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A Few of Einstein's Most Poignant Quotes

Posted November 01, 2012 by Jonathan Baron

Albert Einstein was a man who shaped a great deal of the 20th and 21st centuries. As the physicist who described elegant solutions to physics’ greatest problems of his time, he will forever be remembered as a genius who started a mathematical revolution in our understanding of the universe. He advised the then-president Roosevelt to begin an atomic program which would become the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. What isn’t widely remembered is that Einstein was also a humanist, and deeply concerned with a Creator. He described himself as an agnostic and rejected atheism and adopted what he termed, “an attitude of humility.” Below, you’ll find some of the most impactful Einstein statements, though the list is by no means inclusive.

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes."

Leo Mattersdorf was a man who did Einstein’s income taxes and advised him on tax issues. He reported Einstein saying this, to which Mattersdorf replied, "There is one thing more difficult, and that is your theory of relativity." Einstein responded, "Oh no, that is easy."

"When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity."

The above quote was how Einstein explained his theory of relativity to non-scientists and reporters. The first recorded instance of him conveying it in this way was to his secretary, Helen Dukas.

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. ... I cannot tell if I would have done any creative work of importance in music, but I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin."

Einstein did an interview for the Saturday Evening Post in 1929, and was interviewed by George Sylvester Viereck. The title of the interview was “What Life Means to Einstein.” Apparently, life to Einstein was physics, and just behind physics, music.

"I want to know [God's] thoughts, the rest are details."

Einstein had a quest throughout his life, and that was to understand a Creator's laws for the universe. he frequently spoke on discovering the underlying principles of reality, and as we can see from the quote above, found the everything else to be significantly less important

"Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."

Spoken in another interview for a magazine, he continued, "just as the man who spends too much time in the theaters is apt to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life." Certainly Einstein was not speaking here against reading, but speaking against a lack of personal, creative thought.

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."

Einstein, early in his life, was a pacifist. At the first rumblings of WWII, Einstein did urge Western nations to be prepared to fight Hitler and his Nazis, but still felt that war was “a disease.” He said the one great mistake in his life was when he “signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made, but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.”

"Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it."

Written when corresponding with a student, an E. Holzapfel. Einstein was, at times, a practical man who knew what science could get you monetarily and psychologically.

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."

Written to his son Eduard in 1930. Shortly thereafter, Eduard was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed. Eduard later told his father he hated him, and he never spoke to him again. Regardless, this advice from a father to son is still timeless.

"I believe in intuition and inspiration."

Einstein had the thought that, in line with his new theory of relativity, light from another star would be bent by the sun’s gravity. He continued, "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."

"One may say "the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

Einstein may here have been paraphrasing the the Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant. Thereafter the article this was said in, many different variants of the above quote have been distributed. What is perhaps most interesting though, and admittedly perhaps unintentional, is the stark contrast of this with the Catholic Athanasian creed, which states that the Godhead is “incomprehensible.”

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Authors Mentioned: Albert Einstein

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