Thursday, December 23, 1999

Einstein, the Person of the Millennium

Though the new (Christian, Gregorian) millennium and the New Century start at zero hours UTC (commonly known as GMT) on January 1st 2001 [1], mass media are busy these days in conducting polls to decide the top something of the millennium or the century.

On 17 December 1999, Reuters announced the results of its poll for the person of the millennium. Thirty-four important persons in the fields of politics, economics, art and culture from ten countries all over the world were asked to choose three persons who had most great effects on the world from the list of thirty-nine great persons lived in this millennium.

The physicist Albert Einstein was the top. The second was shared by the father of the independence of India Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi and the economist Karl Marx. The former Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill and the physicist Isaac Newton were the fourth. (Asahi-shimbun, 18 Dec 1999)

Physicists, be proud of this result and your calling! Shall we have another physicist as the person of the next millennium? Will the physicist who completes the Theory of Everything be nominated for that person? Will this Theory be completed anyway?
  1. "The New Millennium," Special Information Leaflet No. 29, The Royal Observatory Greenwich (1999).
Related Reading
  • S. Weinberg, "A Unified Physics by 2050?," Sci. Amer. Dec. 1999, pp. 36-43.
Note Added Later

Einstein was also chosen for the person of the century by the Time magazine [Vol. 154, No. 26 (1999)]. The choice of the person of the millennium as the person of the century is logically quite consistent. The "Person of the century" issue of Time includes the following articles:
  • W. Isaacson, "Time's choice: Who mattered--and Why."
  • F. Golden, "Albert Einstein: Person of the century."
  • S. Hawking, "A brief history of relativity."
  • J. M. Nash, "Unfinished symphony."
  • R. Rosenblatt, "The age of Einstein."
Hawking's article, the title of which follows his best-selling book, is a very understandable description about the development of the theories of relativity, including some mild jokes peculiar to the author, a miraculous physicist himself. For example, "However, the tiny fraction of a second you gained (by flying to avail yourself of the time dilation predicted by the sepcial theory of relativity) would be more than offest by eating airline meals."

The article by Nash is related to the Theory of Everything I wrote in the main text. String theory is a prospective candidate for it (see an earlier story of this site). She concludes her article by writing, "It may in the end take an Einstein to complete Einstein's unfinished intellectual symphony." The article aptly includes the photograph of Einstein playing the violin, an instrument with strings.

Related Reading Added Later

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