Einstein in Theory: The Scientist as Public Intellectual

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. "Einstein in Theory: The Scientist as Public Intellectual." The Weekly Standard, May 11, 2015.


This year is the centenary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and the occasion for revisiting that momentous discovery by paying tribute to one of the most famous scientists of modern times. Steven Gimbel’s brief book is a welcome contribution to that event, placing Einstein in his “space and times,” as his subtitle has it. “It was relativity,” he declares, “that made Einstein Einstein”—that gave the scientist the authority (the standing, a jurist might say) to pronounce on public affairs. Sixty years after his death, Einstein still enjoys that authority. The current issue of an English journal, in a discussion of the war against ISIS, quotes at length (and critically) a 1947 article by Einstein on the Cold War. And as I write, a Washington Post article on the Middle East peace process cites Einstein on the futility of repeated experiments, concluding, “This applies to Gaza.”

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