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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index E > Albert Einstein Quotes > Construction

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Albert Einstein
(14 Mar 1879 - 18 Apr 1955)

German-American physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.



The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built up by pure deduction. There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them. In this methodological uncertainty, one might suppose that there were any number of possible systems of theoretical physics all equally well justified; and this opinion is no doubt correct, theoretically. But the development of physics has shown that at any given moment, out of all conceivable constructions, a single one has always proved itself decidedly superior to all the rest.
— Albert Einstein
Address (1918) for Max Planck's 60th birthday, at Physical Society, Berlin, 'Principles of Research' in Essays in Science (1934), 4.
Science quotes on:  |  Cosmos (31)  |  Deduction (47)  |  Elementary (23)  |  Experience (208)  |  Intuition (33)  |  Law (366)  |  Logic (169)  |  Path (44)  |  Physicist (108)  |  Supreme (15)  |  Task (52)  |  Understanding (309)

If you wish to learn from the theoretical physicist anything about the methods which he uses, I would give you the following piece of advice: Don’t listen to his words, examine his achievements. For to the discoverer in that field, the constructions of his imagination appear so necessary and so natural that he is apt to treat them not as the creations of his thoughts but as given realities.
— Albert Einstein
In Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (10 Jun 1933), 'On the Methods of Theoretical Physics'. Printed inPhilosophy of Science (Apr 1934), 1, No. 2, 163.
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (111)  |  Advice (30)  |  Appearance (69)  |  Construction (60)  |  Creation (191)  |  Discovery (530)  |  Examine (17)  |  Field (102)  |  Imagination (186)  |  Learn (80)  |  Listen (14)  |  Method (122)  |  Necessity (112)  |  Reality (98)  |  Theoretical Physicist (9)  |  Thought (280)  |  Wish (40)  |  Word (178)

Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientist do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way the peace and security which he cannot find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience.
— Albert Einstein
Address at The Physical Society, Berlin (1918) for Max Planck’s 60th birthday, 'Principles of Research', collected in Essays in Science (1934, 2004) 3.
Science quotes on:  |  Best (93)  |  Construction (60)  |  Cosmos (31)  |  Emotional (2)  |  Experience (208)  |  Extent (16)  |  Fashion (18)  |  Intelligible (4)  |  Life (710)  |  Narrow (25)  |  Natural Scientist (2)  |  Overcome (5)  |  Painter (13)  |  Peace (45)  |  Personal (26)  |  Philosopher (109)  |  Picture (39)  |  Poet (49)  |  Science And Art (149)  |  Security (20)  |  Speculative (2)  |  Substitute (18)  |  Suit (5)  |  Try (53)  |  World (479)

Now it came to me: … the independence of the gravitational acceleration from the nature of the falling substance, may be expressed as follows: In a gravitational field (of small spatial extension) things behave as they do in a space free of gravitation. … This happened in 1908. Why were another seven years required for the construction of the general theory of relativity? The main reason lies in the fact that it is not so easy to free oneself from the idea that coordinates must have an immediate metrical meaning.
— Albert Einstein
In Paul Arthur Schilpp, 'Autobiographical Notes', Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist (1949), 65-67.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceleration (6)  |  Construction (60)  |  Coordinate (2)  |  Fact (507)  |  Fall (60)  |  Field (102)  |  Free (29)  |  General (64)  |  Gravity (81)  |  Idea (373)  |  Immediate (17)  |  Independence (26)  |  Meaning (84)  |  Metrical (3)  |  Nature (832)  |  Reason (245)  |  Relativity (42)  |  Theory (504)  |  Year (141)

Our experience up to date justifies us in feeling sure that in Nature is actualized the ideal of mathematical simplicity. It is my conviction that pure mathematical construction enables us to discover the concepts and the laws connecting them, which gives us the key to understanding nature… In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed.
— Albert Einstein
In Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (10 Jun 1933), 'On the Methods of Theoretical Physics'. Printed in Discovery (Jul 1933), 14, 227. Also quoted in Stefano Zambelli and ‎Donald A. R. George, Nonlinearity, Complexity and Randomness in Economics (2012).
Science quotes on:  |  Ancient (56)  |  Concept (66)  |  Connection (71)  |  Construction (60)  |  Conviction (42)  |  Discovery (530)  |  Dream (64)  |  Enabling (7)  |  Experience (208)  |  Feeling (74)  |  Grasp (27)  |  Ideal (36)  |  Justification (30)  |  Key (31)  |  Law (366)  |  Mathematics (525)  |  Nature (832)  |  Pure (38)  |  Reality (98)  |  Simplicity (118)  |  Thought (280)  |  Truth (645)  |  Understanding (309)

Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. …
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable—though much less certain—that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat or exploded in a port, might well destroy the whole port altogether with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
— Albert Einstein
Letter to President Franklin P. Roosevelt, (2 Aug 1939, delivered 11 Oct 1939). In Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (Eds.) Einstein on Peace (1960, reprinted 1981), 294-95.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (98)

The human mind has first to construct forms, independently, before we can find them in things.
— Albert Einstein
Essays in Science (1934), 27.
Science quotes on:  |  Construction (60)  |  Find (128)  |  First (109)  |  Form (136)  |  Human Mind (40)  |  Independence (26)  |  Thing (37)


See also:
  • 14 Mar - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Einstein's birth.
  • Albert Einstein - My Theory - The Times (1919).
  • Geometry and Experience - Address by Albert Einstein to the Prussian Academy of Sciences (27 Jan 1921).
  • Even Einstein's Little Universe Is Big Enough - New York Times article (2 Feb 1921).
  • Large color picture of Albert Einstein (850 x 1000 px).
  • Albert Einstein - Context of “God … integrates empirically” quote - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - Context of “Laws of mathematics refer to reality” quote
  • Albert Einstein - Context of “Laws of mathematics refer to reality” quote - with Large image (800 x 600 px).
  • Albert Einstein - Context of “God … integrates empirically” quote - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Mathematics…a product of human thought - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Mathematics…a product of human thought - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Politics is more difficult than physics” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Politics is more difficult than physics” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote The Lord God is subtle - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote The Lord God is subtle - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Imagination is more important than knowledge - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Imagination is more important than knowledge - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote A theory can be proved by experiment - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote A theory can be proved by experiment - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote Falling in love is not at all the most stupid thing - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote That is relativity - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote That is relativity - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “One thing I have learned in a long life” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote One thing I have learned in a long life - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Why is the electron negative?” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Why is the electron negative?” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “The formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “The formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Our exalted technological progress” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Our exalted technological progress” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “There exists a passion for comprehension” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “There exists a passion for comprehension” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “An equation is for eternity” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “An equation is for eternity” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, by Abraham Pais. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Albert Einstein.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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