Albert Einstein - Creativity and Science
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
German-born American scientist (pictured right in 1921), who, as a Jew, fled from the Nazis.
Voted person of the twentieth century by Time magazine.
His Theory of Relativity (1905) and its equation:
(where E = energy, m = mass and c = the speed of light).
Relativity revolutionized science and made possible nuclear energy and nuclear bombs.
Why was he so creative?
1. Lifelong learning
Einstein (pictured right in 1955):
- was passionately curious.
- always replaced old ideas with new and better ones.
- was obsessed with learning and the pursuit of knowledge.
“A man should look for what is, not for what he thinks should be”, he said.
This is how he discovered the Theory of Relativity:
a) asking the right questions
(see point 2).
b) changing your assumptions
Einstein thought the unthinkable, assuming even that Isaac Newton (pictured right) might be wrong - see point
c) identifying the basic concepts involved
“Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler”, he said.
d) gathering as much information about these concepts
(from research and discussion),
e) making deductions
(from basic concepts with intuition and imagination - see point 3).
f) using deductions to find solutions to a problem
g) communicating clearly
He put his conclusions in language, everyone could understand.
“You don’t understand something, unless you can explain it to your grandmother”,
2. Continuous questioning
Einstein (pictured right in 1921) always questioned everything.
His Theory of Relativity started with a question he asked himself at 16
What would the world look like, if I rode on a beam of light?
He eventually worked out the answer: time would stand still!
He said, if you travelled 186,000 miles on a tram at the speed of light, this wouldn’t take a second but no time
at all! Why?
A clock, as you see it, won’t change, because the beam of light from the clock takes exactly as long as the time
(remember the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second).
3. Inspiration and imagination
His ideas on gravitation and relativity started with an inspirational idea, sitting in his job at the Patents
Office in Berne, Switzerland, in 1907 .
If a man falls freely, he will not feel his own weight, Einstein (pictured right in 1904) thought.
During that fall gravity doesn’t exist, and instead is replaced by acceleration (what he called the
principle of equivalence).
To solve problems, he brilliantly used his imagination.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge”, he said.
The Theory of Relativity was revolutionary, rejecting some of Isaac Newton’s ideas like time being absolute (i.e. it’s the
- the unquestioning acceptance of old, useless knowledge.
He loved his work and thinking about it.
“It’s not that I’m smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”, he said.
He thought so hard that he lost himself in his work to the exclusion of everything else, including his
He had a bad relationship with his sons, particularly Eduard, a schizophrenic (pictured right
above). Once he even forgot where he lived!
Work meant much more to him than his appearance, often giving lectures in an old sweater with slippers and no
Money wasn’t very important to him.
He wanted only $3000 p.a. for his job at Princeton University, but his wife, Elsa (pictured right
together), got it increased to $13,000.
This was important to refresh his brain.
He particularly loved playing the violin (pictured right below), which he learnt from the age
He worked so hard on the Theory of Relativity that he couldn’t think anymore.
So he took a short break from it and then cracked it!
Einstein described himself as a “deeply religious nonbeliever” who was strongly motivated
- spiritual feelings of beauty.
- humble awe before the magnificence of nature and the universe.
This spirituality is what he meant by religion in his famous statement:
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” .
He believed in order in the universe, saying:
“God does not play at dice” (so he wrongly rejected the chaos of quantum mechanics).
Technological progress that is wrongly applied is:
“like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal” he said
This is why he hated nuclear weapons.
Einstein (pictured right) turned down the presidency of Israel, because he believed that
- knowledge is for eternity.
- politics is only for today’s problems.
Key quotes on science and technology
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind
Science can only ascertain what is not what
Our technology has exceeded our humanity.
Key quote on the learning organization
Once you stop learning, you start dying.
Key quotes on communication
You don’t understand something, unless you can
explain it to your grandmother.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler.
Key quotes on learning
A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
I think and think for months and years. Ninety nine times the conclusion is false.
A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
Key quotes on creativity
The important thing is not to stop questioning: never lose a holy curiosity.
I believe in intuition and inspiration.
Only daring speculation can lead us further and not accumulation of facts.
Key quote on knowledge management
Imagination is more important than
Key quote on change
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep good balance you must keep moving.
Key quote on business ethics
Try not to become a man of success but try to become
a man of value.
Key quote on work and leisure
If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth
Key quote on relationships
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
Key quote on the past, present and future
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.
Key quote on decision making
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Key quote on wisdom
The search for truth is more precious than its possession.
Key quote on careers
If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker (on making the atomic bomb possible).