Albert Einstein on Zionism and Israel

September 8, 2012  

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)  was a physicist, mathematician, philosopher,
pacifist, and Zionist. Because of his epoch-making theories of the nature of space,
time, light and matter, his name became synonymous with genius. Because of his
fame, every nation and the world has wanted to claim him as their own.   He is
best known for the special and general  theories of relativity, which overturned
Newtonian physics. He was a non-conformist in scientific thinking and in his
public life, for which he both reaped the rewards and suffered throughout his

While it can be truly said of Albert
Einstein that he was, in many respects, a “citizen of the world,” it is not an
exaggeration to say that much of his soul and a great deal of his public efforts
were given to the Jewish people and the cause of Zionism, though this is often

Albert Einstein was born at Ulm,
in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879 to Hermann and Pauline Einstein. His
father was an electrical engineer who had a small pioneering electrical
contracting firm.  Einstein’s parents were assimilationist Jews, who, like many
Jews in Germany, believed it possible to submerge their faith and nationality in
that of their adopted nation.

Six weeks after Albert Einstein was born,  the family moved to Munich, where
Hermann Einstein’s firm had obtained an important contract. Einstein began his
schooling there at the Luitpold Gymnasium.

When he was about five years old, Einstein was ill and his father gave him a
compass to pass the time while lying abed. He recalled later that he became
fascinated by the compass and got to thinking about fields, and how force fields
could act, a preoccupation that was to take up his scientific life.

At about the same time, his mother gave him a violin. He abhorred the
discipline of lessons, but was entranced by the music, and became a rather
competent violinist. In later life, he sometimes surprised audiences by giving a
violin recital instead of a lecture. Little Albert Einstein was not an easygoing
child. He threw temper tantrums, and when he did, he also threw objects at
anyone in sight, including a tutor and especially his little sister, Maja. She
remarked that it takes a sound skull to be the sister of an intellectual.

A Jewish tradition called upon families to invite impoverished religious
students to Sabbath eve dinner. The Einsteins modified the tradition, and took
in an impoverished young medical student, Max Talmud. Talmud introduced young
Albert Einstein to science and philosophy. He brought him a set of popular
science works by Aaron Bernstein. Bernstein was fascinated with the problem of
the speed of light, and used a variety of thought experiments, involving moving
trains and the like, to pose problems and paradoxes. Years later, when they met
again in New York, Einstein averred that Bernstein’s books had greatly
influenced him. Indeed they had.  From Talmud, Einstein also learned of Kant.

At age 12, Albert Einstein decided that he could not believe in religion, and
this motivated a constant rebellion against authority and regimentation, which
was apparently part of his character as well. Unfortunately, authority and
regimentation were the basis of Prussian society and in particular of Prussian
education, and this characteristic would not endear the Prussian system to
Einstein, nor would it endear Albert Einstein to his teachers.

When the business failed in 1894, Hermann Einstein moved his family to Pavia
Italy, where there were more promising prospects.

Albert Einstein stayed behind to finish one term of school, and then tried to
enter the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (Swiss Federal Institute of
Technology) in Zurich. He failed the liberal arts portion of the entrance exam.
He therefore completed his secondary education at Aarau, Switzerland. Contrary
to a prevalent myth, Albert Einstein did not fail in his mathematics courses. He
did quite well in science subjects. The myth was invented and popularized
apparently by Ripley’s believe it or not, but didn’t have any basis in fact.  He
did neglect mathematics until later in his life, because he thought mathematics
was less important than physics.


In 1896, Albert Einstein entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in
Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. While there, he
met  Mileva Maric, a Serbian. He married her in 1903 after the birth of their
illegitimate daughter, Lieserl, apparently in 1902.

Albert Einstein at the Patent Office

After leaving Germany, Einstein gave up
his German citizenship, because he could not abide Prussian militarism and
regimentation..  In 1901, the year he gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss
citizenship. Einstein’s ideas were unconventional, and he was outspoken in his
criticism of his professors. This earned him many enemies, and together with the
fact that he was Jewish, made it quite difficult to get a teaching post. 

Consequently, he tried to earn his living by tutoring, and was very happy
when friends were able to arrange a relatively lowly position for him as
technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. This finally enabled him to
marry Mileva Maric in 1903. However, their daughter remained, apparently, in the
care of friends in Serbia and eventually sickened and died of scarlet fever
about September, 1903. Albert and Mileva were to have two other sons. Hans
Albert Einstein, who would be a successful engineer, and Edouard Einstein, who
was afflicted with mental illness.

Albert Einstein’s office was near the famous clock in the city of Bern, and
the railway station where trains were timed by the clock The clock had been
built in the 12th century and later had been elaborated. Each hour, a mechanical
apparatus put on a great show featuring father time and other figures.  It had
been suggested that this clock and the trains gave Albert Einstein the
inspiration for his many thought experiments about time and travel.  In the
patent office, Einstein found that he could finish the required work in a few
hours each day, and devote the rest of the day to his scientific work. His boss,
Friedrich Haller, took a tolerant attitude to this use of his time.

Albert Einstein and the Olympian Academy

In 1902, Albert Einstein was still advertising his services as a mathematics
and physics tutor. His advertisement was seen by Maurice Solovine, who paid him
a visit. The two began talking about physics and philosophy and soon became fast
friends. They were joined by another former physics student, Conrad Habicht. The
three jokingly called their association the “Olympian Academy.” They met
frequently to discuss science and works of philosophy, in particular, the works
of David Hume, Ernst Mach and Baruch Spinoza. Their discussions served to
inspire much of Einstein’s thinking about the fundamental problems of physics,
as well as his approaches to causality and theology.

The state of physics at the turn of the century

The nineteenth century saw prodigious advances in physical discovery.
Physicists and philosophers thought that they were elucidating the workings of
an orderly and determinate world based on the laws of physics enunciated by Sir
Isaac Newton. In 1900, Lord Kelvin stated in his address to the British
Association of or the Advancement of Science, “There is nothing new to be
discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise

Shortly thereafter, however, Albert
Einstein and a handful of others were to totally upset this world, changing not
only the narrow understanding of physical law, but the human concept of
fundamentals such as causality, time, space and the nature of matter and energy.
The new understanding  of physics would make possible many of the wonders of
twentieth century technology, but it would leave many philosophical problems
unsolved. Both Einstein and Max Planck, who contributed materially to this brave
and uncertain new world, were unwilling to accept the apparent consequences of
their ideas, and Einstein spent most of his later life trying to return some
order and logic to man’s conception of the universe.

Many of the theoretical discoveries of Einstein, Planck and a few others
arose out of several different problems and unsatisfactory explanations that
were posited for known physical phenomena, which were being discovered much
faster than they could be explained in the 19th century. Newton’s laws and the
world of causality he created were apparently very applicable to relatively
large physical bodies in motion. In the 19th century however,  physicists had
begun to study light, electricity and the nature of matter itself, and they were
finding phenomena that required different approaches. In particular, the nature
of light was problematic. Newton had posited that light was composed of
corpuscles, but Maxwell was able to explain the behavior of light as waves. The
oscillating waves supposedly vibrated an invisible substance called ether,
analogous to the way that sound vibrated air. The inductive effect, in which a
moving magnet would induce a current in an electric conductor, was explained in
a similar way. However, the effect produced when the conductor moved and the
magnet was stable had to be explained differently, since the magnetic lines of
force were not evidently, disturbing any ether. The big problem with the ether
theory is that nobody was able to provide direct evidence of the existence of
the ether.  The ether was supposed to be the only thing at absolute rest in the
universe. Therefore, light traveling in opposite directions relative to the
rotation of the earth should travel at different speeds, but this effect could
not be found, in particular, in an experiment by Michelson and Morley.

There were problems with what should have been “classical” mechanics as well.
Newton’s gravitational laws had been used to explain the motions of the planets,
and fit quite well with most observed phenomena. They did not however, explain
some very small irregularities in the orbit of the planet Mercury. These were
first dismissed as measurement error, and later attributed to the influence of
another, unseen, planet, named Vulcan. But there was no such planet.

Albert Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis:

In a single year, 1905, at the age of 26, Albert Einstein produced several of
his most remarkable works. It is therefore known as his Annus Mirabilis or
Miracle Year. These works were the beginning of more than one revolution in the
way physicists understood the universe. In a very important sense, they made
possible much of the important scientific  progress of the 20th century.

Albert Einstein and the Photoelectric effect

The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons from matter that has
absorbed electromagnetic energy such as light or X-rays. It is the basis of
devices such as the light meter in your camera and the laser. A paper by Phillip
Lenard in 1901 exposed a puzzling aspect of this phenomenon. The energy of the
electrons emitted would not change as a function of the intensity of the light
that was directed at an object, but it would increase in response to light of
shorter wavelengths.

Physicists had
also been studying a complementary phenomenon- the emission of radiation by
heated metals. This also had a peculiarity. Nobody was able to explain the
characteristic spectra of wavelengths emitted very satisfactorily.  Max Planck
did so in a paper written in 1900 and published in 1901. He found that the wave
length (or energy) spectrum of the emitted electrons was not continuous. Rather
the emitted electrons were to be found only at certain wavelengths. To describe
this phenomenon and make the equations work, Planck introduced a constant,
h, eventually known as Planck’s constant. Planck believed that the
constant represented only a mathematical manipulation or perhaps a quality of
the electrons in a peculiar state in heated bodies.
Albert Einstein’s paper on the photoelectric effect was called “On a
heuristic point of view concerning the production and transformation of light.”
A heuristic explanation is one which is adopted because it is useful, though it
is not necessarily a description of “reality.” Einstein was somewhat reluctant
to carry the implications of his theory to their logical conclusions. This
paper put forward the idea that the photoelectric effect and Planck’s constant
could be simply understood if it was assumed that light is in fact particles, or
to put it more “politely,” light interacts with matter as discrete “packets” or
quanta of energy (later named “photons). Einstein himself recognized that this
idea was “revolutionary.” Eventually, this idea led to a  “dual” wave and
particle theory of light.

Albert Einstein: Doctoral Dissertation

In April of 1905, almost as an
afterthought, Albert Einstein published his doctoral dissertation on the size of
molecules. He had deduced the size of molecules dissolved in a liquid, giving an
estimate that agreed with Avogadoro’s number, the size that was found for gas
molecules. The thesis was accepted, and Einstein finally received his PhD. That
allowed him to be advanced to a higher rank in the patent office, Technical
Examiner Second Class.

Albert Einstein: Brownian Motion

Eleven days after finishing his
dissertation, Albert Einstein investigated Brownian motion, the movement of tiny
particles such as pollen suspended in water, or dust suspended in air. He
explained the random movement of these objects as due to random bombardment by
molecules, providing physical evidence in support of the atomic theory. He
predicted the mean displacement of a particle with a given size at a given
temperature, and when his prediction was verified soon after, the theory was
accepted. A somewhat amazing aspect of the paper was the assertion that
Avogadoro’s number could be determined by observations made with an ordinary

Albert Einstein: Special Relativity

Albert Einstein’s next paper, “On
the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,”  examined the problems of the nature
of light, motion and electrical induction. It was to have, perhaps,  the most
profound effect on physical theories of all the papers he published that year.
It began, according to Einstein, by imagining what he would see were he
traveling alongside a beam of light. The light, according to the wave theory,
would still be oscillating, but at the same time, it would not be moving, an
apparent paradox. He also considered what would happen if a person traveling at
the speed of light lit a flashlight. In elaborating on the implications, he
began from the postulate, first presented by Galileo, that motion is apparently
invariant for persons moving or at rest. Thus, a person in a ship’s cabin will
find that butterflies fly in all directions, tables and chairs are motionless
etc., because everything is moving together. Poincaré had again “rediscovered”
this principle in 1899, naming it the relativity principle. Einstein deduced
from this that all the laws of physics must be invariant regardless of motion,
including the equations of James Clerk Maxwell that described the behavior of
light waves. The observed speed of light would always be the same, regardless of
how fast the observer was moving.

The consequences of these simple postulates were devastating to many aspects
of physics and philosophy. It was no longer possible to ascertain that the same
events would appear to occur simultaneously for two observers. Space and time
would slow down and moving bodies would contract in the direction of motion. The
theory of special relativity also did away with the notion of the luminiferous
ether. However, this was a tiny consequence compared to some others. “Time” and
“space” could no longer be conceived of as absolute. The same event  did not
“happen” at the same time for stationary and moving observers.

Lorentz, Poincaré and Einstein had all postulated some of the most alarming
and counter-intuitive aspects of relativity theory  including the increased
mass, foreshortening of length in the direction of motion and time dilation that
are characteristic of a moving body. These were first discussed by Lorentz in
his 1899 publication. However, Einstein was the first to derive the Lorentz
equations from the theory of relativity, and he did so, apparently for the first
time, without reference to an “ether.” Though some critics insist that Einstein
“plagiarized” the work of Lorentz and Poincaré, this accusation must be
considered to be absurd, as neither Lorentz nor Poincaré believed that Einstein
had stolen their work.

Einstein explained the implications of the theory as follows:

The theory of relativity can be outlined in a few words. In contrast to the
fact, known since ancient times, that movement is perceivable only as relative
movement, physics was based on the notion of absolute movement. The study
of light waves had assumed that one state of movement, that the light-carrying
ether, is distinct from all others. All movements of bodies were supposed to be
relative to the light-carrying ether, which was the incarnation of absolute
rest. But after efforts to discover the privileged state of movement of this
hypothetical ether through experiments had failed, it seemed that the problem
should be restated. That is what the theory of relativity did. It assumed that
there are no privileged physical states of movement and asked what consequences
could be drawn from this.

Special relativity was “special”
because it applied to the special case of different observers moving at constant
speeds or not at all. Einstein had wanted to call the theory the “invariance”
theory, but the name “relativity,” devised by others, was accepted.

There was some debate over the role of Mileva Maric in relativity theory,
since Albert Einstein had written to her about “our” theory. But Maric herself
never claimed any credit for the ideas. It is probable that, as their son Hans
Albert stated, his mother helped to check the math, but only Einstein could
provide the creative thought.

Albert Einstein: The Equivalence of Mass and Energy

After a brief pause, in September of 1905, Albert Einstein took up
consideration of one more consequence of special relativity. In the paper
entitled ” Does
the Inertia of a Body depend on Its Energy Content?

” Einstein
posited that energy and mass were different manifestations of the same thing,
and that:

If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass
diminishes by L/c²

where c  is the speed of light. From this it was understood (using the
modern E instead of L that  the amount of energy in a given mass
could be calculated by the equation:



where E= Energy, m = mass, and c = the speed of light.
Since the speed of light was very large, the amount of energy in even a small
quantity of matter would be huge. A kilogram of mass would convert into about 25
billion kilowatt hours of electricity. Einstein pointed out that it would
perhaps be possible “to test this theory using bodies whose energy content is
variable to a high degree, e.g., salts of radium.” However, he did not believe,
for many years, that it would be practical to derive energy by conversion of

Einstein was not the first to derive this formula. The same formula had been
derived in 1902 by Poincaré, but Poincaré used it as a heuristic, to treat
electrodynamic radiation as a “fluid.”  Einstein was apparently the first to
both relate the equation to relativity, and to claim that it was a “real”
relationship: that objects would actuallly lose mass when they gave off light
particles. Olinto De Pretto, an Italian industrialist (or agronomer) from Schio,
Vicenza, may also have published the formula one or two years earlier. According
to University of Perugia historian of mathematics Umberto Bartocci, De Pretto
published the mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc² on June 16, 1903 in
“Ipotesi dell’etere nella vita dell’universo” (“Hypothesis of Ether in the Life
of the Universe”). The paper was included in the proceedings of the Italian
scientific institute “Reale Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti” (The
Royal Veneto Institute of Science, Letters and Arts), dated February 27, 1904
(Tomo LXIII, Parte II, pp. 439-500). Einstein may have learned of this work
through his friend Michele Besso.  An account of the significance of De Pretto’s
work was published in several journals in 1999. In
some cases, the accounts wrongly implied that Einstein had plagiarized the
special theory of relativity from De Pretto. De Pretto, like Einstein, took the
formula literally, and speculated on the huge amount of energy contained in
matter. The paper, however, overestimated the amount of energy in mass, and the
derivation was not related to relativity theory. It assumed the existence of the
ether, as is evident from the title.

The scientific method of Albert Einstein

Textbook accounts of scientific thought claim that modern science is built by
observation of empirical facts and generalizing from those facts to create a
theory, or in other words, inductive reasoning. Albert Einstein’s thought
processes did not, apparently, follow that path. In his patent office, he was
precluded from doing any experimental work, and even was unable to access the
experimental results of most other physicists. However, even when such results
were available, he tended to use them to test or support the conclusions that he
had arrived at independently, by deduction from postulates. Albert Einstein
derived the postulates by conducting “thought experiments” (“gedanken
experimenten”). He said “I simply imagine it so, then go about to prove it.” In
essence, this method might be thought similar to the derided methods of Greek
philosophers for discovering truths about the real world. The differences are
that Einstein was able to work out his deductive systems with rigorous
mathematics, and to offer conclusions that could be verified or disproved.
Einstein was not the first to consider the problem of moving trains and
synchronization of clocks, since Poincaré and others had used similar

Albert Einstein achieves some recognition

Few took notice of Einstein’s
papers in the Annalen der Physik. However, one of the editors, who had
read Einstein’s papers, was Max Planck, already well recognized for his work on
black body radiation. Planck supported the relativity theory and gave a lecture
on it at the University of Berlin in 1906, giving Albert Einstein a measure of
renown. Einstein continued to publish 6 or 7 papers a year while working at the
patent office. In 1907, he applied for the post of Privatdozent in Berne, but in
view of his copious scientific publications, declined to write a required
unpublished “habilitation” thesis. He was therefore refused the post. In 1908 he
applied again, swallowed his pride, wrote the thesis and was granted a post.
Albert Einstein was soon considered for the post of professor of theoretical
physics at the University of Zurich. However, he was initially considered a poor
lecturer. Only after demonstrating that he could give a proper lecture was
Einstein given the post. Einstein’s career in Zurich, as elsewhere, was marred
by anti-Semitism. The faculty of Zurich university produced the following
memorable letter, redolent of Swiss tolerance and progressive sympathies, after
being assured by Einstein’s sponsor, Professor Kleiner, that Einstein was not
“that kind of Jew.”:

The expressions of our colleague Kleiner, based on several years of personal
contact, were all the more valuable for the committee as well as for the faculty
as a whole, since Herr Dr. Einstein is an Israelite and since precisely to the
Israelites among scholars are ascribed (in numerous cases not without cause) all
kinds of unpleasant peculiarities of character, such as intrusiveness,
impudence, and a shopkeeper’s mentality in the perception of their academic
position. It should be said, however, that also among the Israelites there exist
men who do not exhibit a trace of these disagreeable qualities and that it is
not proper, therefore, to disqualify a man only because he happens to be a

This was not the last time that anti-Semitism was to intrude on Einstein’s
life, though he did not know of these particular considerations. .

In the
same year, 1909, Albert Einstein delivered an important address at the Salzburg
Naturforscher conference, in which he posited that radiation must henceforth be
treated both as particle emissions and as waves. Both he and Max Planck were
disturbed at the implications of quantum theory, but neither could offer a
satisfactory alternative.
In 1911, Albert Einstein accepted a position as Professor of Theoretical
Physics at Prague, but returned to Zurich in 1912. He was averse to returning to
Germany.  However, in 1914 he received an offer he could hardly refuse: he was
appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the
University of Berlin. He resumed his German citizenship in 1914, and found
himself and his family caught in the maelstrom of the first World War. .

Albert Einstein: General Theory of Relativity

The special theory of relativity was not entirely satisfactory, since it held
only for the case of constant velocity. Besides, Einstein wanted a theory that
would unite gravity and magnetism, if he could achieve it. In 1907, while
sitting in his chair at the patent office, it occurred to Albert Einstein that a
person in free fall would experience a gravity-free condition. This led him to
the postulate that gravity and acceleration are equivalent. For the Yearbook of
Radioactivity and Electronics of 1907, Einstein added the following to his
article on relativity:

So far we have applied the principle of relativity, i.e., the assumption that
the physical laws are independent of the state of motion of the reference
system, only to nonaccelerated reference systems. Is it conceivable that the
principle of relativity also applies to systems that are accelerated relative to
each other?

While this is not the place for a detailed discussion of this question, it
will occur to anybody who has been following the applications of the principle
of relativity. Therefore I will not refrain from taking a stand on this question

Then Einstein introduced what he would later call the “equivalence
He considered two systems Σ1 and Σ2 , where the former moves with acceleration γ and the latter is
at rest in a homogeneous gravitational field, that exerts a force equivalent to
the acceleration. He asserted that there is no physical experiment one could do
to tell the two systems apart:

As far as we know, the physical laws with respect to Σ1
do not differ from those with respect to Σ2 ; this is based
on the fact that all bodies are equally accelerated in the gravitational field.
At our present state of experience we have thus no reason to assume that the
systems Σ1 and Σ2 differ from each other
in any respect, and in the discussion that follows, we shall therefore assume
the complete physical equivalence of a gravitational field and a corresponding
acceleration of the reference system.

Einstein went on to discuss the implication for time and other effects in the
two systems. However, it took another 9 years to work out the mathematical proof
of the equivalence principle and the general theory of relativity. The laws he
was looking for would, in addition to upholding the equivalence principle, have
to reduce to Newton’s laws for the special case of weak and static gravity, and
would likewise need to conform with other physical laws. For several years, he
left this aspect of relativity as he was busy with implications of quantum
mechanics, but in 1911 he returned to it. One aspect of his theory was that
light should be bent by gravity. He predicted that during an eclipse, it would
be possible to observe bending of starlight by the sun with a deflection of 0.83
seconds (an arc second is 1/3600 of a degree).  Erwin Finlay Freundlich, a young
astronomer, undertook to verify this prediction during the next eclipse, but his
efforts were frustrated.


Though Einstein had previously neglected mathematics, he now turned to
his friend Marcel Grossman, for help in finding mathematical formulae that would
allow description of the gravitational field. Grossmann and Einstein utilized
the work of Riemann, Ricci and others on tensors, to show that gravity is the
result of curvature of spacetime. Unfortunately, they ran into a snag in
developing the mathematics, and Einstein reverted to a physical explanation
instead. By May of 1913, Einstein and Grossman thought they had a passable basis
for the theory, published as “Outline of a Generalized Theory of Relativity and
of a Theory of Gravitation,” known as the Entwurf, which means “outline”
in German. Unfortunately, subsequently Einstein and his friend Michele Besso
found several faults with this Entwurf. In particular, it did not
correctly predict the deviations in the orbit of Mercury from the course
predicted by Newtonian physics, and the equations were not covariant, meaning
that the laws of physics would not be the same for an observer at constant
velocity as it would be for one who was being accelerated or traveling at
different speeds. In July of 1914, Freundlich set out with an expedition to
observe the upcoming eclipse in the Crimea, in order to find experimental
verification for Einstein’s prediction. However, before the eclipse took place,
World War I broke out. Freundlich and his colleagues were enemy aliens. They
were taken prisoner, though they were released in the first prisoner exchange.
While this was unfortunate for poor Freundlich, it was not so unfortunate for
Einstein, as his equations were incorrect. During the latter part of 1915, he
returned to the mathematical modeling and eventually realized that the equations
he had discarded earlier were close to the correct solution. At the same time,
the mathematician and physicist David Hilbert was developing a solution of his
own. A race developed between Einstein and Hilbert. Both published their results
at the end of November. In fact, Hilbert’s version was a few days earlier than
Einstein’s. But upon examination, it turned out that Hilbert’s original version
was incorrect, and he had introduced revisions in his paper on December 16 to
incorporate some of Einstein’s critical work. Hilbert never claimed credit for
the theory itself, though apparently he may deserve some credit for the
formalization of the theory into mathematical equations.

Einstein’s new formulation predicted that star light would be bent 1.7 arc
seconds by the Sun, about twice the value he had previously predicted and twice
what would be predicted by Newtonian theory. Since the experimental results
would decide between Newtonian and Einsteinian gravitational theories, they
assumed even more importance. In 1919, the British astronomers Arthur Eddington
and Frank Dyson mounted an expedition to Brazil, where they measured the bending
of starlight during a solar eclipse. The numbers observed were between 0.86 and
1.98 arc seconds. The low value may have been due to a defective instrument.
Eddington believed that the results confirmed Einstein’s theory, and in fact,
subsequent measurements showed that to be the case.

The confirmation of
Einstein’s predictions by Eddington presently turned Albert Einstein into a
world class celebrity. At the meeting of the Royal Society that discussed the
results, J.J. Thompson declared, “The result is one of the greatest achievements
of human thought.” A headline in the Times of London proclaimed:


New Theory of the Universe


The New York Times proclaimed, a day later:


    IN THE

Men of Science
More or Less

Agog Over Results
of Eclipse



Stars Not Where They

or Were  Calculated
to  be,

but Nobody Need


No  more  in  All
the  World  Could

Comprehend  it,
Said  Einstein When

His  Daring
Publishers  Accepted  it.

Einstein later denied that only twelve people in the world could comprehend
his theory, but the idea that it was particularly abstruse remained stuck in the
popular conception. The General Theory of Relativity was undoubtedly Einstein’s
greatest achievement, and has been called “probably the greatest scientific
discovery ever made” by Nobel prize winning physicist Paul Dirac.

Einstein missed two very important predictions of the General theory of
relativity, however. The first was the prediction in 1916 Karl l Schwartzschild,
director of the Potsdam observatory, that under certain conditions collapsing
starts would form a mass so dense that gravitation would cause spacetime to
curve infinitely into itself. This situation, Einstein was convinced, was an
impossibility. In the 1960s, Freeman Dyson, Kip Thorne, John Wheeler and others
showed that such “black holes” are really a feature of Einstein’s theory, and
numerous black holes have been discovered.

The second prediction concerned the steady state of the universe. Einstein’s
General Theory of Relativity did not predict a steady state universe, but rather
one that should be contracting. Einstein added a constant to ensure that the
universe would remain at a fixed size. Later however, it became apparent that
the universe is in fact expanding.

The Pacifism of Albert Einstein in World War I

Albert Einstein resisted the temptation that had ensnared other German
academics, particular German Jews, to become advocates for war, and in fact he
spoke out against the war in Germany to the extent that it was wise to do so. In
November of 1914. Einstein published a three page essay titled “My Opinion of
the War.” He wrote that there was “a biologically determined feature of the male
character” that was greatly responsible for wars. The Goethe League was
circumspect enough to delete a few passages that might have gotten Einstein into
trouble. Einstein advocated a world organization that had the power to police
member nations. Einstein was not a politician, however, he took moral stands on
issues such as pacifism, socialism and Zionism, and, especially in the case of
Zionism, became involved in the cause, as we shall see. Because his approach to
these questions, like his approach to all questions, was always unconventional,
it was frequently misunderstood or deliberately misinterpreted.

Divorce and Remarriage

The Einsteins became progressively
estranged from each other, mostly through the indifference of Albert Einstein
and his absorption in his work, but also apparently, due to the moodiness of his
wife. For several years Albert Einstein tried unsuccessfully to obtain a
divorce, as he had taken up with his cousin Elsa. Mileva Einstein would not
grant a divorce however until the end of 1918, when Albert made an extraordinary
offer. He wrote that he was sure to win the Nobel prize, and he would give her
the entire sum. Mileva agreed, and in June of 1919, Albert Einstein married his
cousin Elsa. Einstein was troubled for a long time by the difficulties Mileva
put in the way of seeing his children and caring for them. Edouard became
increasingly ill and had to be hospitalized. Einstein quarreled with Hans Albert
both over his marriage and over his choice of career as an engineer. Later in
life, when both lived in the United States, they were reconciled.

Popular Distortions of Relativity Theory

The name “Relativity” was unfortunate, in many ways. People who knew neither
mathematics or physics fancied they could make the new theory fit their pet
ideas about science. Most people were not capable of understanding the
philosophical concepts, the physics or the math behind this theory. They read
popular accounts that distorted the findings. Even worse, some people did not
understand the limits of their own understanding, and attempted to deduce
irrelevant percepts of morality from the physical arguments of relativity, such
as moral relativism. Albert Einstein was not a moral relativist and his
scientific theories had no relation to ethics. He did have strong moral beliefs
that he separated from scientific theories, but not from the applications of
science, and he had a belief in a supreme being that made him rebel against the
randomness in nature that seemed to be implied by quantum mechanics.

In England, Lord Haldane published a book called “The Reign of Relativity,”
in which he claimed that Einstein’s theory supported his own crusade against
dogmatism in society and religion. He warned the archbishop of Canterbury that
relativity would have great implications for theology. Haldane invited Albert
Einstein to England, and hosted a grand dinner with the greatest British
intellectuals. He seated Einstein next to the archbishop, who asked him what
implications the theory of relativity might have for religion.

Einstein replied, “None. Relativity is a purely scientific matter and has
nothing to do with religion.”

Of course, that reply, and the fact that it was precisely true, did not stop
those who insisted on exploring the so-called moral and political “implications”
of relativity. Relativity theory has implications for epistemology and some
other branches of philosophy, but no direct implications for ethics or theology
of the kind that are often imputed to it.

Albert Einstein accused of Plagiarism

There are periodically, accusations that Einstein plagiarized his work from
others. Credit for general relativity is claimed by Harry Bateman, a British
mathematician, and others have pointed out that elements of Einstein’s special
theory of relativity are contained in the work of Lorenz, Poincaré, and various
others as discussed above.  Lorentz would hardly have recommended Einstein for a
Nobel prize had he thought that Einstein had plagiarized his own work or that of
Poincaré, and therefore the accusations are absurd.

Another figure who his sometimes portrayed as having been “plagiarized” by
Einstein is Soldner. Johann Georg von Soldner, a German mathematician and
physicist, is credited correctly with the idea that light would be bent by heavy
objects. Soldner indeed calculated the deflection of light from Newtonian
mechanics in 1801. The proposition followed from the corpuscular theory of
light, but as these corpuscles were assumed to be mass-less, as photons are,
that aspect of Newtonian mechanics had been ignored. However, Soldner’s
prediction was in line with Newton’s theory. Like Albert Einstein’s earlier
erroneous prediction, it gave a value of 2M/r, half the value of 4M/r predicted
by the corrected derivation of general relativity published in 1916. The point
of the Eddington experiment was to decide between the Newtonian and Einsteinian
predictions. The Einsteinian predictions have since been confirmed by
gravitational lenses, which demonstrate the bending of light by heavy bodies in
space, as well as by additional eclipse measurements.


In the 1870s, S. Tolver Preston, a British speculative philosopher, had
proposed in his “Physics of the Ether,” that energy contained in matter is
proportional to the speed of light squared. Preston’s speculations however, also
derived many “entities” and conclusions that apparently do not exist. He
insisted on the existence of the ether. Preston’s ether was not the empty one of
conventional physics. He populated the ether with gas particles moving at the
speed of light, and even calculated a gas pressure for these particles, none of
which corresponds to an observable reality.

The plagiarism accusations are sometimes made by well meaning people who do
not understand how scientific thinking is built on the accumulated work,
suggestions and speculations of others. Lucretius had described “atomic swerve”
2,000 years ago, but nobody would claim that Planck, Schrodinger, Bohr and
Heisenberg “plagiarized” the uncertainty principle or quantum mechanics from

Many of the plagiarism accusations against Einstein are unfortunately
accompanied by anti-Semitism and attacks on his Zionism, as well as accusations
that he was a communist. Equally, there are a number of works who attempt to
prove that Einstein was an anti-Zionist.

Albert Einstein and Zionism: I

Einstein was born into an assimilationist Jewish family, but the
anti-Semitism of his environment, especially in Germany, made him more and more
aware of his Jewishness. He is said to have variously remarked or wrote

“..if I am right, the Germans will say I was a German and the French will say
I was a Jew. If I am wrong, the Germans will say I was a Jew and the French will
say I was a German.” (quoted in Time,9171,741797-2,00.html)

“If the relativity theory will be proven true, the Germans will say I am a
German, the Swiss I am a Swiss and the French that I am a great man. If not, the
Germans will call me Swiss, the Swiss will call me German, and the French will
say I am a Jew.”

etc. in many variations. It is very likely that he said or wrote the same
thing in many different ways.

Something like that seems to have indeed happened. As Albert Einstein was
indisputably a success, Americans have claimed him as their own, the Nobel
foundation has carefully downplayed the role of anti-Semitism and narrow
mindedness in denying him honors he deserved, and anti-Zionists have tried to
downplay or deny the fact that Einstein was a Zionist, and have quoted his
criticisms of extreme nationalism and of Zionist excesses out of context. To
correct this injustice to Albert Einstein’s beliefs and memory, this modest
biography will emphasize Einstein’s role in the Zionist movement, which began in
the early 1920s and continued until the very day he died, when he was preparing
an address to be delivered on Israeli radio, on the anniversary of Israeli
independence. A wonderful Web site has documented Einstein’s devotion to Zionism
as well as providing a capsule history of the Zionist movement: Albert Einstein’s Zionism. See also:
Einstein and Zionism

At the conclusion of World War I, Einstein was horrified by the barbarity and
butchery, but the The Balfour
Declaration had given him hope. He wrote to his friend Paul Ehrenfest:

I’m very disillusioned with politics right now. Those countries [the Allied
powers] whose victory I thought, during the war, would be by far the lesser
evil, now show themselves to be an only slightly lesser evil. On top of that,
there’s the thoroughly dishonorable domestic politics: the reactionaries with
all their shameful deeds in repulsive revolutionary disguise. One doesn’t know
where to look to take pleasure in human striving. What makes me happiest
is the [prospective] realization of a Jewish state in Palestine.
seems to me that our brethren [Stammgenossenen] really are nicer
[sympathische] (at least less brutal) than these awful
[scheuslichen] Europeans. Maybe it can only get better if the Chinese
alone survive; they lump all Europeans together as ‘bandits.’

Letter to Paul Ehrenfest
March 22, 1919
, April 2005
Translated and annotated by Bertram Schwarzschild

Kurt Blumenfeld recruited Einstein to Zionism in 1919, though not without
difficulty. Albert Einstein was very much for assertion of Jewish rights, but
this conflicted with his lifelong opposition to militant nationalism. Blumenfeld
quoted him as saying:

I  am against nationalism but in favor of Zionism
[Blumenfeld quotes Einstein as having told him]. The reason has become clear to
me today. When a man has both arms and he is always saying I have a right arm,
then he is a chauvinist. However, when the right arm is missing, then he must do
something to make up for the missing limb. Therefore, I am, as a human being, an
opponent of nationalism. But as a Jew I am from today a supporter of the Jewish
Zionist efforts.
Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, World Publishing
(1971) p. 378.

In October of 1919, he wrote to physicist Paul Epstein:

Zionist cause is very close to my heart…. I am very
confident of the happy development of the Jewish colony and am glad that there
should be a tiny speck on this earth in which the members of our tribe should
not be aliens….

One can be internationally minded, without renouncing
interest in one’s tribal comrades.

Einstein was soon moved to support Zionism even more firmly, by increasing
attacks on Jews and on himself personally in Germany. In 1920, a shady
nationalist named Paul Weyland, and Ernst Gehrcke, a physicist began agitating
against Einstein and the “Jewish nature” of relativity theory. They were
supported in part by the Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard, whose work had been an
inspiration for Einstein’s earlier papers. Weyland and Gehrcke called a mass
meeting to denounce Einstein. With characteristic courage, Einstein attended the
meeting. Later, he wrote a scathing and not-too-judicious rebuttal of Weyland
and Gehrcke, which also attacked Lenard.

In the same year, Albert Einstein was asked to address an assimilationist
organization of “Germans of the Jewish Faith.” He rebuffed them rather bruskly.
In rebuffing them, he wrote that efforts of assimilationist Jews to put aside everything
Jewish appear somewhat comical to a non-Jew, because the Jews are a people
apart. “The psychological root of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that the Jews
are group of people unto themselves. Their Jewishness is visible in their
physical appearance, and one notices their Jewish heritage in their intellectual
work.” (cited in Isaacson, 2007 p 283).

He also wrote, and later quoted in his own book:

Before we can effectively combat anti-Semitism, we must
first of all educate ourselves out of it… Only when we have the courage to
regard ourselves as a nation, only when we respect ourselves, can we win the
respect of others; or rather, the respect of others will then come of itself.
( Einstein, About Zionism, MacMillan,1931, p.

Chaim Weizmann met Albert Einstein and the two scientists became good
friends. Einstein was enlisted to help raise funds for the creation of the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem. To make the trip, Einstein cancelled many
scheduled lectures, including an invitation to the famed Solvay conference. He
wrote to friends about this trip.

To Maurice Solovine:

I am not at all eager to go to America but am doing it only in
the interests of the Zionists, who must beg for dollars to build educational
institutions in Jerusalem and for whom I act as high priest and  decoy…

I do what I can to help those in my tribe who are treated so badly

Ronald W Clark
Einstein: The Life and Times , p. 3834

To Friedrich Zangger, he wrote on March 14, 1921:

On Saturday I’m off to America – not to speak at universities
(though there will probably be that, too, on the side) but rather to help in the
founding of the Jewish University in Jerusalem. I feel an intense need to do
something for this cause.

( Letter to Zangger, In Einstein, Albert, Albert Einstein,
Human Side (Hofmann,
Banesh and Dukas, Helen, eds.) Princeton
University Press,
p 62). 

Chaim Weizmann, Albert Einstein and their party traveled by ship and the two
got to know each other. Weizmann supposedly remarked, “Every day he explained
his theory to me, and now I am convinced that he understands it.” They arrived
in New York to begin what would be a very long and famous tour.

Einstein got most of the attention on this tour. In every city, large crowds
turned out to see the famous man, usually ignoring Weizmann and the Zionist
cause. The tour was a great triumph for the modest Einstein, but the Zionist
caused raised only $750,000, well short of their goal of $4,000,000. Common
people contributed gladly, but rich Jews were far less willing to support
Zionism. Albert Einstein did however, convince a group of Jewish physicians to
buy land for the site of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, and to pay for
outfitting a laboratory. Einstein also delivered a number of lectures at
different universities, including Columbia and Princeton. At Princeton he was
confronted with new experimental evidence that seemed to support the existence
of the ether, overturning his theory. But he was sure of his work, and remarked,
“Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not,” he told Ostwald Veblen.  In
German, he had said, Raffiniert ist der Herrgott aber boshaft ist er
’ He typically used “the Lord” or God, as a metaphor for nature and
the natural order, but Einstein did not believe in the ordinary conception of a
personal or anthropomorphic diety. Veblen later asked permission to use this
quote on the mantle of the fireplace of the common room of a new Mathematics
building at Princeton. Einstein was happy to grant permission, and he explained
what he meant: “Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but
not by means of ruse.” In the original German, he wrote, “Die Natur verbirgt
ihr Geheimnis durch die Erhabenheit ihres Wesens, aber nicht durch

While in the United States, Einstein was invited to the White House, where he
met President Harding. For some reason, Congress also decided to debate the
theory of relativity. The anti-Semitism however, followed him across the
Atlantic. Henry Ford’s Dearborn Independent headlined, “Is Einstein a

At the conclusion of the trip, Albert Einstein wrote to his friend Michele

Two frightfully exhausting months now lie behind me, but I have the great
satisfaction of having been very useful to the cause of Zionism and of having
assured the foundation of the university…

It is a wonder I was able to hold out. But now it is over, and there remains
the beautiful feeling of having done something truly good…

(Einstein: A Centenary Volume Harvard U Press
(1979) p 203)

Albert Einstein and the Assassination of Walther Rathenau

The German Foreign Minister, Walther Rathenau, was an assimilated Jew. His
views on internationalism and human rights were similar to those of Einstein,
though they disagreed on the Jewish question, Zionism and assimilation. They
became close friends. Einstein told him over dinner, after reading his book on
politics, “I saw with astonishment and joy how extensive a meeting of minds
there is between out outlooks on life. Einstein introduced him to Weizmann and
to Blumenfeld, hoping to convert him to Zionism, but without success. In 1922,
Rathenau, who believed in German compliance with allied demands, negotiated the
treated of Rappallo with the Soviets. This earned him the opprobrium of the
Nazis as a member of the “Jewish-communist conspiracy.” On June 24, 1922,
Rathenau was assassinated by Nazis. Einstein, and much of Germany, mourned

Later, Einstein was to say:

I can remember very well the time when Jews in Germany laughed over
Palestine. I remember, when I spoke with Rathenau about Palestine, he said: ‘Why
go to this land that is only sand and worth nothing and which can never be
developed?’ This was his idea. But, if he had not been murdered, he probably
would now be in Palestine. You can therefore see that the development of
Palestine is of real tremendous importance for all of Jewry.

At a 1940 testimonial dinner to Einstein, given
by the friends of the Haifa Technion, Institute of Technology, quoted in Abraham
Pais, Einstein Lived Here, Clarendon Press, Oxford U Press, 1994, pg 248

Einstein was profoundly shaken, and officials and friends warned him to guard
his life. Hitler had already attacked Einstein and “Jewish science.” Einstein’s
name appeared on hit lists prepared by Nazis. Officials advised him to leave
Berlin or avoid public appearances. For a time he moved to Kiel. Inexplicably,
he remained in Berlin for another decade. Meanwhile however, he decided to
embark on a tour of Asia and Palestine. He knew when he embarked on this tour,
that it would force him to miss the presentation ceremony of the Nobel prize for
1922, which he had been more or less informed, in September of 1922, that he
would receive.

In Singapore, Einstein was greeted by the Jewish community and raised money
for the Hebrew University.

He said:

If science is pre-eminent through its universal predomination, then one may
ask, why do we need a Jewish University? Science is international but its
success is based on institutions which are owned by nations. If therefore, we
wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our
own power and means. We need to do this all the more on account of the present
political developments and especially in the view of the fact that a large
percentage of our sons are refused admission to the Universities of other

Einstein in Singapore Joan
Bieder in On The Page Web magazine issue no. 1, winter 2000–2001

In Japan, he embarked on a grueling lecture tour. Einstein was favorably
impressed by the Japanese, who seemed to him a quiet, orderly and respectful
people who loved art and beauty.

Albert Einstein in Palestine

Arriving in Palestine, the Einstein’s were treated to, or rather underwent, a
round of official festivities organized both by Zionists and the mandatory
government. Einstein was made an honorary citizen of Tel Aviv, gave the very
first lecture at the as yet unbuilt Hebrew University, and visited Haifa, where
he planted two trees in the Technion and met with workers.

Albert Einstein
delivered the inaugural lecture of the Hebrew University. He also undertook to
edit the university’s first scientific journal. Along with Sigmund Freud, Ehad
Ha’am, Judah Magnes and others, Einstein was a member of the first board of
governors of the Hebrew University.
He began his speech in Hebrew, but continued in German, as his Hebrew was
unequal to the task. Later he wrote:

I consider this the greatest day of my life. Hitherto I have always found
something to regret in the Jewish soul, and that is the forgetfulness of its own
people — forgetfulness of its being, almost. Today I have been made happy by
the sight of the Jewish people learning to recognize themselves and to make
themselves recognized as a force in the world. This is a great age, the age
of liberation of the Jewish soul, and it has been accomplished through the
Zionist movement, so that no one in the world will be able to destroy it.

(Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, World Publishing
(1971) pg 393)

Albert Einstein and the Nobel Prize

Albert Einstein had been nominated for the Nobel prize beginning in 1910, by
Nobel laureate Wilhelm Ostwald, who had nine years earlier turned down
Einstein’s appeal for a job. However, the conservative Swedes were reluctant to
award a prize for theoretical work, that had not been proven by experimental
measurement, despite the entreaties of world-renowned scientists. The
measurement of the bending of light waves by Eddington in 1919 removed that
objection. Now, however, there was a different problem. Einstein’s nomination
for 1920 was proposed by Planck, Lorentz and Neils Bohr, who was to become a
lifelong friend. Lorentz’s letter asserted, with some understatement that
Einstein “has placed himself in the first rank of physicists of all times.”

Einstein’s success and world renown, had aroused jealousy. Not only was he
Jewish, but he had defied the entire stodgy academic system, which had initially
rejected him as a rebel. Cast aside by academia, Einstein had produced the first
several of his revolutionary theories from his desk in the patent office.
Arrhenius, was appointed to perform an academic “hatchet job.” He found that the
eclipse results were “ambiguous” and cited critiques by the anti-Semite Ernst
Gehrcke, one of the organizers of the anti-Einstein rally. Phillip Lenard was
also pushing to prevent Einstein from getting the award. Instead, the 1920 Nobel
prize award went to a virtual nonentity, Charles-Edouard Gillaume, director of
the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. His great contribution was to
make standard measures somewhat more precise.

In 1921, the support for Einstein was even stronger. Eddington wrote,
“Einstein stands above his contemporaries even as Newton did.” Albert Einstein
received 14 nominations for the prize. Again, the Nobel committee decided on a
hatchet job, appointing an opthalmologist, Allvar Gullstrand, to oversee the
nomination. A Nobel laureate for medicine, who got the prize for precision
optical measuring instrumentation, Gullstrand knew little of relativity physics
nor mathematics, and wrote fifty pages of rubbish in criticism of Einstein’s
general theory of relativity. This time, the academy decided to nominate nobody
at all.

In 1922 however, a theoretical physicist, Carl Wilhelm Oseen, had joined the
committee. Oseen understood that the committee could not be convinced to award
the prize for the relativity theory, as it had already committed itself on this
question. Therefore, he conceived of the idea that Einstein should be awarded
the prize for the “photoelectric effect.” The idea was to package Einstein’s
theory of photoelectric emission as a “law,” which was the sort of thing that
the Nobel academy could support. Oseen also had the inspiration to award
Einstein the prize that was not awarded in 1921, and at the same time, to award
the Nobel prize for physics in 1922 to Niels Bohr, for his model of the atom.
True to his promise, Einstein turned the money over to a trust fund for Meliva,
Hans Albert and Edouard Einstein.

Albert Einstein: Theoretical work in the 1920s

Einstein was forty years old in 1919, past the age of great discoveries for
most physicists and mathematicians. He had written to a friend:

Anything truly novel is invented only during one’s youth, Later one becomes
more experienced, more famous–and more blockheaded.  (Isaacson,
2007, p 316)

And he explained:

The intellect gets crippled, but glittering renown is still draped around the
calcified shell.  (Isaacson, 2007, p 316)

He noted:

To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority
myself. (Isaacson, 2007, p 317)

And indeed, he became more conservative. He began to reinsert a modified
version of the ether theory into the physical world, and he completely rebelled
against the randomness of quantum mechanics, even while he himself was still
making fundamental contributions the that branch of science.

Einstein had toyed with Bohr’s atomic theory, and wrote several papers, of
which the most important was “On the Quantum Theory of Radiation,” published in
1917. Einstein proposed a simple idea. Each light quantum observed by Planck
represented a change in energy by an electron in Bohr’s atom. Atoms absorbed
radiation, forcing them to a higher energy state, and then they would emit
photons, causing them to jump back down to a lower state. Einstein also had the
idea that if many electrons absorbed a lot of energy, they could all be made to
jump down at once, emitting a beam of light. This principle became the basis of
the laser.

The problem was, that the direction of the photon could not be predicted, and
the precise time when it would be emitted could not be predicted either, no
matter how much information was available. The strict causality and
predictability of Newtonian physics were seemingly at an end, but Albert
Einstein refused to accept the verdict. He later wrote to Max Born:

“I find the idea quite intolerable that an electron exposed to
radiation should choose of its own free will not only its moment to jump
off, but also its direction. In that case, I would rather be a cobbler, or even
an employee of a gaming house, rather than a physicist.” (Isaacson,
2007, p 324)

Niels Bohr met Einstein for the first time in Berlin in 1920. The two men
became close friends, and would argue incessantly about the problems created by
the new theoretical framework. Einstein visited Bohr in Copenhagen in 1922,
after his Nobel acceptance speech. The two rode back and forth on a streetcar,
and kept missing their stop because they were so engrossed in their discussions.
They each retained both their opposing viewpoints, and their great affection for
the other. Bohr would go about muttering “Einstein, Einstein Einstein.” On one
occasion when he was doing so, Einstein showed up unexpectedly in his office.
Einstein kept repeating that God would not play dice with the universe, and Bohr
countered once,

“Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”  (Bohr to Einstein,
Isaacson, 2007, p 326)

This famous remark of Einstein has sometimes been misunderstood as a
religious observation. As with his other remarks about “Herrgott,” all he meant
by it was that nature could not operate in a random way. Indeed, perhaps it was
hard to grasp how, if electrons and other particles could act in a random way,
one could be certain that matter would not “decide” at any moment, to come apart

The disorderly state of physics was soon to become more disorderly. Louis de
Broglie proposed that electrons could be treated as waves, in the same way that
Einstein had proposed that light waves could be treated as particles. Matter was
now not only unpredictable, it was beginning to vanish.

Einstein himself contributed to the chaos of physics, by accepting and
elaborating on the work of Satyendra Nath Bose. Bose stated that any two photons
that had the same energy state were absolutely indistinguishable and must be
treated as one for statistical calculations. This was bad enough, but at least
photons do not have mass. They are not “real matter.” But Einstein extended the
same reasoning to quantum particles. He also did some statistical calculations
which showed that a gas of quantum particles could condense into a liquid even
if the particles were not attracted to each other, a phenomenon later known as
Bose-Einstein condensation.

From his application of the wave theory to particles, Einstein made the
unsettling prediction that a beam of gas molecules passed through a double slit,
as in the Thomas Young experiment with light, would produce an interference
pattern. The prediction was correct.

Max Born wrote, “Einstein is thereby clearly involved in the foundation of
wave mechanics, and no alibi can disprove it.”  (Isaacson, 2007, p

Refinements by Erwin Schrodinger and Werner Heisenberg seemed to reduce all
of reality to waves of probability in nothingness. Worse, in 1927 Werner
Heisenberg proposed his principle of indeterminacy or uncertainty principle,
according to which one could know either the position or the momentum of a
particle, such as an electron, with absolute certainty, but not both, because
the act of observation would affect the results. Heisenberg asserted that this
was not just a matter of observation, but from the philosophical point of view,
it represented “real” reality.

Meanwhile, however, Einstein had embarked on a new path that was to prove,
apparently to be a sterile obsession. Beginning in 1923, he devoted most of his
time and effort to developing a unified field theory, that would unite
electro-magnetism and gravity and hopefully thereby banish the devilish quantum
and its uncertainty from physics.

At the Solvay conference of 1927, most of the world’s greatest physicists,
perhaps the greatest physicists of all times, had gathered to discuss the
implications of quantum mechanics. Einstein kept challenging Bohr and his
followers with clever thought experiments, but he could not shake he foundations
of quantum mechanics. He said:

“One cannot make a theory out of a lot of maybes. Deep down it is wrong, even
if it is empirically and logically right.”(Isaacson, 2007, p

Again at the 1930 Solvay conference, the same same arguments and refutations
persisted. Einstein would not give up. The actual problem at the bottom of the
arguments was not an abstruse issue of wave mechanics, but a fundamental
question of philosophy. Quantum mechanics, at least in the Copenhagen
interpretation, asserted literally that the “real world” was only a product of
our perceptions, strictly in line with Humean empiricism. The business of
physics could only be to describe what we can perceive about nature. Einstein
could not not accept that. He declared:

Belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the
basis of all natural science. (Isaacson, 2007, p

Albert Einstein and the Cosmological Constant

Men had wondered whether the universe extended infinitely, or was closed and
bounded. What could lie beyond the boundaries of “everything?” Typically,
Einstein’s answer was that the universe was both closed and infinite. The
General Theory of Relativity posited a closed, infinite universe. That is, the
universe, according to the theory, curves around on itself in spacetime, so that
if one were to travel far enough, one would arrive back at the same place.
However, there is no “outer bound” or edge. Was this universe expanding or
contracting? At the time, “the universe” consisted of the galaxy known as the
milky way and some blurry regions beyond. Einstein initially posited that the
universe was in a steady state, in keeping with then-known astronomical data. As
the stars were not moving and had no momentum, he found it necessary to insert a
“cosmological constant” to keep gravity from collapsing the universe on itself.

However, beginning in 1924, the astronomer Edwin Hubble had discovered more
and more galaxies, farther and farther away, using the powerful telescope of the
Mt. Wilson observatory. The universe was much bigger than had been thought.
More disturbing, the light from the farthest stars showed a distinct red shift,
indicating that the galaxies were moving away from the earth in all directions
at tremendous speed. Einstein could now remove the cosmological constant from
his equations. Today however, this term is reappearing in some physics
discussions, as a means of describing the mysterious force that causes the
continued expansion of the universe. In 1931, Einstein visited the United States
and among other places, visited Hubble at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, meeting
Michelson and playing with the giant telescope.

Albert Einstein and Zionism II

In 1929, Albert Einstein attended the 16th Zionist congress. Like so many of
us, he could never make up his mind if “Zionist” should apply only to those
living in Palestine, or also to those Jews living abroad who supported the idea
of Zionism. At the congress, he spoke of “”the brave and dedicated minority who
call themselves Zionists” and of “we others.” Ronald W. Clark,
Einstein: The Life and Times, World Publishing (1971) pg 401]

But when a Weimar Minister, Willy
Helpach, criticized Zionism as a “nationalist” movement, Einstein

I have read your article on Zionism and feel, as a strong devotee of the
Zionist idea, that I must answer you… I realized that only a common enterprise
dear to the heart of Jews all over the world could restore this people to
health…It was the great achievement of Herzl’s to have realized and
proclaimed… the establishment of a national home, or more accurately, a center
in Palestine…

All this you call nationalism… But a communal purpose, without which we can
neither live nor die in this hostile world, can always be called by that ugly
name. In any case it is a nationalism whose aim not power but dignity and
health.If we didn’t have to live among intolerant, narrow minded and violent
people, I would be the first to discard all nationalism in favor of a universal

Letter to Professor Hellpach, published in Mein Weltbild (The World as I See
It), 1934

Following the Arab
riots of 1929 Einstein rallied to the cause of the Zionist project,
threatened by the British White Paper, and identified the Grand Mufti,
Hajj Amin Al Husseini as the main instigator.

Does public opinion in Great Britain realise that the Grand Mufti of
Jerusalem, who is the centre of an the trouble, and speaks so loudly in the name
of all the Moslems, is a young political adventurer of not much more, I
understand, than thirty years of age, who in 1920 was sentenced to several
years’ imprisonment for his complicity in the riots of that year, but was
pardoned under the terms of an amnesty?   The mentality of this man may be
gauged from a recent statement he gave to an interviewer accusing me, of all
men, of having demanded the rebuilding of the Temple on the site of the Mosque
of Omar.   Is it tolerable that, in a country where ignorant fanaticism can so
easily be incited to rapine and murder by interested agitators, so utterly
irresponsible and unscrupulous a politician should be enabled to continue to
exercise his evil influence, garbed in an the spiritual sanity of religion, and
invested with all the temporal powers that this involves in an Eastern country?

Einstein: About Zionism


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