Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais | Go to book overview

27
The Final Decade

Einstein's mind continued to be intensely active and fully alert until the very end of his life. During the last ten years, however, his age, the state of his health, his never-ending urge to do physics, and the multitude of his extra-scientific involvements called for economy in the use of his energies and time. He kept to simple routines as much as possible. He would come down for breakfast at about nine o'clock, then read the morning papers. At about ten-thirty he would walk to The Institute for Advanced Study, stay there until one o'clock, then walk home. I know of one occasion when a car hit a tree after its driver suddenly recognized the face of the beautiful old man walking along the street, his black woollen knit cap firmly planted on his long white hair. After lunch he would go to bed for a few hours. Then he would have a cup of tea, work some more or attend to his mail or receive people for discussions of nonpersonal matters. He took his evening meal between six-thirty and seven. Thereafter he would work again or listen to the radio (there was no television in his home) or occasionally receive a friend. He normally retired between eleven and twelve. Every Sunday at noon he listened to a news analysis broadcast by Howard K. Smith. Guests were never invited at that hour. On Sunday afternoons there would be walks or drives in some friend's car. Only seldom would he go out to a play or a concert, very rarely to a movie. He would occasionally attend a physics seminar at Palmer Laboratory, causing the awed hush I mentioned before. In those last years, he no longer played the violin but improvised daily on the piano. He also had stopped smoking his beloved pipes [D1].

At the beginning of his last decade Einstein, sixty-six years old, shared his home on Mercer Street with his sister Maja, his stepdaughter Margot, and Helen Dukas, who took care of everything from mail to meals. Soon after the end of the war, Maja began making preparations for rejoining her husband, Paul, who then was living with the Bessos in Geneva [E1]. It was not to be. In 1946 she suffered a stroke and remained bedridden thereafter. Her situation deteriorated; in the end she could no longer speak, though her mind remained clear. Every night after dinner, Einstein would go to the room of his sister, who was so dear to him, and read to her. She died in the Mercer Street home in June 1951.

Physics remained at the center of Einstein's being in the final decade, during which, as I described earlier, he concentrated exclusively on unified field theory

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Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To the Reader vii
  • Contents (entries in Italics Are Almost Entirely Biographical) xi
  • I- Introductory 3
  • 1- Purpose and Plan 5
  • 2- Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory 26
  • 3 - Portrait of the Physicist as a Young Man 49
  • II- Statistical Physics 53
  • 4- Entropy and Probability 55
  • 5- The Reality of Molecules 79
  • III- Relativity, the Special Theory 109
  • 6- ''subtle is the Lord . . .'' 111
  • 7- The New Kinematics 138
  • 8- The Edge of History 163
  • IV- Relativity, the General Theory 175
  • 9- ''The Happiest Thought of My Life'' 177
  • References 184
  • 10- Herr Professor Einstein 190
  • 11- The Prague Papers 192
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • References 228
  • 13- Field Theories of Gravitation 237
  • 14- The Field Equations of Gravitation 239
  • 15 - The New Dynamics 292
  • V- The Later Journey 297
  • 16- ''The Suddenly Famous Doctor Einstein'' 299
  • 17- Unified Field Theory 325
  • VI - The Quantum Theory 355
  • 18 - Preliminaries 363
  • 19- The Light-Quantum 364
  • 20- Einstein and Specific Heats 389
  • 21- The Photon 402
  • 22- Interlude- The Bks Proposal 416
  • 23- A Loss of Identity 423
  • 24- Einstein as a Transitional Figure 435
  • 25- Einstein''s Response to the New Dynamics 440
  • 26- Einstein''s Vision 460
  • VII- Journey''s End 471
  • 27- The Final Decade 473
  • 28- Epilogue 479
  • VIII- Appendices 481
  • 29- Of Tensors and a Hearing Aid and Many Other Things 483
  • 30- How Einstein Got the Nobel Prize 502
  • 31 - Einstein''s Proposals for the Nobel Prize 518
  • 32- An Einstein Chronology 520
  • Name Index 531
  • Subject Index 539
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