Friday, February 8, 2013

No more Einsteins

A SciAm blog asks:
There’s a short rumination in this week’s Nature in which Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist from the University of California, Davis asks a question that often surfaces: Is the age of scientific genius over? Will we see another Einstein, Darwin or Newton or is the idea of the lone genius assiduously scribbling at his desk and making a breakthrough a relic of the past?
No, Einstein was not a lone genius working in isolation. He is widely credited with special relativity being his solitary accomplishment, but it was really a restatement of much more original work by Lorentz and Poincare.

His work on general relativity was not solitary at all, as he collaborated with Grossmann, Levi-Civita, Hilbert, and others. The details are in my book.

Newton and Darwin also relied heavily on the work of others.

When people wonder why there are no more Einsteins, the simple answer is that there never was an Einstein that matched the myth about him.


  1. It seems that one big thing that Einstein did that nobody else did before him was get rid of the aether as necessary for the theory of relativity to work, which is what led him to initial fame. Is this correct?

  2. Einstein is often credited with abolishing the aether, but what he said was not much different from what Lorentz said earlier. See What Lorentz meant by the aether. Einstein later admitted that the special theory of relativity does not compel us to deny ether. And others say Einstein did not abolish the aether.

  3. Don't confuse between Newton, Darwin on the one hand, and Einstein, on the other, you right-wing idiot...

    And, then, in terms of original achievement, Einstein was better than you, you right-wing idiot...

    (No, I am _not_ a left wing idiot, you know!)

  4. So Einstein was better than a right-wing idiot. You have a point.