The Mental. Mental intelligence refers, plainly enough, to the thinking mind or cognition, but also includes the functions of the subconscious mind and the inspirations of the super-conscious mind. This third essential intelligence encompasses the nerves and the brain, whose mysterious, amazing functions facilitate communication, memory and information retrieval. Mental consciousness also includes the search for knowledge and the development of one’s education.
Considered the greatest thinker and scientist of the 20th Century—and maybe for all time—Albert Einstein represented the development of a highly refined mental intelligence tempered by his modest, unassuming personality and spiritual humility. For Einstein, scientific endeavor only heightened what he called true art: the search for the mysterious.
Einstein (1879-1955) was born in the German city of Ulm. His parents, Hermann and Pauline, were non-observant Jews that placed their son in a Catholic elementary school. Young Albert was often tagged a slow learner, but rumors of his failure at math are untrue. At age five, Hermann gave his son a compass, and Einstein credited his fascination with the unseen “something” that controlled the needle as one of the revelatory experiences of his life. He dropped out of school before graduation, at odds with the European educational practice of rote memorization, but finished in Switzerland a year later.
In 1896, Einstein entered the University of Zurich, where he met a young Serbian woman named Mileva Maric, the only woman at the university that year to pursue the same program as Einstein. He described her as his equal. They became lovers and had a daughter, Lieserl, in January 1902. Einstein relinquished his German citizenship in 1896 and became a Swiss citizen in 1901. Albert and Mileva married in 1903; Mileva bore two sons—Hans Albert (1904) and Eduard (1910). Unable to find a teaching post after graduation, Einstein became an assistant technical examiner at the Swiss Patent Office.
Einstein described 1905 as his “miracle year,” publishing four articles that became the foundation of modern physics. The first, on the photoelectric effect, proved the existence of photons and confirmed scientist Max Planck’s theory of quantum energy. The second explored Brownian motion and provided empirical proof of the existence of atoms, converting even the most ardent “anti-atomists.”
The third paper, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” introduced the world to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Einstein’s lectures at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1915 on relativity theory concluded with his replacement of Newton’s law of gravity: no longer was gravity a force but a function of the curvature of space and time. The British scientist Arthur Eddington confirmed Einstein’s theory in 1919 when Eddington measured how much the light emanating from a star was bent by the sun’s gravity when it passed close to the sun, an effect called gravitational lensing. When The New York Times published the results of Eddington’s experiments, Einstein’s fame was assured.
The fourth paper, “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon its Energy Content?”, outlined Einstein’s famous equation: E = mc², or the energy of a body at rest equals its mass times the square of the speed of light. Any of these papers could have earned Einstein a Nobel Prize in physics, but the committee recognized Einstein with a Nobel in 1921 specifically for his work on the photoelectric effect—no doubt because Einstein’s other theories were as yet too controversial.
Einstein divorced Mileva in 1919 and married his first cousin Elsa. He returned to teach in Berlin, reclaiming his German citizenship, but fled the Nazis and emigrated to America in 1933. Einstein taught at Princeton University until his death, becoming an American citizen in 1940 (he kept his Swiss citizenship, however), where he continued to publish papers and push the envelope of accepted physical theory.
Those who knew Einstein described him as kind, friendly and modest. His wild, white hair, moth-eaten sweaters and ability to concentrate solely on his thoughts are iconic with the absent-minded professor. Politically Einstein was a social democrat, believing in a world economy and government with emphasis on human rights. Although he petitioned President Franklin Roosevelt to consider the development of an atomic bomb before the Nazis did, he embraced pacifism and opposed nuclear testing and armament.
Einstein supported Zionism and other Jewish causes and was invited to be the second president of the new state of Israel: the only American offered a position as a foreign head of state. Nevertheless, he did not observe the religiosities of Judaism but instead believed in a great mysterious spirituality that he felt should surround all men, particularly those who sought scientific proof.
In an essay reprinted in 1931, Einstein mused:
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense alone, I am a deeply religious man.
Although we remember Einstein for his astounding theories and proofs, he did not let his mental intelligence eclipse his sense of wonder about the depth of man’s incapacity to know everything. His ability to concentrate prevented his conscious mind from succumbing to irrelevant chatter and foolish opinion. Most of us may never achieve Einstein’s brilliance, but we can refine our cognitive abilities and turn our sharpened talents to better understanding the mysteries of ourselves and of the universe.
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