Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Image: perhaps the most famous Solvay Conference was the Fifth, on Electrons and Photons, held from 24 to 29 October 1927, where the world’s most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.

Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) Chapter Eight:

“When the poet Paul Valery once asked Einstein if he kept a notebook to record his ideas, Einstein looked at him with mild but genuine surprise. “Oh, that’s not necessary,” he replied. “It’s so seldom I have one.” I need hardly point out that when he did get one it tended to be good…

When a journalist asked the British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington if it was true that he was one of only three people in the world who could understand Einstein’s relativity theories, Eddington considered deeply for a moment and replied: “I am trying to think who the third person is.” In fact, the problem with relativity wasn’t that it involved a lot of…complicated mathematics…though it did…but that it was just so thoroughly non-intuitive…

…Almost at once, popularisers of science tried to come up with ways to make these concepts accessible to a general audience. One of the more successful attempts – commercially at least – was The ABC of Relativity by the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell. In it, Russell employed an image that has been used many times since. He asked the reader to envision a train…”

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