It�s Albert�s world. We just live in it. - - MSNBC.com
Nice article. We definitely understand the importance of Einstein's contributions - but owing everything to Einstein is a quite a stretch. He provided seminal contributions to Physics by propounding the theory of Relativity and explaining the PhotoElectric effect, while not exactly being close to Quantum Mechanics.
But sometimes I wonder, Einstein or any other great man is a product of his times. Why, even Isaac Newton, whose intellectual achievements far outstrip any other scientist, said that he stood on the shoulders of giants!
Einstein was definitely great - but Newton far greater. In Newton's time (for a good book on Newton read James Gleick's biography of Newton), there was no scientific temper and theology ruled peoples' minds. Newton was also from the relatively intellectually backward England (at that time (1642) it definitely was just coming out of the dark ages). His achievements in the face of all such odds are some of the greatest that can be attributed to a human mind.
Going to another thought, if Newton or Einstein had not discovered what they are famous far, I am sure some one or the other would have done the same thing at around the same time. For example - Leibniz had 'invented' Calculus independent of Newton and Planck would have come around to use the Quantum Theory to explain the Photo Electric effect. Also Einstein's formulations were based on the work of Lorentz and Minkowski. So I am sure some one or the other would have discovered what Einstein and Newton did and we would be singing their glories now.
I, however, see these celebrations of centenaries and anniversaries as the celebrations of Human Achievement, as an ode to the indefatigable Human Spirit, which always takes us somewhere. Looking at that spirit, all I can do is to marvel at it and be grateful for being a part of it.
But the author of the article laments the fact that an Einstein would not be recognized today as Science has become a bureaucratic enterprise with peer-reviewed journals and professional politics. I tend to agree with the author here. Another thing is that science has 'advanced' to a stage where it would be impossible to do anything significant without a grant from the government - which would again be based on a scientist's tangible achievements rather than his innate ability to discover and theorize.
I end by repeating that we should all recognize these celebrations as not those glorifying certain individuals but as those glorifying the human spirit and humankind which thrives in the face of its own foibles.