Saben que me interesa la historia de la ciencia. Hoy me encuentro con un fragmento de Einstein, perteneciente a una autobiografía científica que escribió en marzo de 1955. Einstein no era muy partidario de escribir detalles biográficos que no tuvieran relación con su trabajo científico. Pero en este texto cuenta algunos detalles:
As a sixteen-year-old I came to Zurich from Italy in 1895, after I had spent one year without school and teachers in Milan with my parents. My aim was to gain admission to the Polytechnic, but it was not clear to me how I should attain this, I was a self-willed but modest young man, who had obtained his fragmentary knowledge of the relevant fundamentals [mainly] by self-study. Avid for deeper understanding, but not very gifted in being receptive, studies did not appear to me to be an easy task. I appeared for the entrance examination of the engineering department with a deep-seated feeling of insecurity. Even though the examiners were patient and understanding, the examination painfully revealed to me the gaps in my earlier training. I thought it was only right that I failed. It was a comfort, however, that the physicist H.F. Weber informed me that I could attend his lectures if I stayed in Zurich. The director, Professor Albin Herzog, however, recommended me to the Cantonal School in Aarau, from where after one year's study I was graduated. On account of its liberal spirit and genuine sincerity, and teachers who did not lean on external authority of any kind, this school has left on me an unforgettable impression. Compared to the six years of schooling in an authoritatively run German gymnasium I became intensely aware of how much education leading to independent activity and individual responsibility is to be preferred to the education which relies on drill, external authority, and ambition. Real democracy is not an empty illusion.
Es interesante notar cómo Einstein se encontró mejor en esa escuela de Aarau, y su temprano rechazo de la autoridad arbitraria. También es de destacar que, aunque no pudo ingresar en su primer intento en el Politécnico, llamó la atención de Weber, quien lo invitó a sus clases. Y ahora sigue un detalle, comentado por muchos biógrafos: su primera pregunta que lo acerca a la teoría de la relatividad.
During this year in Aarau came to me the question: If one follows a light beam with the speed of light, then one would obtain a time-indepedent wave field. However, such a thing does not exist! This was the first childish thought-experiment which had something to do with the Special Theory of Relativity. Invention is not the result of logical thinking, even though the final result has to be formulated in a logical manner.
Encuentro este texto en el excelente libro (dos volúmenes) de Jagdish Mehra, The Golden Age of Theoretical Physics. Este libro tiene tantas cosas interesantes (artículos sobre historia de la física cuántica y sus creadores: Planck, Einstein, Dirac, Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Born, etc...) que daría para llenar varios blogs como éste.
Angel "Java" Lopez