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Originally published in The Tablet in March, 2005, during the centennial year of Einstein, and the month when Pope John Paul II died. It also ran here on The Catholic Astronomer in 2015; it's slightly edited for 2018.
The intense but often erratic news coverage of the events in Rome following the death of Pope John Paul II could tempt one to despair at the state of journalism. With their talent for misstating the obvious, can we have any hope in entrusting to them the legacy of John Paul II, or the significance of his successor? Hope, however, can be found in an example from science, and how the popular press has served the reputation of another giant of the 20th century.
Year - Year - Einstein - Honor - UN
The year 2005 was the year of Einstein. In his honor, the UN declared 2005 to be the World Year of Physics. April 18, 2005, marked the 50th anniversary of his death; and it was exactly 100 years ago that year that in four famous papers he demonstrated the particulate nature of matter and light, and then revolutionized our sense of common sense by showing that time was equivalent to space, and energy equivalent to mass.
We have all grown up in a culture that has produced its own equivalence: the name “Einstein” equals genius, while genius implies shaggy white hair and a German accent. But how did that happen?
Biographies - Einstein - Patent - Office - Clerk
The biographies tell us when it happened. Einstein was a patent office clerk with a newly-minted PhD from Zurich when he submitted his famous four papers in 1905. Following their success, in 1908 he was a lecturer in Bern; a professor in Prague in 1911; and given a chair in Berlin in 1914. By 1915 he had worked out his General Theory of Relativity (a far more daunting, and revolutionary, result than...
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