In my professional blog, I wrote yesterday about the political obstacles and resistance that Einstein overcame to advance his various theories. This epoch is captured in part by a play entitled Transcendence. After sleeping on the term last night, I thought how elegant a word that is to describe his improbable life. The Nazis tried to depict his theory of relativity as junk science, the inevitable byproduct of “Jewish thinking”. Author Steven Gimbel explored this angle in detail in his book Einstein’s Jewish Science.
His new book, Einstein: His Space and Times, demonstrates how warped these views were, particularly when one realizes that Einstein went to Catholic school in his youth and acquired a lifelong admiration for the Jesus of the Gospels and social justice inherent in Christian belief. He was in fact a complex individual with deep Judeo-Christian values. His scientific thinking was inspired by a variety of individuals and concepts who came before him, and his ability to formulate and advance his thinking was made possible through a little help from his friends.
Gimbel details how Einstein’s friend, Marcel Grossmann, bailed him out on more than one occasion. As a student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Einstein was not one for attending lectures that didn’t interest him, but fortunately his classmate Grossmann took meticulous notes and the two of them became study buddies. (In my senior year in college, a lifelong buddy and I sequestered ourselves from a Talmudic class to which we were assigned, given in a language we couldn’t understand [Yiddish], showing up to the final exam with the teacher asking one of the other students “Who are these two? Doubt we came in #1/#2 like Grossmann/Einstein, but study-buddied well enough to graduate with this dubious distinction). It was Grossmann’s father’s connections that secured Einstein a job at the Bern Patent Office, providing him the environment for his annus mirabilis in 1905.
Though Einstein’s odysseys are well-documented, they are not necessarily well-known. This History Channel piece does quite a nice job chronicling the legacy.