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The Myth of Einsteinian uber-Genius

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Sacman has a degree in applied mathematics from UCSD and has authored 10 books on science and history that can be viewed on Amazon.



Einstein on Rushmore? Not so fast.

Einstein should be considered in the same sentences with Maxwell, Edison, Feynman, Sagan, Hawking as they all were more mechanics than true geniuses. They either aggregated the work of predecessors and contemporaries or they iterated multiple tries at something until something work. That is a more brute force ideal than the beauty of pure thought resolving something at first blush.

Aristotle, Newton, Mozart, and Tesla were more on the other side of that coin. They conceived of new ideas seemingly out of the blue rather than combine what had already been created. The level of imagination of Aristotle and Newton compared to what was observable at the time of their existence is breathtakingly different. The same with Mozart. These guys are on Rushmore as otherwordly. They truly 'thought differently' about the world.

For well over a century, Albert Einstein has been viewed as the greatest mathematician and physicist this world has ever produced. His field theory of gravitation considered not only as the sole replacement of Sir Isaac Newton's Theory of Gravity, but the single greatest intellectual achievement the world has ever seen. That has been the stated line in educational circles since the 1930s, especially after his theoretical prediction of mass-energy light bending was proven accurate in the famous 1919 observations in the South Pacific by Sir Arthur Edington. It was a singular achievement, no question, but was it entirely his achievement? Did his imagination, and only his great mind, conjure this idea up out of thin air? Not even close.

Aristotle to Newton to Tesla

Aristotle was the first to place a human understanding of the heavens on parchment that included new inventions called forces. That is a singular achievement as it took the power of observed movement in the air and sky out of the hands of the magical or God and give it to the observable concept of Nature. It was risky and he took that risk. That is worthy of Rushmore.

It took nearly 2000 years for someone to challenge that concept. Isaac Newton had to conjure up entirely by himself a whole new form of mathematical logic called 'the calculus' to prove mathematically that observable objects in Nature moved in understandable and PREDICTABLE ways, and his equations could predict those movements. His equations, written 500 years ago, send SpaceX vehicles to the Space Station and NASA rovers to other planets. That is astounding genius and well worthy of a Rushmore bust.

Then, along came Nicola Tesla to turn Merlinian magic into applications the world could use. He did in his mind what Edison needed a factory of employees and 10,000 experiments to produce. The difference is genius vs hack. Even hacks get it right once in a while. Tesla can join Maxwell on the Rock.

Bach to Mozart to Beethoven

These three need no introduction. They are only listed here for being examples of true genius which happened to be in music rather than mathematics. That they were able to conjure up out of the thin air around them the melodies that have been performed repeatedly through the centuries is simply remarkable. That Mozart was able to do so at the tender age of four and to start his symphonic career when most children are still playing in sandboxes is beyond belief. Again, more entries for Rushmore.

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Hendrik Lorentz

The first to establish a mathematical relationship between speed and perceived length of an object as well as the first to show that the passage of time slowed the faster the observer moved. His length contraction and time dilation equations formed the basis of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Lorentz should be the one lauded here, not Einstein.


Henri Poincare

French mathematician who developed the relationship between mass and energy, E=mc2, the one that made Einstein famous, five years before Einstein published it in this original theory. This is the most famous physics equation ever published and it is credited to the wrong scientist. Einstein over Poincare just as Edison beat Tesla in the marketplace of ideas. The US atomic age owes its existence to Henri Poincare, not Albert Einstein.

Marcel Grossman

Einstein's close friend and university roommate, who took class notes for the lazy Einstein, developed the concept of mass-warped geometry years before Einstein. Without Grossman's idea here, Einstein never would have developed his General Theory. It simply would not have been possible.


David Hilbert

Hilbert was a pure mathematician, and a generation older than Einstein, who developed the field equations of General Relativity while Einstein tried to formalize the theory as a whole. His mathematical formalism provided Einstein the confirmation he needed to publish his theory. Without Hilbert, Einstein would never have finished his theory.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 sacman

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