Magazine article Policy & Practice

The Relativity of Public Employment

Magazine article Policy & Practice

The Relativity of Public Employment

Article excerpt

Creativity and originality--these are traits not often attributed to public servants. Yet one of the most creative and imaginative thinkers of modern times produced his greatest work while he was a government employee.

Albert Einstein stated that the years he worked as a patent examiner at the Swiss Patent Office from 1902 to 1909 were the happiest of his life. And these were the years when his famous theory of relativity was unveiled, along with 31 other publications.

Some assume that the work of a civil servant is drudgery. So they presume that Einstein's paid work at the Patent Office was boring and very undemanding. On the contrary, Einstein wrote that his civil service position called for much thought and was quite diversified. He stated: "Working on the final formulation of technological patents was a veritable blessing for me. It enforced many-sided thinking and also provided important stimuli to physical thought."

Amazingly, Einstein's great theories can be linked to his work at the Patent Office. At his civil service post, he evaluated patent applications for electromechanical devices, reviewing ways to synchronize clocks by using electric signals. …

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