Friday, April 23, 2010

Are Today's Mathematicians as Eloquent as Einstein?

Good words for artists and writers — for everyone, really — from Albert Einstein:

The efforts of most human-beings are consumed in the struggle for their daily bread, but most of those who are, either through fortune or some special gift, relieved of this struggle are largely absorbed in further improving their worldly lot. Beneath the effort directed toward the accumulation of worldly goods lies all too frequently the illusion that this is the most substantial and desirable end to be achieved; but there is, fortunately, a minority composed of those who recognize early in their lives that the most beautiful and satisfying experiences open to humankind are not derived from the outside, but are bound up with the development of the individual's own feeling, thinking and acting. The genuine artists, investigators and thinkers have always been persons of this kind. However inconspicuously the life of these individuals runs its course, none the less the fruits of their endeavors are the most valuable contributions which one generation can make to its successors."

From a letter to the editor of The New York Times following the unexpected death of mathematician and Bryn Mawr professor Amelia "Emmy" Noether.

Apart from the quips that have been plastered on posters and plagiarized on posts, I haven't read a lot of what Albert Einstein has written, mathematical or otherwise. I should correct that. As you can see from the quotation above, if Einstein had decided to give up mathematics, he could still have had a great career as a presidential speechwriter.

No wonder people wanted him to be Israel's first leader.