
- As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
Viereck interview (1929)
- "What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck" The Saturday Evening Post (26 October 1929) p. 17. A scan of the article is available online here.
- The meaning of relativity has been widely misunderstood. Philosophers play with the word, like a child with a doll. Relativity, as I see it, merely denotes that certain physical and mechanical facts, which have been regarded as positive and permanent, are relative with regard to certain other facts in the sphere of physics and mechanics. It does not mean that everything in life is relative and that we have the right to turn the whole world mischievously topsy-turvy.
- No man can visualize four dimensions, except mathematically ... I think in four dimensions, but only abstractly. The human mind can picture these dimensions no more than it can envisage electricity. Nevertheless, they are no less real than electro-magnetism, the force which controls our universe, within, and by which we have our being.
- Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.
- Quoted in The Ultimate Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (2010), p. 230.
- I refuse to make money out of my science. My laurel is not for sale like so many bales of cotton.
- If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I cannot tell if I would have done any creative work of importance in music, but I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.
- Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.
- Our time is Gothic in its spirit. Unlike the Renaissance, it is not dominated by a few outstanding personalities. The twentieth century has established the democracy of the intellect. In the republic of art and science there are many men who take an equally important part in the intellectual movements of our age. It is the epoch rather than the individual that is important. There is no one dominant personality like Galileo or Newton. Even in the nineteenth century there were still a few giants who outtopped all others. Today the generanl level is much higher than ever before in the history of the world, but there are few men whose stature immediately sets them apart from all others.
- In America, more than anywhere else, the individual is lost in the achievements of the many. America is beginning to be the world leader in scientific investigation. American scholarship is both patient and inspiring. The Americans show an unselfish devotion to science, which is the very opposite of the conventional European view of your countrymen. Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves. It is not true that the dollar is an American fetish. The American student is not interested in dollars, not even in success as such, but in his task, the object of the search. It is his painstaking application to the study of the infinitely little and the infinitely large which accounts for his success in astronomy.
- We are inclined to overemphasize the material influences in history. The Russians especially make this mistake. Intellectual values and ethnic influences, tradition and emotional factors are equally important. If this were not the case, Europe would today be a federated state, not a madhouse of nationalism.
- Bolshevism is an extraordinary experiment. It is not impossible that the drift of social evolution henceforward may be in the direction of communism. The Bolshevist experiment may be worth trying. But I think that Russia errs badly in the execution of her ideal. The Russians make the mistake of putting party faith above efficiency. They replace efficient men by politicians. Their test stone of public service is not the accomplishment but devotion to a rigid creed.
- I am a determinist. As such, I do not believe in free will. The Jews believe in free will. They believe that man shapes his own life. I reject that doctrine philosophically. In that respect I am not a Jew.
- Quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 387
- I believe with Schopenhauer: We can do what we wish, but we can only wish what we must. Practically, I am, nevertheless, compelled to act as if freedom of the will existed. If I wish to live in a civilized community, I must act as if man is a responsible being. I know that philosophically a murderer is not responsible for his crime; nevertheless, I must protect myself from unpleasant contacts. I may consider him guiltless, but I prefer not to take tea with him.
- My own career was undoubtedly determined, not by my own will but by various factors over which I have no control—primarily those mysterious glands in which Nature prepares the very essence of life, our internal secretions.
- Whereas materialistic historians and philosophers neglect psychic realities, Freud is inclined to overstress their importance. I am not a psychologist, but it seems to me fairly evident that physiological factors, especially our endocrines, control our destiny ... I am not able to venture a judgment on so important a phase of modern thought. However, it seems to me that psychoanalysis is not always salutary. It may not always be helpful to delve into the subconscious. The machinery of our legs is controlled by a hundred different muscles. Do you think it would help us to walk if we analyzed our legs and knew exactly which one of the little muscles must be employed in locomotion and the order in which they work? ... I am not prepared to accept all his [Freud's] conclusions, but I consider his work an immensely valuable contribution to the science of human behavior. I think he is even greater as a writer than as a psychologist. Freud's brilliant style is unsurpassed by anyone since Schopenhauer.
- The only progress I can see is progress in organization. The ordinary human being does not live long enough to draw any substantial benefit from his own experience. And no one, it seems, can benefit by the experiences of others. Being both a father and teacher, I know we can teach our children nothing. We can transmit to them neither our knowledge of life nor of mathematics. Each must learn its lesson anew.
- I believe in intuitions and inspirations. I sometimes feel that I am right. I do not know that I am. When two expeditions of scientists, financed by the Royal Academy, went forth to test my theory of relativity, I was convinced that their conclusions would tally with my hypothesis. I was not surprised when the eclipse of May 29, 1919, confirmed my intuitions. I would have been surprised if I had been wrong.
- 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.
- As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.
- Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot.
- No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.
- As reported in Einstein — A Life (1996) by Denis Brian, when asked about a clipping from a magazine article reporting his comments on Christianity as taken down by Viereck, Einstein carefully read the clipping and replied, "That is what I believe."
- It is quite possible to be both. I look upon myself as a man. Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
- When asked by Viereck if he considered himself to be a German or a Jew. A version with slightly different wording is quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 386.
- We Jews have been too adaptable. We have been too eager to sacrifice our idiosyncrasies for the sake of social conformity. ... Even in modern civilization, the Jew is most happy if he remains a Jew.
- I do not believe in race as such. Race is a fraud. All modern people are the conglomeration of so many ethnic mixtures that no pure race remains.
- I do not think that religion is the most important element. We are held together rather by a body of tradition, handed down from father to son, which the child imbibes with his mother's milk. The atmosphere of our infancy predetermines our idiosyncrasies and predilections.
- In response to a question about whether religion is the tie holding the Jews together.
- But to return to the Jewish question. Other groups and nations cultivate their individual traditions. There is no reason why we should sacrifice ours. Standardization robs life of its spice. To deprive every ethnic group of its special traditions is to convert the world into a huge Ford plant. I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.
- I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care for money. Decorations, titles or distinctions mean nothing to me. I do not crave praise. The only thing that gives me pleasure, apart from my work, my violin and my sailboat, is the appreciation of my fellow workers.
- I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.
- I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but admire even more his contributions to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and the body as one, not two separate things.
- Did not appear in Saturday Evening Post story, but in Glimpses of the Great (1930) by G. S. Viereck There have been disputes on the accuracy of this quotation.
- Variant, from Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 386: I'm not an atheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written these books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.
- I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism, but I admire even more his contribution to modern thought because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, and not two separate things.
- Did not appear in Saturday Evening Post story, but quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, p. 387, in the section discussing Viereck's interview.
Wisehart interview (1930?)
- Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things which we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. So it seems to me in matters of principle. Perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.
- I do not believe in a God who maliciously or arbitrarily interferes in the personal affairs of mankind. My religion consists of an humble admiration for the vast power which manifests itself in that small part of the universe which our poor, weak minds can grasp!
- Much reading after a certain age diverts the mind from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.
- I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.
- M. K. Wisehart, A Close Look at the World's Greatest Thinker, American Magazine, June 1930. Quotes from the interview appear on pp. 52-53 of The Twelve Powers of Man by Charles Fillmore
Religion and Science (1930)
- Originally written for the New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930). A version with altered wording appeared in Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- Everything that men do or think concerns the satisfaction of the needs they feel or the escape from pain. This must be kept in mind when we seek to understand spiritual or intellectual movements and the way in which they develop. For feelings and longings are the motive forces of all human striving and productivity—however nobly these latter may display themselves to us.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.
- The longing for guidance, for love and succor, provides the stimulus for the growth of a social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, decides, rewards and punishes. This is the God who, according to man's widening horizon, loves and provides for the life of the race, or of mankind, or who even loves life itself. He is the comforter in unhappiness and in unsatisfied longing, the protector of the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral idea of God.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believer's outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even of life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.
- It is easy to follow in the sacred writings of the Jewish people the development of the religion of fear into the moral religion, which is carried further in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially those of the Orient, are principally moral religions. An important advance in the life of a people is the transformation of the religion of fear into the moral religion. But one must avoid the prejudice that regards the religions of primitive peoples as pure fear religions and those of the civilized races as pure moral religions. All are mixed forms, though the moral element predominates in the higher levels of social life.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: The Jewish scriptures admirably illustrate the development from the religion of fear to moral religion, a development continued in the New Testament. The religions of all civilized peoples, especially the peoples of the Orient, are primarily moral religions. The development from a religion of fear to moral religion is a great step in peoples' lives. And yet, that primitive religions are based entirely on fear and the religions of civilized peoples purely on morality is a prejudice against which we must be on our guard. The truth is that all religions are a varying blend of both types, with this differentiation: that on the higher levels of social life the religion of morality predominates.
- Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of the idea of God. Only exceptionally gifted individuals or especially noble communities rise essentially above this level; in these there is found a third level of religious experience, even if it is seldom found in a pure form. I will call it the cosmic religious sense. This is hard to make clear to those who do not experience it, since it does not involve an anthropomorphic idea of God; the individual feels the vanity of human desires and aims, and the nobility and marvelous order which are revealed in nature and in the world of thought. He feels the individual destiny as an imprisonment and seeks to experience the totality of existence as a unity full of significance. Indications of this cosmic religious sense can be found even on earlier levels of development—for example, in the Psalms of David and in the Prophets. The cosmic element is much stronger in Buddhism, as, in particular, Schopenhauer's magnificent essays have shown us. The religious geniuses of all times have been distinguished by this cosmic religious sense, which recognizes neither dogmas nor God made in man's image. Consequently there cannot be a church whose chief doctrines are based on the cosmic religious experience. It comes about, therefore, that we find precisely among the heretics of all ages men who were inspired by this highest religious experience; often they appeared to their contemporaries as atheists, but sometimes also as saints. Viewed from this angle, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are near to one another.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments, and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it. The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man's image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi, and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.
- How can this cosmic religious experience be communicated from man to man, if it cannot lead to a definite conception of God or to a theology? It seems to me that the most important function of art and of science is to arouse and keep alive this feeling in those who are receptive.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.
- For any one who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible. Neither the religion of fear nor the social-moral religion can have any hold on him. A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes. Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man's plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events — provided, of course, that he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.
- Variant: "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere" has been cited as a statement that precedes the last three sentences here, but in fact this is a separate quote from a 1947 letter Einstein wrote to Murray W. Gross, included in the Einstein and Religion (1999) section below (and in the letter the word used is "anthropomorphic," not "anthropological").
- It is, therefore, quite natural that the churches have always fought against science and have persecuted its supporters. But, on the other hand, I assert that the cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest driving force behind scientific research. No one who does not appreciate the terrific exertions, and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer creations in scientific thought cannot come into being, can judge the strength of the feeling out of which alone such work, turned away as it is from immediate practical life, can grow. What a deep faith in the rationality of the structure of the world and what a longing to understand even a small glimpse of the reason revealed in the world there must have been in Kepler and Newton to enable them to unravel the mechanism of the heavens in long years of lonely work! Any one who only knows scientific research in its practical applications may easily come to a wrong interpretation of the state of mind of the men who, surrounded by skeptical contemporaries, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered over all countries in all centuries. Only those who have dedicated their lives to similar ends can have a living conception of the inspiration which gave these men the power to remain loyal to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is the cosmic religious sense which grants this power. A contemporary has rightly said that the only deeply religious people of our largely materialistic age are the earnest men of research.
- Wording in Ideas and Opinions: It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees. On the other hand, I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics! Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.
Mein Weltbild (My World-view) (1931)
- "Mein Weltbild" (1931) ["My World-view", or "My View of the World" or "The World As I See It"], translated as the title essay of the book The World As I See It (1949). Various translated editions have been published of this essay; or portions of it, including one titled "What I Believe"; another compilation which includes it is Ideas and Opinions (1954)
- How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...
- I am strongly drawn to the simple life and am often oppressed by the feeling that I am engrossing an unnecessary amount of the labour of my fellow-men. I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally.
- In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.
- I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — this critical basis I call the ideal of a pigsty. The ideals that have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. Without the sense of kinship with men of like mind, without the occupation with the objective world, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific endeavors, life would have seemed empty to me. The trite objects of human efforts — possessions, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.
- Variant translation: I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves — such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavor — property, outward success, luxury — have always seemed to me contemptible.
- My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities.
- I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude — a feeling which increases with the years.
- Variant translation: I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude...
- My political ideal is democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and reverence from my fellow-beings, through no fault, and no merit, of my own. The cause of this may well be the desire, unattainable for many, to understand the few ideas to which I have with my feeble powers attained through ceaseless struggle. I am quite aware that for any organization to reach its goals, one man must do the thinking and directing and generally bear the responsibility. But the led must not be coerced, they must be able to choose their leader.
- An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day.
- Variant translation: In my opinion, an autocratic system of coercion soon degenerates; force attracts men of low morality...
- The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling.
- This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism — how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.
- Variant translation: He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilisation should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
- The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.
- Variant translations: The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms — it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.
- The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties — this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.
- As quoted in After Einstein : Proceedings of the Einstein Centennial Celebration (1981) by Peter Barker and Cecil G. Shugart, p. 179
- The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
- As quoted in Introduction to Philosophy (1935) by George Thomas White Patrick and Frank Miller Chapman, p. 44
- The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.
- He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
- I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
- As quoted in European Civilization and Politics Since 1815 (1938) by Erik Achorn, p. 723. amd in his obituary in The New York Times (19 April 1955)
- Variant translation: I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls.
- As quoted in The Heretic's Handbook of Quotations: Cutting Comments on Burning Issues (1992) by Charles Bufe, p. 186
- It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.
- Variant translations:
- I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
- Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.
My Credo (1932)
- Speech to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin (Autumn 1932); as published in Einstein: A Life in Science (1994) by Michael White and John Gribbin This repeats or revises some statements and ideas of Mein Weltbild (1931). (Full text online)
- Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntarily and uninvited for a short stay, without knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own. I am often worried at the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.
- I do not believe in freedom of the will. Schopenhauer's words: “Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills” accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of freedom of will preserves me from taking too seriously myself and my fellow men as acting and deciding individuals and from losing my temper.
- My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as did my aversion to any obligation and dependence I do not regard as absolutely necessary. I always have a high regard for the individual and have an insuperable distaste for violence and clubmanship.
All these motives made me into a passionate pacifist and anti-militarist. I am against any nationalism, even in the guise of mere patriotism. Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as did any exaggerated personality cult.
- I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state.
Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.
- The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness.
In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is.
Obituary for Emmy Noether (1935)
- Emmy Noether, letter to the Editor of The New York Times, published May 5, 1935 Full text online
- The efforts of most human-beings are consumed in the struggle for their daily bread, but most of those who are, either through fortune or some special gift, relieved of this struggle are largely absorbed in further improving their worldly lot. Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up with the development of the individual's own feeling, thinking and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind. However inconspicuously the life of these individuals runs its course, none the less the fruits of their endeavors are the most valuable contributions which one generation can make to its successors.
- In the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, Fräulein Noether was the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.
- Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. One seeks the most general ideas of operation which will bring together in simple, logical and unified form the largest possible circle of formal relationships. In this effort toward logical beauty spiritual formulas are discovered necessary for the deeper penetration into the laws of nature.
Science and Religion (1941)
- Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York (1941); later published in Out of My Later Years (1950) Full text online
- It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.
- A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary.
- A conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs. On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors.
- Even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.
- Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?
The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God.
- When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us.
Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.
- The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.
But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task.
- If it is one of the goals of religion to liberate mankind as far as possible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientific reasoning can aid religion in yet another sense. Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements.
It is in this striving after the rational unification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes, even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a prey to illusions. But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man.
This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.
The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
Only Then Shall We Find Courage (1946)
- New York Times Magazine (23 June 1946)
- Many persons have inquired concerning a recent message of mine that "a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move to higher levels."
Often in evolutionary processes a species must adapt to new conditions in order to survive. Today the atomic bomb has altered profoundly the nature of the world as we know it, and the human race consequently finds itself in a new habitat to which it must adapt its thinking.
In light of new knowledge…an eventual world state is not just desirable in the name of brotherhood, it is necessary for survival... Today we must abandon competition and secure cooperation. This must be the central fact in all our considerations of international affairs; otherwise we face certain disaster. Past thinking and methods did not prevent world wars. Future thinking must prevent wars.
- As the issues are greater than men ever sought to realize before, the recriminations will be fiercer and pride more desperately hurt. It may help to recall that many recognized before the bomb ever fell that the time had already come when we must learn to live in One World.
The stakes are immense, the task colossal, the time is short. But we may hope — we must hope — that man’s own creation, man’s own genius, will not destroy him. Scholars, indeed all men, must move forward in the faith of that philosopher who held that there is no problem the human reason can propound which the human reason cannot reason out.
Religion and Science: Irreconcilable? (1948)
- The Christian Register (June 1948); republished in Ideas and Opinions (1954) Full text online
- Does there truly exist an insuperable contradiction between religion and science? Can religion be superseded by science? The answers to these questions have, for centuries, given rise to considerable dispute and, indeed, bitter fighting. Yet, in my own mind there can be no doubt that in both cases a dispassionate consideration can only lead to a negative answer. What complicates the solution, however, is the fact that while most people readily agree on what is meant by "science," they are likely to differ on the meaning of "religion."
- Science, in the immediate, produces knowledge and, indirectly, means of action. It leads to methodical action if definite goals are set up in advance. For the function of setting up goals and passing statements of value transcends its domain. While it is true that science, to the extent of its grasp of causative connections, may reach important conclusions as to the compatibility and incompatibility of goals and evaluations, the independent and fundamental definitions regarding goals and values remain beyond science's reach.
As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man's attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship. These ideals religion attempts to attain by exerting an educational influence on tradition and through the development and promulgation of certain easily accessible thoughts and narratives (epics and myths) which are apt to influence evaluation and action along the lines of the accepted ideals.
- It is this mythical, or rather this symbolic, content of the religious traditions which is likely to come into conflict with science. This occurs whenever this religious stock of ideas contains dogmatically fixed statements on subjects which belong in the domain of science. Thus, it is of vital importance for the preservation of true religion that such conflicts be avoided when they arise from subjects which, in fact, are not really essential for the pursuance of the religious aims.
- The moral attitudes of a people that is supported by religion need always aim at preserving and promoting the sanity and vitality of the community and its individuals, since otherwise this community is bound to perish. A people that were to honor falsehood, defamation, fraud, and murder would be unable, indeed, to subsist for very long.
- The great moral teachers of humanity were, in a way, artistic geniuses in the art of living.
- While religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one's fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection.
There are pessimists who hold that such a state of affairs is necessarily inherent in human nature; it is those who propound such views that are the enemies of true religion, for they imply thereby that religious teachings are Utopian ideals and unsuited to afford guidance in human affairs. The study of the social patterns in certain so-called primitive cultures, however, seems to have made it sufficiently evident that such a defeatist view is wholly unwarranted.
- While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to whom we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge. If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one and if those searching for knowledge had not been inspired by Spinoza's Amor Dei Intellectualis, they would hardly have been capable of that untiring devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.
"Autobiographical Notes" (1949)
- Published in Albert Einstein : Philosopher-Scientist (1949) edited by Paul A. Schilpp. Reprinted in A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion: The Essential Scientific Works of Albert Einstein (2009) edited by Stephen Hawking, p. 339.
- Even when I was a fairly precocious young man the nothingness of the hopes and strivings which chases most men restlessly through life came to my consciousness with considerable vitality. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. Moreover, it was possible to satisfy the stomach by such participation, but not man in so far as he is a thinking and feeling being. As the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came—despite the fact that I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiosity, which, however, found an abrupt ending at the age of 12. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude towards the convictions which were alive in any specific social environment—an attitude which has never again left me, even though later on, because of a better insight into the causal connections, it lost some of its original poignancy.
- It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the "merely-personal," from an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes and primitive feelings. Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking. The contemplation of this world beckoned like a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in devoted occupation with it. The mental grasp of this extrapersonal world within the frame of the given possibilites swam as highest aim half consciously and half unconsciously before my mind's eye. Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights which they had achieved, were the friends which could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it.
- For me it is not dubious that our thinking goes on for the most part without use of signs (words) and beyond that to a considerable degree unconsciously. For how, otherwise, should it happen that sometimes we "wonder" quite spontaneously about some experience? This "wondering" seems to occur when an experience comes into conflict with a world of concepts which is already sufficiently fixed in us. Whenever such a conflict is experienced hard and intensively it reacts back upon our thought world in a decisive way. The development of this thought world is in a certain sense a continuous flight from "wonder."
- A wonder of such nature I experienced as a child of 4 or 5 years, when my father showed me a compass. That this needle behaved in such a determined way did not at all fit into the nature of events, which could find a place in the unconscious world of concepts (effect connected with direct "touch"). I can still remember—or at least believe I can remember—that this experience made a deep and lasting impression upon me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things. What man sees before him from infancy causes no reaction of this kind; he is not surprised over the falling of bodies, concerning wind and rain, nor concerning the moon or about the fact that the moon does not fall down, nor concerning the differences between living and non-living matter.
At the age of 12 I experienced a second wonder of a totally different nature: in a little book dealing with Euclidean plane geometry, which came into my hands at the beginning of a schoolyear. Here were assertions, as for example the intersection of the three altitudes of a triangle in one point, which—though by no means evident—could nevertheless be proved with such certainty that any doubt appeared to be out of the question. This lucidity and certainty made an indescribable impression upon me. That the axioms had to be accepted unproved did not disturb me. In any case it was quite sufficient for me if I could peg proofs upon propositions the validity of which did not seem to me to be dubious.
- [O]ne had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.
- It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.
- A theory is the more impressive the greater the simplicity of its premises is, the more different kinds of things it relates, and the more extended is its area of applicability. Therefore the deep impression which classical thermodynamics made upon me. It is the only physical theory of universal content concerning which I am convinced that, within the framework of the applicability of its basic concepts, it will never be overthrown (for the special attention of those who are skeptics on principle).
- Reflections of this type made it clear to me as long ago as shortly after 1900, i.e., shortly after Planck's trailblazing work, that neither mechanics nor electrodynamics could (except in limiting cases) claim exact validity. By and by I despaired of the possibility of discovering the true laws by means of constructive efforts based on known facts. The longer and the more despairingly I tried, the more I came to the conviction that only the discovery of a universal formal principle could lead us to assured results. . . . How, then, could such a universal principle be found? After ten years of reflection such a principle resulted from a paradox upon which I had already hit at the age of sixteen: If I pursue a beam of light with the velocity c (velocity of light in a vacuum), I should observe such a beam as a spatially oscillatory electromagnetic field at rest. However, there seems to be no such thing, whether on the bases of experience or according to Maxwell's equations. From the very beginning it appeared to me intuitively clear that, judged from the stand-point of such an observer, everything would have to happen according to the same laws as for an observer who, relative to the earth, was at rest.
The World As I See It (1949)
- For the title essay in this work see Mein Weltbild (1931) above.
The Meaning of Life
- What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.
Good and Evil
- The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained to liberation from the self.
Society and Personality
- When we survey our lives and endeavors we soon observe that almost the whole of our actions and desires are bound up with the existence of other human beings. We see that our whole nature resembles that of the social animals. We eat food that others have grown, wear clothes that others have made, live in houses that others have built. The greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people through the medium of a language which others have created. Without language our mental capacities would be poor indeed, comparable to those of the higher animals; we have, therefore, to admit that we owe our principal advantage over the beasts to the fact of living in human society. The individual, if left alone from birth would remain primitive and beast-like in his thoughts and feelings to a degree that we can hardly conceive. The individual is what he is and has the significance that he has not so much in virtue of his individuality, but rather as a member of a great human society, which directs his material and spiritual existence from the cradle to the grave.
- A man's value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.
And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine — each was discovered by one man.
Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society — nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.
The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion.
- I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. 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?
Religion in Science
- You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe. But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
Greeting to G. Bernard Shaw
- There are few enough people with sufficient independence to see the weaknesses and follies of their contemporaries and remain themselves untouched by them. And these isolated few usually soon lose their zeal for putting things to rights when they have come face to face with human obduracy. Only to a tiny minority is it given to fascinate their generation by subtle humour and grace and to hold the mirror up to it by the impersonal agency of art. To-day I salute with sincere emotion the supreme master of this method, who has delighted — and educated — us all.
Some Notes on my American Impressions
- first published as "My First Impression of the U.S.A." (1921)
- The cult of individual personalities is always, in my view, unjustified. To be sure, nature distributes her gifts variously among her children. But there are plenty of the well-endowed ones too, thank God, and I am firmly convinced that most of them live quiet, unregarded lives. It strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them. This has been my fate, and the contrast between the popular estimate of my powers and achievements and the reality is simply grotesque. The consciousness of this extraordinary state of affairs would be unbearable but for one great consoling thought: it is a welcome symptom in an age which is commonly denounced as materialistic, that it makes heroes of men whose ambitions lie wholly in the intellectual and moral sphere. This proves that knowledge and justice are ranked above wealth and power by a large section of the human race. My experience teaches me that this idealistic outlook is particularly prevalent in America, which is usually decried as a particularly materialistic country.
- The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in the United States is closely connected with this.
- The United States is the most powerful technically advanced country in the world to-day. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today. This must be changed, if only in the essential interests of the Americans. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round.
Letter to a Friend of Peace
- Small is the number of them that see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts
Production and Work
- Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work.
Christianity and Judaism
- If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus Christ taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.
It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky.
- The following quotes have been cited as being from The World As I See It but are not in later abridged editions of the original 1949 book and thus these citations are not yet confirmed.
- May the conscience and the common sense of the peoples be awakened, so that we may reach a new stage in the life of nations, where people will look back on war as an incomprehensible aberration of their forefathers!
- The state is made for man, not man for the state. And in this respect science resembles the state.
Why Socialism? (1949)
- Monthly Review  New York (May 1949)
- Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organisation which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.
- The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. In so far as the labor contract is free what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
- I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
- The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor — not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules.
- I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals.
- Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralisation of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
- Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.
- Referring to the Monthly Review, in which the essay was published.
On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation (1950)
- Scientific American (April 1950)
- This is the reason why all attempts to obtain a deeper knowledge of the foundations of physics seem doomed to me unless the basic concepts are in accordance with general relativity from the beginning. This situation makes it difficult to use our empirical knowledge, however comprehensive, in looking for the fundamental concepts and relations of physics, and it forces us to apply free speculation to a much greater extent than is presently assumed by most physicists.
- I do not see any reason to assume that the heuristic significance of the principle of general relativity is restricted to gravitation and that the rest of physics can be dealt with separately on the basis of special relativity, with the hope that later on the whole may be fitted consistently into a general relativistic scheme. I do not think that such an attitude, although historically understandable, can be objectively justified. The comparative smallness of what we know today as gravitational effects is not a conclusive reason for ignoring the principle of general relativity in theoretical investigations of a fundamental character. In other words, I do not believe that it is justifiable to ask: What would physics look like without gravitation?
Out of My Later Years (1950)
- A collection of Einstein's essays which cover a period of 1934 to 1950.
- What is significant in one's own existence one is hardly aware, and it certainly should not bother the other fellow. What does a fish know about the water in which he swims all his life?
- "Self-Portrait" (1936), p. 5.
- This freedom of communication is indispensable for the development and extension of scientific knowledge, a consideration of much practical import. In the first instance it must be guaranteed by law. But laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man may present his views without penalty there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population. Such an ideal of external liberty can never be fully attained but must be sought unremittingly if scientific thought, and philosophical and creative thinking in general, are to be advanced as far as possible.
- "On Freedom" (1940), p. 13
- I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.
- "Self-Portrait" (1936), p. 5.
- The very fact that the totality of our sense experience is such that by means of thinking (operations with concepts, and the creation and use of definite functional relations between them, and the coordination of sense experience to these concepts) it can be put in order, this fact is one which leaves us in awe, but which we shall never understand. One may say "the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility." . . . In speaking here concerning "comprehensibility," the expression is used in its most modest sense. It implies: the production of some sort of order among sense impressions, this order being produced by the creation of general concepts, relations between these concepts, and by relations between the concepts and sense experience, these relations being determined in any possible manner. It is in this sense that the world of our sense experience is comprehensible. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.
- "Physics and Reality" (1936), p. 61.
- Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.
- "Morals and Emotions" (1938), p. 19.
- Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man.
- "Science and Religion" (1939-1941), p. 22.
- The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations.
- "Science and Religion" (1939-1941), p. 23.
- For scientific endeavor is a natural whole the parts of which mutually support one another in a way which, to be sure, no one can anticipate.
- "On Freedom" (1940), p. 12.
- And certainly we should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead, it can only serve; and it is not fastidious in its choice of a leader. This characteristic is reflected in the qualities of its priests, the intellectuals. The intellect has a sharp eye for methods and tools, but is blind to ends and values. So it is no wonder that this fatal blindness is handed on from old to young and today involves a whole generation.
- "The Goal of Human Existence" (1943)
- Everyone is aware of the difficult and menacing situation in which human society -- shrunk into one community with a common fate — finds itself, but only a few act accordingly. Most people go on living their every-day life: half frightened, half indifferent, they behold the ghostly tragi-comedy which is being performed on the international stage before the eyes and ears of the world. But on that stage, on which the actors under the floodlights play their ordained parts, our fate of tomorrow, life or death of the nations, is being decided.
- "The Menace of Mass Destruction" (1947)
- One strength of the communist system of the East is that it has some of the character of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion. Unless the concept of peace based on law gathers behind it the force and zeal of a religion, it can hardly hope to succeed.
- "Atomic War or Peace" part II (1947)
- Ethical axioms are founded and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.
- "The Laws of Science and the Laws of Ethics" (1950)
Essay to Leo Baeck (1953)
- Statements by Einstein from Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954), p. 26; Baeck's birthday was 23 May 1953; Einstein Archives 28-962. Some quotes are from The New Quotable Einstein (2005) edited by Alice Calaprice, pp. 120-121, others from Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein (1954), where they appear in the section "Aphorisms for Leo Baeck."
- Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
- The New Quotable Einstein
- In order to be a perfect member of a flock of sheep, one has to be, foremost, a sheep.
- The New Quotable Einstein
- variant translation from Ideas and Opinions: "In order to form an immaculate member of a flock of sheep one must, above all, be a sheep."
- Hail to the man who went through life always helping others, knowing no fear, and to whom aggressiveness and resentment are alien. Such is the stuff of which the great moral leaders are made.
- The New Quotable Einstein
- variant translation from Ideas and Opinions: "I salute the man who is going through life always helpful, knowing no fear, and to whom aggressiveness and resentment are alien. Such is the stuff of which the great moral leaders are made who proffer consolation to mankind in their self-created miseries."
- The attempt to combine wisdom and power has only rarely been successful, and then only for a short while.
- The New Quotable Einstein
- Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
- The New Quotable Einstein
- Man usually avoids attributing cleverness to somebody else—unless it is an enemy.
- Ideas and Opinions
- The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny, however, is alleviated by their lack of consistency.
- Ideas and Opinions
- The contrasts and contradictions that can permanently live peacefully side by side in a skull make all the systems of political optimists and pessimists illusory.
- Ideas and Opinions
- Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift.
- Ideas and Opinions
Albert Einstein: The Human Side (1979)
- Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann, Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1979)
- In the past it never occurred to me that every casual remark of mine would be snatched up and recorded. Otherwise I would have crept further into my shell.
- p. 22 - Letter to Carl Seelig (25 October 1953).
- Never before have I lived through a storm like the one this night. ... The sea has a look of indescribable grandeur, especially when the sun falls on it. One feels as if one is dissolved and merged into Nature. Even more than usual, one feels the insignificance of the individual, and it makes one happy.
- p. 23 - Entry in a travel diary (10 December 1931) discussing a storm at sea.
- Measured objectively, what a man can wrest from Truth by passionate striving is utterly infinitesimal. But the striving frees us from the bonds of the self and makes us comrades of those who are the best and the greatest.
- p. 24 - A note Einstein wrote underneath an etching of himself (made by Hermann Struck) which he sent to a friend, Dr. Hans Mühsam. According to the book, "the date is 1920 or perhaps earlier."
- There has been an earth for a little more than a billion years. As for the question of the end of it I advise: Wait and see!
- p. 34 - 19 Jun 51
- Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions.
- p. 38
- I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.
- p. 39 - reply to a letter sent to him on 17 July 1953 (it is not known if the reply was sent).
- I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
- p. 39 - draft of a German reply to a letter sent to him in 1954 or 1955 (also not known if this reply was sent).
- The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning.
- p. 40 - 5 Feb 1921
- It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
- p. 43 - Letter to an atheist (24 March 1954).
- Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
- p. 44 - From the same 24 March 1954 letter as above.
- Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things.
- p. 46 - 30 July 47 - letter
- Something there is that can refresh and revivify older people: joy in the activities of the younger generation—a joy, to be sure, that is clouded by dark forebodings in these unsettled times. And yet, as always, the springtime sun brings forth new life, and we may rejoice because of this new life and contribute to its unfolding; and Mozart remains as beautiful and tender as he always was and always will be. There is, after all, something eternal that lies beyond reach of the hand of fate and of all human delusions. And such eternals lie closer to an older person than to a younger one oscillating between fear and hope. For us, there remains the privilege of experiencing beauty and truth in their purest forms.
- p. 51 - Letter to Queen Mother Elizabeth of Belgium (20 March, likely 1936). Written to her when she was depressed over the recent death of her husband and daughter-in-law.
- Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing that people do — but gravitation cannot be held responsible for it.
- p. 56 - Jotted (in German) on the margins of a letter to him (1933).
- Unsourced variants: Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. / You can't blame gravity for falling in love.
- Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.
- p. 57 - Letter to California student E. Holzapfel (March 1951) Einstein Archive 59-1013.
- In my opinion, condemning the Zionist movement as "nationalistic" is unjustified. Consider the path by which Herzl came to his mission. Initially he had been completely cosmopolitan. But during the Dreyfus trial in Paris he suddenly realized with great clarity how precarious was the situation of the Jews in the western world. And courageously he drew the conclusion that we are discriminated against or murdered not because we are Germans, Frenchmen, Americans, etc. of the "Jewish faith" but simply because we are Jews. Thus already our precarious situation forces us to stand together irrespective of our citizenship.
Zionism gave the German Jews no great protection against annihilation. But it did give the survivors the inner strength to endure the debacle with dignity and without losing their healthy self respect. Keep in mind that perhaps a similar fate could be lying in wait for your children.
- pp. 63-64 - c. 1946
- Anonymity is no excuse for stupidity.
- pp. 54 - c. 1948
- My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God.
- p. 66 of the 1981 edition
- It seems hard to sneak a look at God's cards. But that He plays dice and uses "telepathic" methods... is something that I cannot believe for a single moment.
- p. 68 - letter to Cornel Lanczos, 21 Mar 1942
- Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.
What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living.
- p. 70 - Written statement (September 1937)
- For the most part we humans live with the false impression of security and a feeling of being at home in a seemingly trustworthy physical and human environment. But when the expected course of everyday life is interrupted, we are like shipwrecked people on a miserable plank in the open sea, having forgotten where they came from and not knowing whither they are drifting. But once we fully accept this, life becomes easier and there is no longer any disappointment.
- p. 72 - Letter (26 April 1945)
- Study and in general the pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.
- p. 83 - letter to Adrianna Enriques, Oct 1921
- The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. To make this a living force and bring it to clear consciousness is perhaps the foremost task of education. The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action.
- p. 95 - Letter to the minister of a church in Brooklyn (20 November 1950). The minister had earlier written Einstein asking if he would send him a signed version of a quote about the Catholic church attributed to Einstein in Time magazine (see the "Misattributed" section below), and Einstein had written back to say the quote was not correct, but that he was "gladly willing to write something else which would suit your purpose". According to the book, the minister replied "saying he was glad the statement had not been correct since he too had reservations about the historical role of the Church at large", and said that "he would leave the decision to Einstein as to the topic of the statement", to which Einstein replied with the statement above.
- If the believers of the present-day religions would earnestly try to think and act in the spirit of the founders of these religions then no hostility on the basis of religion would exist among the followers of the different faiths. Even the conflicts and the realm of religion would be exposed as insignificant.
- p. 96 - 27 Jan 47 - statement to Christian conference
- Philosophy is like a mother who gave birth to and endowed all the other sciences. Therefore, one should not scorn her in her nakedness and poverty, but should hope, rather, that part of her Don Quixote ideal will live on in her children so that they do not sink into philistinism.
- p. 106 - 28 Sep 32
- I am the one to whom you wrote in care of the Belgian Academy... Read no newspapers, try to find a few friends who think as you do, read the wonderful writers of earlier times, Kant, Goethe, Lessing, and the classics of other lands, and enjoy the natural beauties of Munich's surroundings. Make believe all the time that you are living, so to speak, on Mars among alien creatures and blot out any deeper interest in the actions of those creatures. Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you.
Bear in mind that those who are finer and nobler are always alone — and necessarily so — and that because of this they can enjoy the purity of their own atmosphere.
I shake your hand in heartfelt comradeship, E.
- p. 115 - Response to a letter from an unemployed professional musician (5 April 1933).
- The editors precede this passage thus, "Early in 1933, Einstein received a letter from a professional musician who presumably lived in Munich. The musician was evidently troubled and despondent, and out of a job, yet at the same time, he must have been something of a kindred spirit. His letter is lost, all that survives being Einstein's reply....Note the careful anonymity of the first sentence — the recipient would be safer that way:" Albert Einstein: The Human Side concludes with this passage, followed by the original passages in German.
Albert Einstein: A guide for the perplexed (1979)
- Kenneth Brecher, "Albert Einstein: 14 March, 1879 – 18 April, 1955 A guide for the perplexed", Nature 278 (15 March 1979), pp. 215–218, doi:10.1038/278215a0. The article is described as "A brief collection of direct and indirect quotations by or about Albert Einstein."
- The most important tool of the theoretical physicist is his wastebasket.
- Told by P. Morrison
- Physics is essentially an intuitive and concrete science. Mathematics is only a means for expressing the laws that govern phenomena.
- From Lettre à Maurice Solvine, by A. Einstein (Gauthier-Villars: Paris 1956).
- Who would have thought around 1900 that in fifty years time we would know so much more and understand so much less.
- From Albert Einstein and the Cosmic World Order, by C. Lanczos (Wiley, New York, 1956).
Einstein and the Poet (1983)
- William Hermanns, Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (1983). From a series of meetings Hermanns had with Einstein in 1930, 1943, 1948, and 1954, during which he took notes on what Einstein said (though it's unclear if he recorded the exact phrasing or filled in words from memory). Another person present at the 1954 conversation offered his own slightly different transcription of Einstein's comments, which was published in the article "Death of a Genius" from the 2 May, 1955 issue of Life Magazine. "Einstein and the Poet" is viewable on google books here.
First conversation (1930):
- School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn't worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave. This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system? . . . from the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy. The more I read, the more puzzled I was by the order of the universe and the disorder of the human mind, by the scientists who didn't agree on the how, the when, or the why of creation. Then one day this student brought me Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Reading Kant, I began to suspect everything I was taught. I no longer believed in the known God of the Bible, but rather in the mysterious God expressed in nature.
- p. 8
- The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can't grasp them. There is a pattern in creation.
- p. 10
- But we have higher mathematics, haven't we? This gives me freedom from my senses. The language of mathematics is even more inborn and universal than the language of music; a mathematical formula is crystal clear and independent of all sense organs. I therefore built a mathematical laboratory, set myself in it as if I were sitting in a car, and moved along with a beam of light.
- p. 11
- Since others have explained my theory, I can no longer understand it myself.
- p. 13
- Science is never finished because the human mind only uses a small portion of its capacity, and man's exploration of his world is also limited. If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.
- p. 14
- Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction. For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought. Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. To look for related facts means holding onto what one has instead of searching for new facts. Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge. Intuition, not intellect, is the 'open sesame' of yourself.
- p. 16
- What do you think of Spinoza? For me he is the ideal example of the cosmic man. He worked as an obscure diamond cutter, disdaining fame and a place at the table of the great. He tells us the importance of understanding our emotions and suggests what causes them. Man will never be free until he is able to direct his emotions to think clearly. Only then can he control his environment and preserve his energy for creative work.
- p. 26
- What a betrayal of man's dignity. He uses the highest gift, his mind, only ten percent, and his emotions and instincts ninety percent.
- p. 31
- Spoken on hearing German marchers singing war songs. On p. 474 of Alice Calaprice's The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, she lists "we only use 10 percent of our brain" as a quote "misattributed to Einstein", perhaps this is the source of the misquote? Einstein seems to be speaking metaphorically here, not endorsing the myth that science has shown 90 percent of the neurons in our brain lie dormant. And the myth dates back to before this interview, for example the book Mind Myths: Exploring Popular Assumptions About the Mind and Brain, edited by Sergio Della Salla, has a chapter by Barry L. Beyerstein titled "Whence Cometh the Myth that We Only Use 10% of our Brains?" which shows on p. 11 an advertisement from the 1929 World Almanac containing the line "There is NO LIMIT to what the human brain can accomplish. Scientists and psychologists tell us we use only about TEN PER CENT of our brain power."
Second conversation (1943):
- If I hadn't an absolute faith in the harmony of creation, I wouldn't have tried for thirty years to express it in a mathematical formula. It is only man's consciousness of what he does with his mind that elevates him above the animals, and enables him to become aware of himself and his relationship to the universe.
- p. 61
- I believe that I have cosmic religious feelings. I never could grasp how one could satisfy these feelings by praying to limited objects. The tree outside is life, a statue is dead. The whole of nature is life, and life, as I observe it, rejects a God resembling man. I like to experience the universe as one harmonious whole. Every cell has life. Matter, too, has life; it is energy solidified. Our bodies are like prisons, and I look forward to be free, but I don't speculate on what will happen to me. I live here now, and my responsibility is in this world now. . . . I deal with natural laws. This is my work here on earth.
- p. 64
- The world needs new moral impulses which, I'm afraid, won't come from the churches, heavily compromised as they have been throughout the centuries. Perhaps those impulses must come from scientists in the tradition of Galileo, Kepler and Newton. In spite of failures and persecutions, these men devoted their lives to proving that the universe is a single entity, in which, I believe, a humanized God has no place. The genuine scientist is not moved by praise or blame, nor does he preach. He unveils the universe and people come eagerly, without being pushed, to behold a new revelation: the order, the harmony, the magnificence of creation! And as man becomes conscious of the stupendous laws that govern the universe in perfect harmony, he begins to realize how small he is. He sees the pettiness of human existence, with its ambitions and intrigues, its 'I am better than thou' creed. This is the beginning of cosmic religion within him; fellowship and human service become his moral code. And without such moral foundations, we are hopelessly doomed.
- p. 66
Third conversation (1948):
- I believe in one thing—that only a life lived for others is a life worth living.
- p. 91
- If we want to improve the world we cannot do it with scientific knowledge but with ideals. Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Gandhi have done more for humanity than science has done. We must begin with the heart of man—with his conscience—and the values of conscience can only be manifested by selfless service to mankind. In this respect, I feel that the Churches have much guilt. She has always allied herself with those who rule, who have political power, and more often than not, at the expense of peace and humanity as a whole.
- p. 92
- Religion and science go together. As I've said before, science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind. They are interdependent and have a common goal—the search for truth. Hence it is absurd for religion to proscribe Galileo or Darwin or other scientists. And it is equally absurd when scientists say that there is no God. The real scientist has faith, which does not mean that he must subscribe to a creed. Without religion there is no charity. The soul given to each of us is moved by the same living spirit that moves the universe.
- p. 94
- I believe that we don't need to worry about what happens after this life, as long as we do our duty here—to love and to serve.
- p. 94
- I have faith in the universe, for it is rational. Law underlies each happening. And I have faith in my purpose here on earth. I have faith in my intuition, the language of my conscience, but I have no faith in speculation about Heaven and Hell. I'm concerned with this time—here and now.
- p. 94
- Philosophy is empty if it isn't based on science. Science discovers, philosophy interprets.
- p. 98
- And the traditional religions worry me. Their long history proves that they have not understood the meaning of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill. If we want to save this world from unimaginable destruction we should concentrate not on the faraway God, but on the heart of the individual. We live now in an international anarchy in which a Third World War with nuclear weapons lies before our door. We must make the individual man aware of his conscience so that he understands what it means that only a few will survive the next war.
- p. 98
- I happened to have nothing to do with the actual research and development of the bomb. My letter to President Roosevelt was nothing but a letter of introduction for Dr. Szilard who wanted to create adequate contact between scientists and Washington regarding the Manhattan project. I had only handled the problem of nuclear defense when it was reported to me that the Germans were working on such an atomic bomb and, in fact, had uranium mines in Czechoslovakia in their control. I felt it was imperative for the United States to proceed in the development of the bomb, before Hitler used it to destroy London. I also felt that we had to show Germany the power of America, for power is the only language barbarians understand. And when I later learned that the bomb had been created and was to be used against Japan, I did all in my power to avert President Truman from this plan, since publicly dropping it on an empty island would have been sufficient to convince Japan or any nation to sue for peace.
- p. 100
- Indeed, it is not intellect, but intuition which advances humanity. Intuition tells man his purpose in this life.
- p. 103
- I do not need any promise of eternity to be happy. My eternity is now. I have only one interest: to fulfill my purpose here where I am. This purpose is not given me by my parents or my surroundings. It is induced by some unknown factors. These factors make me a part of eternity.
- p. 103
- I cannot conceive of anything after my physical death—perhaps it will end it all. The knowledge that I am now on this earth and a mysterious part of eternity is enough for me. My death will be an easy one, too, for since early youth I have always detached myself from family, friends, and surroundings. And should I live on, I have no fear of the next life. Whatever good I did helped to free me from myself. What a miserable creature man would be if he were good not for the sake of being good, but because religion told him that he would get a reward after this life, and that if he weren't good he'd be punished.
- p. 104
- America is a democracy and has no Hitler, but I am afraid for her future; there are hard times ahead for the American people, troubles will be coming from within and without. America cannot smile away their Negro problem nor Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are cosmic laws.
- p. 108
- [in response to a question about what was meant by his "cosmic religion"] It is not a religion that teaches that man is made in the image of God—that is anthropomorphic. Man has infinite dimensions and finds God in his conscience. This religion has no dogma other than teaching man that the universe is rational and that his highest destiny is to ponder it and co-create with its laws. There are only two limiting factors: first, that what seems impenetrable to us is as important as what is cut and dried; and, second, that our faculties are dull and can only comprehend wisdom and serene beauty in crude forms, but the heart of man through intuition leads us to greater understanding of ourselves and the universe. My religion is based on Moses: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And for me God is the First Cause. David and the prophets knew that there could be no love without justice or justice without love. I don't need any other religious trappings.
- p. 108
- I believe the main task of the spirit is to free man from his ego.
- p. 109
- But then, after all, we are all alike, for we are all derived from the monkey.
- p. 110
- If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula in 1905.
- p. 112
- America, however, uses Russia now as a pretext to arm and create more terrible nuclear bombs. If I were young, I would leave the United States. I want to live where scholarship is free and unattached to the military machine. I want to live where spiritual values are not suppressed by the State. Nothing has real value which is not done out of love for one's fellowman. Poor America—the Apocalyptic rider is coming.
- p. 113
Fourth conversation (1954):
- Wait a minute! I am not a mystic. Trying to find out the laws of nature has nothing to do with mysticism, though in the face of creation I feel very humble. It is as if a spirit is manifest infinitely superior to man's spirit. Through my pursuit in science I have known cosmic religious feelings. But I don't care to be called a mystic.
- p. 117
- [asked whether he had communist sympathies] I have never admired any system that encourages a herd nature in man by suppressing his free will to choose for himself. . . . I said that Marx sacrificed himself for the ideal of social justice, but I didn't say that his theories are right. As for Lenin, I don't believe he liked me. How can I be called a communist when I have fought so long for freedom of thought, of expression, freedom from the military boot, and freedom from automation?
- p. 131
- About God, I cannot accept any concept based on the authority of the Church. As long as I can remember, I have resented mass indoctrination. I do not believe in the fear of life, in the fear of death, in blind faith. I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him, I would be a liar. I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.
- p. 132
- Variant transcription from "Death of a Genius" in Life Magazine: "I cannot accept any concept of God based on the fear of life or the fear of death, or blind faith. I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him I would be a liar."
- You must warn people not to make the intellect their God. The intellect knows methods but it seldom knows values, and they come from feeling. If one doesn't play a part in the creative whole, he is not worth being called human. He has betrayed his true purpose.
- p. 135
- Certainly there are things worth believing. I believe in the brotherhood of man and in personal originality. But if you asked me to prove what I believe, I couldn't. You can spend your whole life trying to prove what you believe; you may hunt for reasons, but it will all be in vain. Yet our beliefs are like our existence; they are facts. If you don't yet know what to believe in, then try to learn what you feel and desire.
- p. 136
- Variant transcription from "Death of a Genius" in Life Magazine: "Certainly there are things worth believing. I believe in the brotherhood of man and the uniqueness of the individual. But if you ask me to prove what I believe, I can't. You know them to be true but you could spend a whole lifetime without being able to prove them. The mind can proceed only so far upon what it knows and can prove. There comes a point where the mind takes a leap—call it intuition or what you will—and comes out upon a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap."
- Unsourced variant: "The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you do not know how or why. All great discoveries are made in this way." The earliest published version of this variant appears to be The Human Side of Scientists by Ralph Edward Oesper (1975), p. 58, but no source is provided, and the similarity to the "Life Magazine" quote above suggests it's likely a misquote.
- It's not as simple as that. Knowledge is necessary, too. An intuitive child couldn't accomplish anything without some knowledge. There will come a point in everyone's life, however, where only intuition can make the leap ahead, without ever knowing precisely how. One can never know why, but one must accept intuition as a fact.
- p. 137
- In response to statement "You once told me that progress is made only by intuition, and not by the accumulation of knowledge."
- Variant transcription from "Death of a Genius" in Life Magazine: "It is not quite so simple. Knowledge is necessary too. A child with great intuition could not grow up to become something worthwhile in life without some knowledge. However there comes a point in everyone's life where only intuition can make the leap ahead, without knowing precisely how.":
- Don't think about why you question, simply don't stop questioning. Don't worry about what you can't answer, and don't try to explain what you can't know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren't you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind—to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.
- p. 138
- Variant transcription from "Death of a Genius" in Life Magazine: "Then do not stop to think about the reasons for what you are doing, about why you are questioning. The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasons for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity."
- First you must have faith in an eternal world independent of you; then you must have faith in your ability to perceive it, and finally you must try to explain it by means of concepts or mathematical constructions. But don't always accept traditional concepts without reexamining them. Even overthrow my relativity theory, if you find a better one. . . . You must believe that the world was created as a unified whole which is comprehensible to man. Of course, it's going to take an infinitely long time to investigate this unified creation. But to me that is the highest and most sacred duty—unifying physics. Simplicity is the criterion of the universe.
- p. 139
- Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.
- p. 142
- Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value. Look around at how people want to get more out of life than they put in. A man of value will give more than he receives. Be creative, but make sure that what you create is not a curse for mankind.
- p. 143
- Variant transcription from "Death of a Genius" in Life Magazine: "Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives."
Einstein's God (1997)
- Einstein's God — Albert Einstein's Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God (1997) by Robert N. Goldman ISBN 1568219830
- The bigotry of the nonbeliever is for me nearly as funny as the bigotry of the believer.
- A man who is convinced of the truth of his religion is indeed never tolerant. At the least, he is to feel pity for the adherent of another religion but usually it does not stop there. The faithful adherent of a religion will try first of all to convince those that believe in another religion and usually he goes on to hatred if he is not successful. However, hatred then leads to persecution when the might of the majority is behind it.
In the case of a Christian clergyman, the tragic-comical is found in this: that the Christian religion demands love from the faithful, even love for the enemy. This demand, because it is indeed superhuman, he is unable to fulfill. Thus intolerance and hatred ring through the oily words of the clergyman. The love, which on the Christian side is the basis for the conciliatory attempt towards Judaism is the same as the love of a child for a cake. That means that it contains the hope that the object of the love will be eaten up...
- Letter to Rabbi Solomon Goldman of Chicago's Anshe Emet Congregation, p. 51
- If I would follow your advice and Jesus could perceive it, he, as a Jewish teacher, surely would not approve of such behavior.
- Reply to a Roman Catholic student urging him to pray to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and convert to Christianity.
- p. 88
- The fact that man produces a concept "I" besides the totality of his mental and emotional experiences or perceptions does not prove that there must be any specific existence behind such a concept. We are succumbing to illusions produced by our self-created language, without reaching a better understanding of anything. Most of so-called philosophy is due to this kind of fallacy.
- p. 89
- One has a feeling that one has a kind of home in this timeless community of human beings that strive for truth. … I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.
- p. 98
- To take those fools in clerical garb seriously is to show them too much honor.
- Comment on the Union of Orthodox Rabbis after expelling a rabbi because of his disbelief in God as a personal entity.
Einstein and Religion (1999)
- Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999) by Max Jammer ISBN 069110297X
- We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and lawfulness of all that exists and in its soul ("Beseeltheit") as it reveals itself in man and animal. It is a different question whether belief in a personal God should be contested. Freud endorsed this view in his latest publication. I myself would never engage in such a task. For such a belief seems to me preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook of life, and I wonder whether one can ever successfully render to the majority of mankind a more sublime means in order to satisfy its metaphysical needs.
- p. 51
- From a letter to Eduard Büsching (25 October 1929) after Büsching sent Einstein a copy of his book Es gibt keinen Gott [There Is no God]. Einstein responded that the book only dealt with the concept of a personal God.
- Speaking of the spirit that informs modern scientific investigations, I am of the opinion that all the finer speculations in the realm of science spring from a deep religious feeling, and that without such a feeling they would not be fruitful. I also believe that, this kind of religiousness, which makes itself felt today in scientific investigations, is the only creative religious activity of our time. The art of today can hardly be looked upon at all as expressive of our religious instincts.
- p. 68-69
- From a 1930 interview with J. Murphy and J. W. N. Sullivan.
- Scientific research is based on the assumption that all events, including the actions of mankind, are determined by the laws of nature. Therefore, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, that is, by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being. However, we have to admit that our actual knowledge of these laws is only an incomplete piece of work (unvollkommenes Stückwerk), so that ultimately the belief in the existence of fundamental all-embracing laws also rests on a sort of faith. All the same, this faith has been largely justified by the success of science. On the other hand, however, every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. The pursuit of science leads therefore to a religious feeling of a special kind, which differs essentially from the religiosity of more naive people.
- p. 92-93
- 24 January 1936 letter in response to a sixth-grader (Phyllis Wright) asking whether scientists pray, and if so, what they pray for
- I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional "opium for the people"—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.
- p. 97
- From a 7 August 1941 letter discussing responses to his essay "Science and Religion" (1941)
- I have found no better expression than "religious" for confidence in the rational nature of reality as it is accessible to human reason. Wherever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism. ... I cannot accept your opinion concerning science and ethics or the determination of aims. What we call science has the sole purpose of determining what is. The determining of what ought to be is unrelated to it and cannot be accomplished methodically. Science can only arrange ethical propositions logically and furnish the means for the realization of ethical aims, but the determination of aims is beyond its scope. At least that is the way I see it.
- p. 120-121
- From a letter to his friend Maurice Solovine, 1 January 1951
- The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive. However, I am also not a "Freethinker" in the usual sense of the word because I find that this is in the main an attitude nourished exclusively by an opposition against naive superstition. My feeling is insofar religious as I am imbued with the consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as "laws of nature." It is this consciousness and humility I miss in the Free-thinker mentality.
- p. 121-122
- From a letter to Beatrice F. in response to a question about whether he was a "free thinker", 17 December 1952
- I want to know how God created this world. I'm not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.
- p. 123
- E. Salaman, "A Talk with Einstein," The Listener 54 (1955): 370-371
- It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.
- p. 138-139
- From a letter to Murray W. Gross, 26 April 1947
Quotes about Einstein
- Arranged alphabetically by author
- I was particularly won over by his sweet disposition, by his general kindness, by his simplicity, and by his friendliness. Occasionally, gaiety would gain the upper hand and he would strike a more personal note and even disclose some detail of his day-to-day life. Then again, reverting to his characteristic mood of reflection and meditation, he would launch into a profound and original discussion of a variety of scientific and other problems. I shall always remember the enchantment of all those meetings, from which I carried away an indelible impression of Einstein's great human qualities.
- Louis de Broglie, New Perspectives in Physics, p. 182
- Like many other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him. ... It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions ... but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.
- Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose!
- Richard Feynman, as quoted in Collective Electrodynamics : Quantum Foundations of Electromagnetism (2002) by Carver A. Mead, p. xix
- Men like Einstein proclaim obvious truths about war but are not listened to. So long as Einstein is unintelligible, he is thought wise, but as soon as he says anything that people can understand, it is thought that his wisdom has departed from him.
- Bertrand Russell, Do Governments Desire War? (1932), a newspaper article for the "New York American" (as quoted in Mortals and Others, v.1, 1975)
- I like quoting Einstein. Know why? Because nobody dares contradict you.
- Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and on my arrival I was fully convinced that he understood it.
- Attributed to Chaim Weizmann, after a long trans-Atlantic journey; Simpson's Contemporary Quotations (6822) credits Nigel Calder, Einstein's Universe (1979); a slightly different version appears in David Bodanis, E=mc², which credits Carl Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956), pp. 80–81
- [H]is work revolved around three rules which apply to all science, our problems, and times:
- 1. Out of clutter, find simplicity;
- 2. From discord make harmony; and finally
- 3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
- John Archibald Wheeler, interviewed in Cosmic Search Vol. 1, No. 4 (Fall 1979). The three principles are sometimes attributed to Einstein himself, but no source can be found showing that Einstein stated them, and Wheeler didn't indicate in the interview whether he was quoting something Einstein had told him or giving his own description of how Einstein worked.
- It did not last: the Devil howling 'Ho!
Let Einstein be!' restored the status quo.
- J.C.Squire(1884-1958) 'In continuation of Pope on Newton' (1926)
- Official Einstein® website
- Einstein at the American Institute of Physics
- Einstein at the American Museum of Natural History
- NOVA : Einstein Revealed at PBS
- The Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 — Albert Einstein
- Profile at the University of St Andrews, Scotland
- Einstein on Science and Religion
- Juergen Schmidhuber's Einstein biographical highlights
- Einstein's letter to Roosevelt
- FBI files
- Einstein family pictures
- Einstein's wife: Mileva Maric
- Albert Einstein Biography from "German-American corner: History and Heritage"
- Official Einstein Archives Online : 3000 documents
- Albert Einstein Archive at the University of Jerusalem
- Einstein Papers Project at Caltech (California Institute of Techology)
- Living Einstein at the Max Planck Institute
- Albert Einstein Online - a comprehensive listing of online resources about Einstein.
- Audio excerpts of famous speeches: e=mc2 & relativity, Impossibility of atomic energy, arms race (From Time magazine archives)
- Albert Einstein: The World as I see it
- Albert Einstein: Why Socialism?
- Theory of relativity in 4-letter words or shorter
- Einstein and Religion (1999) by Max Jammer (PDF document)
- "Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion relatively clear" in The Guardian (13 May 2008)