Yale scientist sheds fresh light on Einstein

September 30, 2013

Albert Einstein’s celebrated genius may be underappreciated, according to a new book by Yale physicist A. Douglas Stone: The father of relativity theory deserves far more credit than he gets for his insights into quantum theory.

“I estimate that his contributions to quantum theory would have been worthy of four Nobel Prizes if different scientists had done them, compared to the one that he received,” says Stone, author of “Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian(Princeton University Press).

Einstein ultimately rejected quantum theory’s inherent randomness and uncertainty. Yet, asserts Stone, “A careful examination of the historical record shows that Einstein was responsible for more of the fundamental new concepts of (quantum theory) than any other single scientist. This is arguably his greatest scientific legacy, despite his fame for Relativity Theory.”

A professor of applied physics and physics at Yale and an expert in condensed matter physics, Stone wrote “Einstein and the Quantum” after realizing that a relatively obscure 1917 paper by Einstein offered powerful insights into Stone’s own 21st-century research in quantum systems.

“The joke was on us,” Stone gamely admits in the introduction.

“For the first time in a long while, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow, this man really was a genius,’” he writes. “…This experience piqued my interest in the actual history of Einstein and quantum theory, and as I delved into the subject I came to a stunning realization. It was Einstein who had introduced almost all the revolutionary ideas…”

Intended for general readers, “Einstein and the Quantum” blends physics, biography, and history of science to tell a story that upends the conventional view of one of humankind’s most celebrated intellects.

A. Douglas Stone is chair of Yale’s Department of Applied Physics and the Carl A. Morse Professor of Applied Physics and Physics.