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Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian

Peer into the mind of a great genius of history with this deep and informative course that explores the scientist we know, as well as the thinker and social activist we may be unfamiliar with.
Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 60.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential First, some context: I have reviewed >50 courses and my average rating is 4.2. Second, I am not a shill for the company. But I will start by stating that to gain the most rounded understanding of modern physics, there are 6-8 courses that are complementary and all of which need to be watched. I have trashed only one physics course (1247); a review that earned me many negative responses. This is one of two courses in which the focus is Einstein, and not the physics per se. Both are worthwhile, this one is the better. The Professor is a professor of philosophy, not physics. Not only should this not be off-putting, it is actually the foundational strength of this course. Prof Howard specializes in the philosophy of science and thus has a rigorous understanding of the scientific issues. This is not "gazing into your belly button" philosophy by any means. From his uniquely strong perspective, he provides a compelling narrative of how the physics and philosophy are inexorably intertwined, and provides the critical context of the political and scientific-political environment which challenged and shaped Einstein. And now I will embark on a mildly tangential (but not really as this was an explicit topic addressed in this course) and controversial set of observations. This course clearly defines Einstein's humanitarian efforts, particularly on behalf of African-Americans, and in this regard serves as an important counter-weight to the current left-wing cancel-culture which has attempted to brand Einstein as a racist because he scribbled some non-flattering observations when travelling in Asia. I know of no traveler, whether a writer or a casual confrere who has not formed and voiced an opinion, whether favorable or unfavorable, of the denizens of a foreign land. If that is the basis for being branded a racist, I, and every fellow traveler, are equally racists.
Date published: 2021-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting look at Einstein the Person This is a very interesting look at Albert Einstein, not only as the scientific genius, but also from a personal perspective.
Date published: 2020-12-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from SOME GOOD SOME BAD The GOOD were the lectures about his life, philosophy, and thought experiences. The BAD were the excruciating lectures of his mathematical formulas within the Special Theory; General Theory, and Quantum Mechanics. I have an MS in engineering which is clearly not enough to understand the lecturer. Altho up front he admits that very few people could understand Einsteins formulas...sometime.
Date published: 2020-06-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good introduction to Einstein's life and times My advanced degrees are in theoretical Physics. I've read just about all the Einstein biographies. This course is a good introduction to Einstein for those with little or no knowledge of Einstein and his work or of Physics. The best parts of the lectures deal with Einstein's life, times, and outside interests as well as his personal life. I especially found the information about Einstein's inventions and patents interesting - like the Einstein idea for a non-mechanical refrigerator. I think the weakest points of the lectures concerned Einstein's views on Philosophy and on Physics. Some comments I found to be misleading, if not wrong. For example, at at least one point, when discussing Einstein's objections to interpretations of Quantum Mechanics determinism is conflated with causality. Einstein's specific objections were with determinism, which is a stronger and more general requirement than causality. Also, in discussing Einstein's work with Bose on Quantum Statistics a reference is made to indistinguishable particles in connection with entanglement. But spin-1/2 Fermi particles like electrons also experience entanglement in quantum states and they are NOT indistinguishable. They are described by Fermi-Dirac statistics and ARE distinguishable. But aside from these issues of Physics and Philosophy the course gives a good general introduction to Einstein's life and times.
Date published: 2020-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from There is so much more... In hearing about some famous people and what they are famous for - you might miss out on some very important things. For instance, to say all this Science is so far over my head that to have to consider it for any length of time inspires my head to start hurting is putting it mildly - yet, the rewards of sitting through these parts in this course are worth every minute. There are things about Einstein I never knew... he became a real human being to me, in a very personal way... faults and all... and I admired him deeply and it has not diminished since. Thank you for such a well done course on someone I might never have learned to appreciate otherwise for the humanitarian and yet flawed human being he was - outside of all the Science that will forever remain over my head.
Date published: 2020-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Attractive Comprehensive presentation of history philosophy and complex science.
Date published: 2019-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent encompassing course I bought this course because, when I actually thought about it I realized that I knew shockingly little about Einstein. I was hoping for a good, encompassing look at the man and his work as well as his impact on the world and his times. This course totally delivered. I am far from a scientist but Einsteins theories and ideas were explained in such a way that even I "got them." I was amazed at the professor's ability to put the deepest concepts into everyday language. I enjoyed the history lessons. The morality of Einsteins work was thought provoking. The information was well organized and presented in a clear manor. I'm am totally pleased with this course.
Date published: 2019-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a man with a challenging life. I recently bought this book about Albert Einstein, he was a genius in his own time, and like most geniuses they have a difficult past, because most people don't understand them, I was pleased and also happy to a read his book, The story of his history and struggles he had we're very much like any genius would have to go through, it's nice to be able to share his experience and relate to his struggles and challenges, and most of all his successes. I think anyway could benefit from reading the story of Albert Einstein.
Date published: 2019-08-06
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Get an in-depth look at the life and work of Albert Einstein


Don Howard


University of Notre Dame

Dr. Don Howard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Director of Notre Dame's Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science. A graduate of Michigan State University's Honors College and its Lyman Briggs College with a B.Sc. in Physical Science, he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Philosophy with a specialization in the philosophy of science from Boston University. Professor Howard has served as an assistant editor and a contributing editor for the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, and he is a founding coeditor of the Einstein Studies series. The author of many papers exploring diverse aspects of Einstein's philosophy of science and his physics, he is preparing a book on Einstein for Blackwell's Great Minds series, designed to explain Einstein's ideas to the general reader. Among his many honors, Professor Howard is a recipient of Notre Dame's Kaneb Teaching Award, recognizing faculty who have consistently demonstrated outstanding teaching. He is now a Fellow of the Center for Einstein Studies at Boston University; a Reilly Fellow in Notre Dame's Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values; and a Faculty Fellow in Notre Dame's Nanovic Institute for European Studies. In 2007, Professor Howard was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

The Precocious Young Einstein

01: The Precocious Young Einstein

The aim of these lectures is to explore Einstein the whole person and the whole thinker. You begin with an overview of the course. Then you look at important events in Einstein's life up to the beginning of his university studies in 1896.

32 min
The Development of the Young Physicist

02: The Development of the Young Physicist

This lecture follows Einstein's early life up to his "miracle year" of 1905, covering his university training, his love for fellow student Mileva Maric, their marriage following the birth of their daughter, his fruitless search for an academic job, and his employment by the Swiss patent office.

29 min
The Birth of the Quantum Hypothesis

03: The Birth of the Quantum Hypothesis

By his own account, Einstein's most revolutionary idea of 1905 was that light is made of discrete chunks of electromagnetic energy called light quanta, or photons. You examine the background to this radical idea, most importantly, Max Planck's proposal in 1900 of the quantum hypothesis.

32 min
Background to Special Relativity

04: Background to Special Relativity

The most celebrated of Einstein's 1905 achievements is his special theory of relativity. You survey the classical physics that relativity overturned, particularly Newton's concept of absolute space, which even before Einstein had critics such as the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach.

30 min
Essentials of Special Relativity

05: Essentials of Special Relativity

You take a guided tour of the special theory of relativity, which holds that a system's location and speed is well defined only with respect to a specific frame of reference or state of motion of an observer. This simple change of perspective led to Einstein's signature equation, "E=mc2."

32 min
From Bern to Berlin

06: From Bern to Berlin

Between 1905 and 1914, Einstein went from being an obscure clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern to being one of the most prominent scientists in the world. You follow this remarkable transformation and the toll it took on Einstein's marriage to Mileva.

30 min
Background to General Relativity

07: Background to General Relativity

Special relativity is "special" in the sense that it is restricted to observers moving with constant relative velocity. Einstein wanted to extend the theory to include accelerated motion. His great insight was that such a "general" theory would incorporate the phenomenon of gravity.

30 min
Essentials of General Relativity

08: Essentials of General Relativity

According to general relativity, gravity is caused by the curvature of space-time, with surprising implications such as the slowing of clocks in strong gravitational fields and the bending of light passing near a massive object like the sun. The latter prediction led to a famous confirmation of general relativity and made Einstein a world figure.

30 min
From Berlin to Princeton

09: From Berlin to Princeton

Einstein worked in Berlin from 1914 to 1933, arriving in triumph but leaving as a refugee from Nazism. The Berlin years saw the publication and confirmation of general relativity, the receipt of a Nobel Prize, and world travel, including visits to the United States, to which Einstein immigrated in 1933.

29 min
Philosophical Challenge of the New Physics

10: Philosophical Challenge of the New Physics

Relativity and quantum mechanics presented deep challenges to traditional philosophy. You explore responses by philosophers and the logical positivists, along with Einstein's philosophical objection to the randomness of quantum theory.

33 min
Einstein's Philosophy of Science

11: Einstein's Philosophy of Science

Einstein stressed the crucial role of philosophy in physics, arguing that philosophy gives physicists the independence of judgment needed to make revolutionary innovations. In his own work, Einstein combined a deep respect for experimental evidence with a search for simplicity and beauty.

32 min
Zionism, Pacifism, and Internationalism

12: Zionism, Pacifism, and Internationalism

As Einstein's growing physics reputation drew him onto a larger public stage, his social and political involvements expanded, encompassing a lonely protest against German war aims during World War I, an embrace of the Zionist cause, and strident advocacy of pacifism throughout the 1920s.

30 min
Einstein the Inventor and Musician

13: Einstein the Inventor and Musician

Einstein was an avid inventor of devices from airfoils to refrigerators. He consulted with industry about gyrocompasses and with the U.S. Navy about undersea mines. Playing the violin was another passion. Both activities shed light on his work as a theoretical physicist.

29 min
On the Road to the New Quantum Mechanics

14: On the Road to the New Quantum Mechanics

Einstein made many contributions to the development of quantum theory. You focus on his efforts to understand the curious way in which two identical quantum systems, such as two photons, lose their separate identities in a phenomenon called quantum entanglement.

30 min
Quantum Mechanics and Controversy

15: Quantum Mechanics and Controversy

Einstein was one of the discoverers of quantum theory, but after the mid-1920s he became its most forceful critic. You examine Einstein's objections and his confrontations with fellow physicist Niels Bohr over what Einstein considered to be fundamental flaws in quantum mechanics.

31 min
Einstein in Princeton—The Lonely Quest

16: Einstein in Princeton—The Lonely Quest

From 1933 until his death in 1955, Einstein lived in Princeton as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study. His research focused on the lonely and ultimately fruitless quest for a unified field theory that would unite electromagnetism and gravitation.

30 min
Is Quantum Mechanics Complete?

17: Is Quantum Mechanics Complete?

In 1935, Einstein and two collaborators, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, published what has since become the most frequently cited paper in the history of physics. You explore this celebrated thought experiment, known as the EPR paradox, in nontechnical terms.

33 min
The Expanding Universe

18: The Expanding Universe

Einstein's general theory of relativity is the theoretical framework for all contemporary work in cosmology. Black holes, the big bang, an expanding universe all are implicit in the equations of general relativity. Ironically, Einstein at first mistrusted some of the most dramatic predictions of his own theory.

31 min
Einstein and the Bomb—Science Politicized

19: Einstein and the Bomb—Science Politicized

In 1939, Einstein signed a letter to President Roosevelt that launched the Manhattan Project to build the first atomic bomb. Scientists had long advised governments, but this effort represented a fundamental shift in the relationship between science and the state.

30 min
From the Manhattan Project to the Cold War

20: From the Manhattan Project to the Cold War

Einstein came to regret his role in the development of atomic weapons and spent the last decade of his life trying to rein in the ensuing arms race. One of his last public acts, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, was arguably the first step toward international cooperation in arms limitation.

33 min
A Lifelong Commitment to Social Justice

21: A Lifelong Commitment to Social Justice

Settling into his new American home in the mid-1930s, Einstein found a new challenge in the fight for racial justice. He took up this and other social causes to such an extent that in the early 1950s FBI director J. Edgar Hoover considered having him deported.

29 min
Cosmic Religion and Jewish Identity

22: Cosmic Religion and Jewish Identity

Einstein wrote often about what he termed "cosmic religion," by which he meant the view that the rational order of nature itself inspires awe and humility akin to the religious spirit. He was strongly influenced in these views by the philosophers Baruch Spinoza and Arthur Schopenhauer.

31 min
Einstein and Modernity

23: Einstein and Modernity

This lecture explores the larger cultural world that responded so strongly to Einstein and his physics. The spirit of Einstein's reformulation of physical reality is reflected in the artistic experiments of painters such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and novelists such as Lawrence Durrell.

32 min
The Sage of Princeton—Einstein the Icon

24: The Sage of Princeton—Einstein the Icon

The sheer intellectual brilliance called genius is central to Einstein's iconic status, but the 20th century was populated with many brilliant scientists. Why did Einstein come to mean so much more? The course concludes by trying to capture the essence that made him unique.

28 min