The Creativity of Albert Einstein
By Stephen Bucaro
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on 14 March 14, 1879. Young Albert Einstein
was curious about all kinds of mechanical objects. When he was five years old his father showed
him a pocket compass. He was fascinated how the arrow, floating in space, always pointed true
north. Einstein realized that there must be something causing the needle to move, despite the
apparent empty space.
His uncle Jacob encouraged Einstein's love of mathematics by giving him books on algebra
and geometry. However in school, Albert was a difficult and rebellious student. He clashed
with teachers over the school's strict regimen and teaching methods.
Einstein failed English, French, botany, and zoology. One of his teachers told him that
he would never amount to anything. He later wrote about the school that the spirit of learning
and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning.
In 1894 the Einstein family moved to Pavia Italy. During his time in Italy, Albert wrote
a short essay with the title "On the Investigation of the State of the Ether in a Magnetic Field."
In 1895, at the age of sixteen, Einstein took the entrance examinations for the Zurich
Polytechnic Institute in Switzerland and was accepted. At the school he frequently cut classes
because he thought the method of teaching mathematics and physics was uninspiring. However,
he did use the schools excellent library and physics lab to do his own independent research.
Einstein spent a lot of time playing imagination games and daydreaming. In one of those
daydreams he imagined that he was riding on a sunbeam. He traveled out into the universe and
discovered himself always returning to the place where he started out. He realized that if
you travel in one direction forever and return to the place where you started, the universe
must be curved.
Einstein failed in several subjects, but because he obtained the schools top grades in
mathematics and physics, he was awarded the Zurich Polytechnic teaching diploma. After graduating,
he spent two years searching for a teaching post. A former classmate's father helped Einstein
secure a job in Bern, at the patent office. His job was to evaluate patent applications for
electromagnetic devices.
At the patent office Einstein continued those daydreams. During one of those daydreams
he imagined himself traveling through space at close to the speed of light. When viewed by
a stationary observer, his space ship appeared to slow down and shrink in the direction of
its motion. From this, in June 1905, Einstein published "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies"
which described the fundamental relationship between space and time, gave the formula E = mc2,
and became known as Einstein's pecial Theory of Relativity.
The Special Theory of Relativity contradicted Sir Isaac Newton's principles of mechanics and
physics. I wouldn't consider this to decrease Newton's stature in the slightest because it
was much earlier, in 1687, he published "Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica" which
laid the foundations for the laws of motion and gravitation for the next three centuries.
Engineers and scientists still use Newton's laws today because, whereas Einstein's laws
describe the universe on a grand scale, Newton's formulas work on a more practical scale. Newton
also gave us differential and integral calculus, which are heavily used in Engineering and science.
In the early years after its publication there was much skepticism and criticism of Albert
Einstein's theory of relativity. A test proposed in 1964 by the physicist Irwin I. Shapiro
stated that according to the theory, radar signals passing near a massive object like a planet
should take slightly longer to travel to a target and longer to return than they would compared
to signals when no mass is present.
Tests, performed in 1966 and 1967 observing radar reflections from Mercury and Venus
just before and after it was eclipsed by the Sun proved predictions made by Einstein's theory
of relativity to be correct. Since then, many other experiments have been performed which prove
the theory to be correct.
