North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Something deeply hidden

with 43 comments

Who is this?

He was the first child and only son of a mathematics-minded but financially inept father and a strong-willed, musically gifte woman of some inherited means. A daughter, Maria, was born to th couple two and a half years later; when shown his infant sister, Albert took a look and said, “Yes, but where are the wheels?” Though this showed an investigative turn of mind, the boy was slow to talk, and the family maid dubbed him der Depperte—“the dopey one.”

As the boy progressed through the schools of Munich, where his father had found employment in his brother Jakob’s gas-and-electrical-supply company, Albert’s teachers, though giving him generally high marks, noted his resistance to authority and Germanic discipline, even in its milder Bavarian form. As early as the age of four or five, while sick in bed, he had had a revelatory encounter with the invisible forces of nature: his father brought him a compass, and, as he later remembered it, he was so excited as he examined it that he trembled and grew cold. The child drew the momentous conclusion that “something deeply hidden had to be behind things.” That intimation was to carry him to some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, and to a subsequent persistent but unsuccessful search for a theory that would unite all the known laws of nature, and to a global fame impossible to imagine befalling any mere intellectual now.

Albert Einstein, of course.

The New Yorker article goes on to give us an interesting quote:

His faith that a unified theory of all the fields exists went back to his childhood sense that “something deeply hidden had to be behind things,” a something that would evince itself in an encompassing theory of elegant simplicity. Isaacson tells us: “On one of the many occasions when Einstein declared that God would not play dice, it was Bohr”—the physicist Niels Bohr—“who countered with the famous rejoinder: Einstein, stop telling God what to do!” God, sometimes identified as “the Almighty” or “the Old One” (der Alte) frequently cropped up in Einstein’s utterances, although, after a brief period of “deep religiousness” at the age of twelve, he firmly distanced himself from organized religion. In a collection of statements published in English as “The World As I See It,” there is this on “The Religiousness of Science”:

The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation.…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.

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Written by Curt

March 27, 2007 at 5:56 pm

43 Responses

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