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Dr. Albert Einstein: Theoretical Physics, Relativity and the Photoelectric Effect, 1935

The Nature of a Genius

Before he was known as a genius whose work profoundly changed the way the world thinks about physics, Albert Einstein thought of himself as "merely curious." In his youth, his curiosity lead him to explore the field of natural science through private reading outside of his high school classes, and to apply his knowledge to his own thoughts and questions about the nature of the cosmos.

Einstein was a philosopher and a human rights activist as well as a scientist. During his lifetime he witnessed two world wars and predicted the invention of the atomic bomb in a now-famous letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Einstein eloquently recorded his thoughts on religion, science and human rights, and the pages of his writings are imbued with the complex emotions and musings of a man who witnessed profound changes in the world around him, and whose direct involvement in major scientific breakthroughs inspired him to think about the extent to which developments in science effect society at large.

Despite the fame brought to him by his theories and research, Einstein's sense of humility remained intact. Though anecdotal episodes from his youth show some signs of arrogance and frustration with his fame, his adulthood is marked by a mature gratitude for his abilities and a resigned acceptance of his celebrity status. Reflecting on his success in his later years Einstein wrote, "For the most part I do the thing which my own nature drives me to do. It is embarrassing to earn so much respect and love for it."

Einstein's humility is seen in the following exchange of letters between Dr. Howard McClenahan of The Franklin Institute and Einstein himself. In response to Dr. McClenahan's news of his receipt of the Franklin Medal, Einstein wrote:

"I express to The Franklin Institute my heartiest thanks that it has found me worthy of such an honor."

You can read this written exchange by clicking on the thumbnails at right.