Sunday, July 28, 2013

Was Einstein a Citizen Scientist?

Everybody starts somewhere.  A young Michael Jordan lost countless basketball games to his older brother.  Abraham Lincoln lost many political races before becoming President.  Vincent van Gogh couldn't sell a paintings for a  $1 that now hang in museums.  And Albert Einstein was just an everyday citizen scientist.  Just like the rest of us.

Walter Isaacson's "Einstein: His Life and Universe" shows how a man with a desire to learn and dedication to science can go from being shunned by world of academia to being embraced by it.  His ideas came from completely outside the professional establishment.  But they were so ground-breaking, and so correct, he forced the world to notice him.

Despite growing up in the Austrian town of Ulm, known for breeding world-class mathematicians, Einstein only received a limited education in the subject.  His verbal development was slow and the geometry he learned was done as his own (two years early) thanks to a book from a friend.  He also bought his own college-level physics textbooks while in high school to prepare himself for the Zurich Polytechnic Institute.  But these self-motivated initiatives and unique learning schedule were not necessarily a bad thing.  It helped him learn at his own pace and let his mind ask questions of the material he could never have asked his own teachers.  It also allowed him to master calculus before the age of fifteen (despite what unfounded rumors of his problems with math would have us believe). So by the age of sixteen he had written his first scientific paper, "On the Investigation of the State of the Ether in a Magnetic Field."  As Isaacson writes,
"His slow development was combined with a cheeky rebelliousness toward authority, which led to one schoolmaster to send him packing and another to amuse history by declaring that he would never amount to much.  These traits made Albert Einstein the patron saint of distracted school kids everywhere.  But they also helped to make him, or so he later surmised, the most creative scientific genius of modern time."

After graduation Einstein ran into another of his many difficulties breaking into academia as his parents were unable to afford a university education.  Returning home he worked in the family electrical engineering business, but soon found his way back to Zurich Polytechnic.  His eventual graduation from Zurich also led to frustration as he would wait another nine years before being offered his first academic job as a junior professor.  All leading him to the famed Swiss Patent Office.
He soon learned that he could work on the patent applications so quickly that it left time for him to sneak in his own scientific thinking during the day.  "I was able to do a full day's work in only two or three hours," he recalled.  "The remaining part of the day, I would work out my own ideas." ... He came to believe that it was a benefit to science, rather than a burden, to work instead in "that worldly cloister where I hatched my most beautiful idea.".....In addition, his boss Haller had a credo that was as useful for a  creative and rebellious theorist as it was for a patent examiner: "You have to remain critically vigilant."  Question every premise, challenge conventional wisdom, and never accept the truth of something merely because everyone else views it as obvious.  Resist being credulous.  "When you pick up an application," Haller instructed, "think that everything the inventor is saying is wrong."

All this work paid off during his "Miracle Year" of 1905.  In four brief papers published in the Annalen der Physik, he would upend the physics world and make a name for himself in the annals of history.
  • Photoelectric Effect: Showed that light energy is absorbed and released by atoms in discrete amounts.
  • Brownian Motion: Helped prove the theory of atoms by showing how their motion could be visually detected under a microscope.
  • Special Theory of Relativity: Established that the speed of light remains constant regardless of the speed of the observer.
  • Mass-Energy Equivalence: The most famous three-page paper which brought us the magical equation, E=MC squared

To quote Isaacson, "This was all quite presumptuous for an undistinguished Polytechnic student who had not been able to get either a doctorate or a job."  Though he would earn that Ph.D. later in the year.

Even this would not be enough for the establishment to immediately accept him.  While he convinced the editors to publish his papers that didn't mean other scientists had to accept what was in them.  Some thought his arguments were too "Jewish".  Others thought they were too conceptual and not what a true "Englishman" would argue.  In fact it was only as the many predictions made in those papers came true that the physics world would begin accepting the correctness of his arguments.  But slowly they do.  

In 1908 Einstein received his first true academic job and in 1921 he would receive the Nobel Prize for Physics.  He would then go on to a distinguished life in both Europe and America while continuing to search for a unified theory that would combine electromagnetism with his theories on gravity.  But his greatest successes were those performed by himself, outside of academia, with no support but his own mind and government salary.

Despite the prejudices against jews that kept him (and his ideas) out of certain prestigious schools, an intellectual background improved by academia but founded on self-motivated learning, and a lack of acceptance of his ideas by others, he upended the physics world.  Modern observers only see the man and his success, assuming he was always accepted.  But we give the scientific establishment too much credit if we think he came from that community.  He was a citizen scientist with very independent (outrageous!) ideas, and we forget how lonely he must have been knowing his ideas were right while being continually ignored.  To me it's a reminder of the vital importance of independent outsiders taking a fresh look at what is assumed to be true.  Science is built on over-turning previously held assumptions and the outsider is a great source of these fresh new perspectives.

Finally, as a fellow bureaucrat, it's a great reminder of the important work performed by our nation's government employees.  Isaacson sums it up best:

Had he been consigned instead to a job of an assistant to a professor, he might have felt compelled to churn out safe publications and be overly cautious in challenging accepted notions.  As he later noted, originality and  creativity were not prime assets for climbing academic ladders, especially in the German-speaking world, and he would have felt pressure to conform to the prejudices or prevailing wisdom of his patrons.  "An academic career in which a person is forced to produce scientific writings in great amounts creates a danger of intellectual superficiality," he said...As a result, the happenstance landed him  on a stool at the Swiss Patent Office, rather than as an acolyte in academia, likely reinforced some of the traits destined to make him successful: a merry skepticism about what appeared on the pages in front of him and an independence of judgment that allowed him to challenge basic assumptions.  There were no pressures or incentives among the patent examiners to behave otherwise.

All of this confirms our titling Albert Einstein a great citizen scientist and an independent thinker we are proud to call one of our own.


  1. The variable turns into an accepted credit supervisor for the business and performs credit checks, oversees installments and other related errands. The documentation of these installments and investigations of credit reports likewise turns into the duty of the element. cash advance corona

  2. Hey buddies please grab the xbox free codes from the mentioned website. Also grab free offers from xbox for free in seconds. Visit to explore more.

  3. Online education system is proves that the education is more important than other works and the education is gives an awareness and knowledge to proves students future. Students have to do this for their bright career and gain information in short time. Students can easily avail that opportunity to improve their study and get a high level job position in big company. A friend of mine is also enrolled in online education system and got a life experience degree accredited with well experienced.

  4. Thank you for sharing the post! This is what I need to find.
    instagram web viewer

  5. Terrific advantageous blog! At this time, I’m gratified immediately following overlooking this approach content. I must tell you I love all the loyalty you'll use to make sure you reveal to you such type of around! In these days just click right Cash Advance Oceanside Prefer implement like to have a look at a lot more minor changes because of you.

  6. Thank you very much for sharing this very useful information, I am very happy to have found this information that I have been looking for
    cara mengobati muntaber

  7. Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) Course Teaching Professional Degree Course. AICTE Approved University. Contact for More Details. 2500+ Students. Easy Admission Process.
    B.Ed admission in India
    B. Ed Colleges in Haryana
    Jbt from Haryana board
    D.Ed admission
    M.ed from Haryana

  8. online shop jual tas murah model tas warna putih tas webe terpopuler tas hello kitty sanrio hermes terbaru syahrini tas mewah supplier tas valentino mini style korea cewek model tas baru lv model terbaru webe
    jual tas kipling murah bandung toko grosir sling bag dress muslim murah tanah abang online toko sling bag toko sling bag adalah tempat berkumpulnya toko grosir atau penjual grosir online yang menyediakan
    online shop tas ransel wanita semua jenis fashion aksesoris seperti backpack bag, sling bag, tote bag, juga goody bag perawatan kecantikan dan lain lain untuk pemesanan barang di toko sling bag halaman web kami langsung pemilik toko iklan reseller
    jual tote bag murah dropship produk fashion bandung supplier grosir grosir tas di jakarta tersedia gambar kualitas hd daftar harga untuk pemasaran online di marketplace media social seperti pusat
    jual cath kidston murah belanja tas situs belanja online terpopuler saat ini didukung jasa pengiriman instagram toko online dll jual boneka murah online toko harga grosir lucu grosir tas boneka anak lucu pusat
    jual tas sekolah anak online grosir boneka murah online yang menjual beragam jenis boneka dengan harga sangat kompetitif berbagai karakter ukuran dan warna dan bisa pesan grosir tas wanita online jual
    tas cath kidston mini tas wanita murah toko jual tas murah purwokerto belanja toko grosir tas wanita murah online bahan kulit sintetis berkualitas toko sling bag online murah belanja toko fashion
    tas ransel mini lucu online tokopusat produk terbaru dengan harga murah bisa untuk di jual kembali diskon 70% ayo belanja online di toko pusat segera free ongkir jual tas handbag motif grosir tas handbag

  9. Hi Guys I'm Archana Kumari one of the most trusted call girls service provider. If you are now irritated with your wife on bed and want to have new experience of sensual activities with new female partner rather than to have the old and boring intercourse with the same flesh of your wife, then
    Please follow me on the links given bellow.

    Mumbai Escorts
    Escorts in Jaipur
    Call girls in Kolkata

    Call girl in Mumbai
    Model escorts in Mumbai
    Escorts in Mumbai

    MumbailCall gils
    Kolkata Escorts agency
    Kolkata Call girls

  10. Fajartoto is the Bandar Togel Terpercaya, Online Togel Agent, Trusted Online Togel & Situs Casino Online that has been proven to be a trusted place to place online lottery betting numbers for online lottery lovers and Judi Casino Online. Fajartoto as the Trusted Online Bandar Togel, Online Togel Agent and Trusted Togel Site that provides 9 official online lottery markets such as SGP pools, lottery pools, lottery pools, canadia pools, togel saigon pools, Siamese pools, khmer pools , lottery israel pools and toto macanese 4D pools. Please come to visit my website Syair Togel Hongkong and Prediksi Togel Hongkong

  11. some times student have many huddles steps in life. some of them cleared hurdles and some them are not cleared that so he or she gets stress this impact in her direct mentally life. so don't be worried and get buy valium online from the online store for u.

  12. Occupation such as a baseball is a useful occupation because sport is useful for people who experience mental stress. If you are forced to write paper, I advise you to go in for basketball and lose better than to turn to the best sociology essay writing service (it is the essay writing service that has rewards as "The best sociology essay writing service" and as "The best sociology paper writing company") immediately.

  13. Now you can win free stuff online, enter yourself into giveaways daily and win the latest products instantly. You can win free cash as a free giveaway every time we run a giveaway. - Win Latest Products, Gift Cards & Games Resources!


  14. شركة اصباغ الكويت اصباغ الكويت
    شراء اثاث مستعمل الكويت شركة شراء اثاث مستعمل الكويت
    فني كهربائي منازل الكويت كهربائي منازل بالكويت
    شركة مكافحة البق الكويت افضل شركة مكافحة البق الكويت
    شركة مكافحة حشرات الكويت افضل شركة مكافحة الحشرات الكويت
    نقل عفش مبارك الكبير شركة نقل عفش مبارك الكبير

  15. thank you for very interesting blog post Aviabiletebi

  16. This article is very useful, thank you for sharing. And allow me to share articles too, Télécharger pdf it's about health and treatment. God willing it will be useful for us all. Thank you :)

  17. I was very pleased to find this web-site. I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

    Click Here
    Visit Web


  18. whoah this blog is excellent i like studying
    your posts. Stay up the good work! You recognize, a lot of people are hunting around for
    this info, you could help them greatly.

    Also visit my page 오피사이트

  19. WOW!...I'm having down or not trouble to arrange my words, I'm very enthusiastic to see your pos

  20. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks
    Click Here
    Visit Web

  21. Thanks for the blog loaded with so many information. Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for.

  22. Thank You For Sharing You Informative Thought And Blog.Your Work Are So Good And Keep Sharing.
    Nasha Mukti Kendra in ChandigarhWe want to help you with your journey towards recovery and enjoy life to the fullest back again. At Nasha Mukti Kendra in Chandigarh we offer comprehensive addiction treatment, consultation, and therapies for substance abuse treatment.

  23. I commend your hard work on this and thank you for this information.

  24. I know it very well that if anyone visits your blog, then he/she will surely revisit it again. Feel free to visit my website;

  25. Awesome and entertaining article. I like to write a little comment to support you.

  26. Thank you for providing a good quality articlZ
    I am constantly thought about this, thank you for posting.

  27. Thanks for sharing such great knowledge with us. Looking for some more information from your blog.

  28. I was reading some of your articles on this website and I conceive this web site is very instructive.

  29. Fantastic site. Lots of helpful information here.

  30. I am overwhelmed by your post with such a nice topic.

  31. Your blog maintains an impressive consistency in delivering high-quality, thought-provoking content. Your devotion to sharing valuable insights is undeniably impressive. Each post echoes your passion for the subject, establishing your blog as an exceptional resource. Thank you for maintaining such a high standard of excellence!New Jersey Domestic Violence Act and New Jersey Domestic Violence Registry