I recently finished reading a book about Einstein written by Stephanie S. McPherson called The Story of Albert Einstein. It relates the story of his life and discusses, in brief, several of his theories. Upon reading the book I received a fairly negative impression of his character. He was rebellious in youth, considerably fickle and opposed authority not only in childhood, but also throughout his life. I am going to give a short summary I have written of his life from information I have gained from McPhersons and Cwikliks books on Einstein. I would like to explain his theories in a later post.
Albert Einstein was born a Jew in Ulm, Germany, 1879. His parents, Pauline and Hermann, put him in a Catholic school. He excelled in science and math and could play the violin well, but failed miserably in all other subjects. When his fathers business failed, his parents departed to Milan, Italy to begin a new factory. Fifteen-year old Albert was left behind to study for his diploma, but suffering from boredom, he feigned illness so that he could go to Italy with his parents. Right before his departure he was expelled from school for his rebellious behavior. Albert fell in love with Italy and expressed his wish to denounce his German citizenship. Permission was denied and Albert was sent to Zurich, Switzerland to study for engineering at the Polytechnic School. While there, he denounced his German citizenship and became a man without a country. He managed to stay in school this time but he earned a bad reputation for his behavior because he was, even at this early age, developing ideas about light and wanted to go far beyond the concepts his teachers discussed. At the age of twenty-one he received his diploma but no professor was willing to work with him because of his ill reputation, so he found himself unemployed.
While at the school he met a girl called Mileva Maric and fell in love with her. When a friend suggested he get a job at the Swiss Patent Office in Berne, he disliked the idea but his relatives cut off his allowances and he found he had to support himself. After being employed, he married Mileva Maric in 1903. From then on he continued working with his theories and published his General Theory of Relativity and his Special Theory of Relativity. Meanwhile, he generally ignored his wife until at last a gradual barrier began to develop between them. Their first child, a girl, Lieserl, was born before their marriage and she disappeared soon after. It is generally believed that they sent her to an orphanage! Then Mileva gave birth to two boys, Hans Albert and Eduard.
When Albert was offered an appointment in Berlin, he moved back to Germany. While there, World War I broke out and Albert became a pacifist and created a statement against war. Only six people signed, including himself. His wife and children moved back to Switzerland, and Albert became attached to his cousin Elsa. He divorced his wife and married Elsa several months later. Elsa had been divorced once and had two grown daughters, Ilse and Margot, whom Albert adopted.
As Albert saw the suffering and persecution of the Jews around him, he decided that the best way to demonstrate his support was to become a German citizen again, and he did. And again, he worked at physics in his free time. Later, at the outbreak of World War II, horrified at the German cruelty, he again renounced his German citizenship, took up an American one and settled in America and began teaching in Princeton University. He felt that that was not enough; that only force would stop Germany and he renounced his views on pacifism. Fearing Germany would develop an atomic bomb before the rest of the world, he wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to quicken the development of the atomic bomb in America. His third letter inspired the Manhattan Project. Then he began working on his Unified Field Theory, but he died on April 18, 1955, before he finished it.
I read this definition of a genius last week and I think that it is a correct one: A genius is a person who has invested all his ability, fortune, thought and labor into one interest and therefore he excels in that one interest and men call him a genius.
Geniuses tend to excel in one thing, and since all other subjects are ignored except that one, they are usually undisciplined, unable to control emotions well and are entirely consumed by that one interest. If that is the correct definition for a genius, Albert Einstein qualified for the title, but whether or not it is an honorable one is debatable.
McPherson wrote her book for children, and littered the facts with a good deal of her own opinion, which was very positive. But the truth remained obvious. Of course, I dont mean by all this that Einstein's disposition was completely negative, but overall, he did not prove to have a strong character.