Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#138) of Albert Einstein.
Einstein came to the U.S. because,
…the rise of the Nazi party and anti-Semitism made it increasingly difficult for him to work and in 1932 he took up the offer of a post at Princeton. He became a citizen of the United States, but retained Swiss citizenship.
The quotes below are from Wikiquote.
ON FACTS AND THINKING
Einstein couldn’t remember the speed of sound. This response to someone who questioned that is an argument in favor of learning how to learn instead of rote memorization. Intelligence, after all, is know what to do when you don’t know what to do.
[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.
If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.
ON INTUITION AND INSPIRATION
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.
ON USING MATH
In a letter to a high school student, Einstein wrote,
Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.
Einstein’s response to, “Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”
That is simple, my friend. It is because Politics is more difficult than physics.
ON THE POWER OF ONE PERSON
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.
ON SURVIVING TYRANNY
The Einsteinian equivalent of Martin Niemöller’s poem.
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.
Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
ON LEARNING, TEACHERS, AND EDUCATION
Einstein’s experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.
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.
Einstein’s foresight, sixty-eight years ago, was accurate. America has hard times ahead.
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.