Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a legendary theoretical physicist whose groundbreaking discoveries such as the theory of relativity and mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2 impact the world to this day. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century and of all time, to the point that the name Einstein is synonymous with brilliance.
In addition to his scientific innovations, Albert Einstein often offered witty and wise insights on topics ranging from the meanings of life, the universe and people’s place in them to the inner workings of the mind and the relationship between science and religion.
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or objects.” - Einstein: A Centenary Volume
“I believe the main task of the spirit is to free man from his ego.” - Einstein and the Poet
“Much reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.” - "What Life Means to Einstein"
“If I was not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music ... I cannot tell if I would have done any creative work of importance in music, but I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.” - “What Life Means to Einstein”
“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.” - Mes Projets d'Avenir
“Blind obedience to authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” - Letter to Jost Winteler (July 8th, 1901), quoted in The Private Lives of Albert Einstein
“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.” - Out of My Later Years
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” - Letter to his son Eduard (5 February 1930), quoted in Einstein: His Life and Universe
“I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.” - quoted in The Encarta Book of Quotations
“Science can flourish only in an atmosphere of free speech.” - Dictatorship on Its Trial, by Eminent Leaders of Modern Thought
“Why does this magnificent applied science which saves work and makes life easier bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it.” - Einstein Sees Lack in Applying Science
“I believe in intuition and inspiration. ... At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” - Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms
“Everyone sits in the prison of his own ideas; he must burst it open, and that in his youth, and so try to test his ideas on reality.” - Cosmic Religion: With Other Opinions and Aphorisms
“I believe that whatever we do or live for has its causality; it is good, however, that we cannot see through to it.” - Interview with Rabindranath Tagore
“Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.” - My Credo
“I take it to be true that pure thought can grasp the real, as the ancients had dreamed.” - On the Method of Theoretical Physics
“One may say ‘the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.’” - Physics and Reality
“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” - Quoted in Einstein Lived Here
“I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.” - quoted in The 12 Powers of Man
“Everything that men do or think concerns the satisfaction of the needs they feel or the escape from pain.” - Religion and Science
In his 1935 book The World As I See It, Einstein described his worldview and thoughts on a range of subjects including knowledge, the universe and the human condition.
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”
“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.”
“How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it.”
“I regard class differences as contrary to justice and, in the last resort, based on force. I also consider that plain living is good for everybody, physically and mentally.”
“It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.”
Near the end of his life, Einstein gave an interview to Life Magazine titled “Old Man’s Advice to Youth: Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.” As the title suggests, the interview features some of his greatest insights and perspectives on the nature of the universe and our role in it.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day."
“There comes a point where the mind takes a leap — call it intuition or what you will — and comes out upon a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap.”
“Truth is a verbal concept that cannot be submitted to mathematical proof.”
“Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”
“...no one, it seems, can benefit by the experiences of others. Being both a father and teacher, I know we can teach our children nothing. We can transmit to them neither our knowledge of life nor of mathematics. Each must learn its lesson anew.”
These brilliant scientific minds, past and present, have made an impact on the world with both their actions and their words.