Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Was Einstein really a genius?

  1. Mar 19, 2004 #1
    Was Einstein really a genius or just someone clever with new ideas?
    SR is really a simple theory and uses many ideas from other scientists.
    Clearly he was creative, but was he a genius[?]
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2004 #2
    I consider Einstein a genius. Not just because of SR, but also because of GR, the photoelectric effect, his proof of the Brownian motion, his contributions to laser-theory, ... ... ...
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2004
  4. Mar 19, 2004 #3

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    The ideas in Einstein's early papers on special relativity were absolutely original, and were recognized as such. The Lorentz transformations were a given, and only Einstein gave an account of how they arise operationally. Lorentz didn't attempt to explain them, and Poincare confined himself to there mathematical properties until after Einsteins's papers had appeared.

    It's pretty much the same story with general relativity. Einsteins's years long search for this theory (roughly 1910 to 1915) aroused the interest of the Gottingen mathematicians. Hilbert and Noether especially started to work on the ideas. And modern research has shown that the idea flow went from Einstein to Hilbert and not the other way around.

    Very few physicists in history have had as many and as important good ideas as Einstein. In addition to his relativity work he is one of the chief founders of quantum theory (photoelectric effect, quantum of radiation, stimulated emission).
     
  5. Mar 19, 2004 #4
    Only in retrospect does it look so simple. The consequences of SR back then were radically different than current notions about time and space. And let's not forget GR. According to Einstein SR was child's play according to SR.
     
  6. Mar 19, 2004 #5

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Re: Was Einstein really a genius?

    Einstein was the first to tell us that green isn't green, its orange. What, time isn't absolute? Absurd! Yeah, thats pretty radical.
     
  7. Mar 19, 2004 #6

    TeV

    User Avatar

    Define a genius.
    If Einstein is judged by his contributions to our understanding of physics there's no doubt.The greatest physicist of the last century.I think Einstein was asked the same question by journalist when he came to US.He answered aproximately:~"No, I'm not".Another side of his personality reflecting his geniality.
     
  8. Mar 19, 2004 #7
    Genius is a very great ability or skill in a particular subject or activity.
    A genius is a highly talented, creative, or intelligent person.

    To the media Einstein was a gift. He had the idealistic look of a "mad" scientist - white hair sticking up, deep thoughtful expression, someone lost in their own thoughts, and he had the look of a genius.

    He meet the criteria for the definition of a genius. But one thing we all take for granted is that almost everyone assumes his theories are true.

    What would we think of Einstein if we found the fundamental basis on which be built his theories were false, and both SR and GR were falsified. Would he still be a genius?
     
  9. Mar 19, 2004 #8
    Would you consider Newton to be genius, then? I believe some of his laws and rules are wrong, according to Einstein's work (in some cases, that is). Does that take away from Newton's momentous accomplishment?
     
  10. Mar 19, 2004 #9

    Phobos

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's worth noting that scientists continue to test Einstein's theories.

    Of course. Genius does not require omniscience.
     
  11. Mar 19, 2004 #10
    Re: Re: Re: Was Einstein really a genius?

    What kind of arguement is that supposed to me??

    It was a huge feat to realize that time slows down with speed and that gravity curves spacetime - what in the heck does this have to do with colors?

    I see that hide sight is 20/20 since it appears that you think you could have easily figured out SR and GR. Is that correct?

    To me that's genius! In fact if I were to define the term "genius" it would use Einstein as a template.
     
  12. Mar 19, 2004 #11

    Nereid

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Unless I'm mistaken, Russ and pmb_phy both agree that Einstein was a genius.

    So do most (all?) others who've contributed to this thread.

    However, they don't all have exactly the same reasons.
    Just a small comment: IMHO, very little, if any, of Einstein's theories were (or are) assumed to be true. They have been tested in the crucible of experiment and observation, and have passed with flying colours.
     
  13. Mar 19, 2004 #12

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Was Einstein really a genius?

    I wasn't being sarcastic: it was absurd (until we had enough evidence to show it was true) and it was radical.

    I was agreeing with you.
     
  14. Mar 20, 2004 #13
    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Was Einstein really a genius?

    Ah! Okay. Thanks. I didn't get the "green" thing but now I do.
     
  15. Mar 20, 2004 #14
    I was just thinking about this today...
    There is no doubt in my mind that he is a genius. However, I researched him a bit in elementary school... and if I remember correctly his brain was larger in mass than the average person. Also, most people think about complex things in a series, like long division. Most people also process things like their heart beat, very simple things (directions for your way to work), etc. in parallel; they can do a few at the same time. Some people have suggested that Einstein thought about these things not in a serial manner but in a parallel manner. That's just my two cents.
     
  16. Mar 20, 2004 #15

    Janitor

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    On another website discussion page out there in web space that rarely strays onto the topic of science, someone opined that Einstein was not very good at quantum physics. I think she is off base. Einstein was one of the first, after Planck but before Bohr, to make contributions to quantum theory. He was still contributing in the 1920s (?) in his work with Bose. I think it is more fair to say that Einstein never believed quantum theory was the ultimate physical theory, than to say that he wasn't able to understand it as well as his peers.
     
  17. Mar 22, 2004 #16
    Definitely, Newton invented Calculus, defined the laws of motion, determined the law of gravitation...
    Einstein's GR does predict the behaviour of gravitational systems better Newton's model. But Newton was unaware or the effects of relativity. A modern combination of Newton's ideas on gravity coupled with Einstein's relativistic effects could give the true model of gravity.
    Anyway, I guess Einstein and Newton were both geniuses, even though their theories were different and one is more wrong than the other.
     
  18. Mar 22, 2004 #17
    I think you answered your own question then. :smile:
     
  19. Mar 23, 2004 #18

    Haelfix

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    In my opinion Einstein is the largest genius to ever grace physical science. Yes larger even than Newton. He is up there with the ancient greeks and galileo in my mind in the pantheon of the elite.

    Newton was a brilliant mathematician, and his work stemmed b/c he understood and created calculus. But a lot of it in retrospect seems highly logical, one can trace back the steps of each of his proofs and say *wow that was really smart, but if I was smart I could do that too*.

    Einstein however had a grasp of the intuitive, that just eclipsed anyone that came before or came afterwards. Who would have thought SR was the way it was on an operational lvl. It takes a great intellectual leap to come up with that, I look back and try to trace the thought process... and I fail miserably, I don't think I ever could have come up with that. There are mathematicians who I consider like that too, Gauss/Riemann/Cartan/Cantor. Minds that are just .. beyond anything I could ever hope to be.

    Its worth noting, Einstein also had a sense of statistical mechanics (I consider him one of the top 5 pioneering figures in the field) that was incredible. It takes a huge genious to be able to intuitively grasp the interaction of a many body problem.. He seemed to be able to do it effortlessly.

    From 1905 to 1920 he just dominates physics.. Many of the great results of that time stem from conversations with Einstein.

    Even today, in our understanding of QM, Bohmian mechanics for instance derives its thought from conversations with Einstein
     
  20. Mar 23, 2004 #19

    Janitor

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Is there much support here for the idea that Paul Dirac and Wolfgang Pauli were not all that far short of Einstein in genius?
     
  21. Mar 23, 2004 #20

    selfAdjoint

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Surely so. And then there were Feynmann, and Schwinger (an authentic child prodigy, making discoveries at 17) and... the moderns. But for all their greatness, quantum mechanics has been a collective effort.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Was Einstein really a genius?
Loading...