Authors collect Einstein’s words of wisdom
Two Fairfield residents have jointly published their first book featuring a world-famous scientist for any reader, no science formulas needed.
“The Cosmic View of Albert Einstein” is a focused collection of Einstein’s writings and quotes about life, religion, morals and more.
“We’re not scientists,” said Magda Ott, co-author.
Published in September, it has found a favorable reception.
“A number of young people like the book,” said Walt Martin, co-author. “Young people are usually curious and seeking the meaning of life. Einstein was a wonderful human being and expressed views on education, art, creativity and the meaning of life among other things.
“And the photos in our book are fantastic.”
Martin and Ott did not write the text nor take the photos in the book, but searched and compiled Einstein’s own words and grouped his one-sentence quotes, his paragraphs of thought and his essays into sections and chapters.
The color photos illuminating nearly every other page are taken by amateurs around the world as well as space travelers and NASA staff using space and land telescopes.
The authors express it best on the book’s inner front jacket: “Einstein’s words are beautifully illustrated with breathtaking photos of space, selected to inspire wonder and awe that we are an integral part of the magnificent cosmos.”
Martin adds that without Einstein, most of the photos would not be possible.
“Without Einstein, the Hubble telescope would not have been possible,” he said.
“Because man has been able to travel to space, because of Einstein’s theory of relativity, we could send astronauts out into space, we’re able to have these images and know about such things as black holes and other solar systems,” said Martin. “We paired the images to go with the writings.”
Some of the photos are taken from earth and one photo included in the book’s forward shows fireflies in a meadow and a full moon in the sky.
“That was taken here in Fairfield, by one of our amateur photographers, R. Schreiber,” said Martin.
“We did most of our work at the Fairfield Public Library,” said Martin. “The resources and staff were so helpful. We had interlibrary loans and accomplished a lot of research there. I can’t say enough about how good our library is and the people who work there.”
Fairfield Public Library is hosting Martin and Ott at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5, to give a special presentation about their book, including a slide show of the book’s color photos of stars, the sun and planets. The authors have an audio recording of Einstein to share and will sign books. Free refreshments will be available.
This book has been in progress for several years, along with other projects Martin is working on publishing.
The two authors sought out notables in the field to comment, critique and/or endorse the manuscript.
“It’s about time somebody collected Albert Einstein’s most inspirational utterances into one volume. And what better way to adorn them than to assemble the most stunning images of the cosmos,” said Neil deGrasse Tyson, an American astrophysicist and science communicator. Tyson hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS from 2006-2011.
The book is dedicated, “In memory of Dr. James Van Allen, who never lost a holy curiosity.”
“He had a laugh about that when I told him,” said Martin. “I met with him several times. He was a very humble man, as was Einstein.”
Van Allen, who died in 2006 at age 91, was born down the road in Mount Pleasant and earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in 1936 and 1939 respectively, then worked at the University of Iowa up the road in Iowa City until retiring in 1985.
“He still went to his office on campus into his 90s and he followed the work of many of his students who went on to work for NASA and the space industries,” said Martin. “He was a pioneer in the American space program. And he worked so hard, it was fun to watch him.”
Van Allen discovered the radiation belt around the Earth, which bears his name, the Van Allen belt.
He contributed comments, published in the beginning of the book, include: “The editors’ perceptive quotations from the writings of Albert Einstein respond to that challenge. Einstein’s thoughts guide the reader to a profound appreciation of our universe and to a belief in a Divine and Omniscient Power,” signed by James A. Van Allen.
“Whenever we interacted with people at NASA, if we mentioned Van Allen, those guys fell all over themselves to help us,” said Martin. “His students love him forever.
“And he saw Einstein’s views about infinite intelligence not so different than his own, though in scientific circles, it’s not very credible to bring up God or religion,” he said.
Some of the topics in Ott’s and Martin’s book include: Cosmic Religion; Religion and Science; Christianity and Judaism; God; Prayer; Mysticism; Morals and Emotions; Science and Religion; Eternal Mystery; and The Religious Spirit of Science.
“It is Einstein’s heart speaking in our book,” said Martin. “He wanted to have both science and an infinite being. He believed in a world where everyone has a chance.”
Ott said Einstein above all wanted to discover truth.
“He wanted beauty built on the truth,” she said.
Alice Calaprice, author of “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein,” and former senior editor at Princeton University Press in charge of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, wrote the forward to Ott’s and Martin’s book.
“It was a bit intimidating to contact her,” said Martin. “She has several volumes published with Einstein’s words.
“But our book is a first — selected and focused on his inspirational writings,” he said. “Einstein saw himself as a world citizen. He wrote to [President Franklin] Roosevelt about the Germans’ advancement in researching nuclear power [during World War II] and the Scandinavian countries’ ability to develop heavy water.
“Einstein’s biggest horror was a nuclear war. But his communication with the president had the opposite effect and the U.S. raced to build its own nuclear weapon and we dropped it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
At first, Calaprice was not interested in lending any support to the book, but came around and was helpful.
“We sent her a copy and she loved it,” said Martin. “She said it was beautiful. She did not brush us off when we asked simple questions. She was always kind and answered our questions.
“This is a book for the general public, not just those interested in science,” he said.
Martin is interested in bringing great 20th century thinkers back into the public’s attention. They made important contributions to society, relevant still today, he said.
Einstein died in 1955 at age 76.
“Einstein believes the people of the world can get along and understand one another and have peace if we just communicate with each other and get to know one another,” said Ott. “People are not so different around the world as we once thought. And with technology, we are communicating more globally.
“Reading this book is not tedious,” she said. “It’s not for research. It talks about laws of nature and how the world is constantly creating, adapting, evolving and moving into a new age.”
The authors sent a letter and a copy of the book to the Dalai Lama’s organization and received a comment from the Dalai Lama, which is printed in the front of the book, praising it.
Helen Caldicott M.D., author, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and named by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the most influential women of the 20th century, replied to the authors’ request for comments and said: “‘The Cosmic View of Albert Einstein’ is one of the most inspiring books that I have ever seen.”
Martin and Ott are most impressed with Einstein’s passion for human rights and world peace.
“Not to know this [Einstein’s lifelong passion for human rights, world peace] does a disservice to him and everyone who imagines Einstein as a rumpled genius, too distracted to notice his surroundings, or even worse, ‘the father of the bomb,’” the authors wrote in the book’s introduction.
The afterword in the book, subtitled, “We Have Survived 50 Years,” is written by Ron McCoy of Malaysia and Gunnar Westberg of Sweden, both former co-presidents of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.
“We cannot but be inspired when we read Einstein’s quotes and meditate over the images of the strange beauty of the universe which are captured in this book,” they wrote. “The responsibility rests with us to honor and carry out his legacy.”