An Otherworldly “Observer” Named Einstein

Albert Einstein

Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele

Albert Einstein was an Observer in the Enneagram system. “My passionate interest in social justice and social responsibility,” he wrote, “has always stood in curious contrast to a marked lack of desire for direct association with men and women. I am a horse for single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork. I have never belonged wholeheartedly to country or state, to my circle of friends, or even to my own family. These ties have always been accompanied by a vague aloofness, and the wish to withdraw into myself increases with the years.

Such isolation is sometimes bitter, but I do not regret being cut off from the understanding and sympathy of other men. I lose something by it, to be sure, but I am compensated for it in being rendered independent of the customs, opinions and prejudices of others, and am not tempted to rest my peace of mind upon such shiftless foundations.”

Born at Ulm, Wuerttemberg, Germany, in 1879 he died in 1955. His boyhood was spent in Munich and away at a school in Switzerland. He attended lectures while supporting himself by teaching mathematics and physics at the Polytechnic School at Zurich until 1900. After a year as tutor, he was appointed examiner at the Patent Office at Bern where he became a Swiss citizen and obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Zurich.

 In 1909 he was appointed Extraordinary Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich. In 1911 he accepted the Chair of Physics at Prague and returned to his own Polytechnic School at Zurich as full professor the next year. In 1913 he became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute in Berlin. He was elected a member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, which enabled him to devote all his time to research.

 In the 1920s he was elected to the Royal Society, made a member of the Amsterdam and Copenhagen Academies, and received honorary degrees from the Universities of Geneva, Manchester, Rostock and Princeton. He received the Copley Medal of the Royal Society, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in recognition of his theory of relativity, and a Nobel Price in 1921.

He became a member of the Institute de France and received honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Zurich, Yeshiva, Harvard, London and Brussels. In 1935 he was awarded the American Franklin Institute Medal.

In 1932 Dr. Einstein became Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and served as the Head of the Mathematics Department at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, N.J. In 1940 he became a U.S. citizen.

In 1905 he published four important papers: one explained a method for determining molecular dimensions; one explained the photo-electric effect, the basis of electronics, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1921; one presented a molecular kinetic theory of heat; and one was the first of his Special Relativity Theory, “Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.”

Dr. Phillipp Frank, Dr. Einstein’s biographer, in 1947 wrote that Einstein was saintly, noble, lovable and radiated humor, warmth and kindliness. He loved jokes and laughed easily.

Outward appearance meant nothing to him. He was described as a stranger, a close neighbor, yet at the same time a visitor from another world. As he grew older his otherworldiness became more pronounced, yet he was still warm. Princetonians got used to the long-haired figure in pullover sweater and unpressed slacks wandering in their midst, a knitted stocking cap covering his head in winter.

Ingrid Stabb and I  feature Einstein as one of our Famous People Observer examples in The Career Within You on page 132.

This blog is largely based on his NY Times obituary.

For more Famous People see my Psychology Today blogs and my web site.