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Thumbnail of Albert Einstein (source)
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.


Albert Einstein Quote
“Politics is more difficult than physics”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 350 px)

[When asked “Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”] “That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics.”
— Albert Einstein
At a conference, Princeton, N.J. (Jan 1946)

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Albert Einstein (1 Oct 1940)
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Context of Albert Einstein's quote “Politics is more difficult than physics.”

Prompted by news of Albert Einstein's death (18 Apr 1955), Grenville Clark of Dublin, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to the New York Times to share an anecdote. It was published on 22 Apr 1955. Clark went to a meeting at Princeton, N.J. in Jan 1946, which was also attended by Albert Einstein. It was a follow-up to a conference held in Oct 1945 at Dublin, N.H. People there perceived an apparent weakness of the United Nations Charter, and were discussing how to remedy it. (The new institution had been formed by the signing of the Charter on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, California.)

The conference came hot on the heels of the newspaper coverage of the atomic bombs that had been dropped on Japan in Aug 1945, ending World War II. According to Clark, Einstein was present and voted on all the motions at the Princeton meeting, but was mostly silent. Although Einstein believed in the vital importance of world disarmament, he preferred to remain a stimulus, and was happy to leave it to others to organize the solution. After one of the sessions, another conferee told Clark about a conversation he had just had with Einstein, that he found significant:

“The professor has just said something that impressed me. I asked him, ‘Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?’ And he replied: ‘That is simple, my friend. It is because politics is more difficult than physics’.”

Note, when you see this quote citing Einstein's view of politics, that the words presented in the letter were recalled nearly a decade after Clark had heard them, and his account is also third-hand. So although in the letter, the conversation was reported within quotation marks, one should consider that they are not nessarily verbatim. No doubt the meaning remains intact, for Clark agreed with its truth. He closed by paying his respect to the passing of Einstein:

“Quite apart from his scientific genius, Professor Einstein’s feeling for all humanity made him one of the truly great men of his generation.”

Quotes on | Atom | Atomic Bomb | Difficulty | Disarmament | Physics | Politics |


Description and quotes from Grenville Clark, 'Letters to the Times: Einstein Quoted on Politics', New York Times (22 Apr 1955), 24.


See also:
  • Science Quotes by Albert Einstein.
  • 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).
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  • Albert Einstein - context of quote “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
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  • Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, by Abraham Pais. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Albert Einstein.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: 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) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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