When I think of a genius, my favorite genius always comes to mind…Albert Einstein. He doesn’t have the highest recorded IQ in history, and in fact, is listed as 12th among geniuses. Nevertheless, Genius Day…a day to highlight the greatest minds out there, falls on Albert Einstein’s birthday, so maybe he is a favorite of a lot of people. It makes sense, because Albert Einstein is on of the most famous, iconic, influential, and admired people in history. He was incredibly smart, but oddly not snobby about it, like some geniuses, who rub me the wrong way.
I wonder what it must have been like to be a genius in a day when the system didn’t necessarily recognize such things. Einstein started school, as most children did, in a normal Catholic elementary school, in Munich, Germany, and remained there for 3 years. At that point, they realized that they didn’t have the ability to teach such a child. He was transferred to he Luitpold Gymnasium (now known as the Albert Einstein Gymnasium) at age 8, where he received advanced primary and secondary school education until he left the German Empire seven years later. In German, gymnasium means high school. Einstein excelled at math and physics right from the start. He reached a mathematical level years ahead of his peers. At twelve years old, Einstein taught himself algebra and Euclidean geometry in one summer. Einstein also independently discovered his own original proof of the Pythagorean theorem at age 12. Those were years of intense discovery for him…discoveries that most people could never begin to fathom. At age 13, Einstein was introduced to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and Kant became his favorite philosopher, his tutor stating: “At the time he was still a child, only thirteen years old, yet Kant’s works, incomprehensible to ordinary mortals, seemed to be clear to him.” Probably his best known work was the Theory of Relativity, which actually took in two theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. Concepts introduced by the theories of relativity include spacetime as a unified entity of space and time, relativity of simultaneity, kinematic and gravitational time dilation, and length contraction. If you don’t understand all of that, you are in good company.
It is hard to imagine what it must have been like to attempt to teach such a great mind anything. Seriously, what could an average teacher teach him that he couldn’t learn on his own, and even begin to teach the teacher. I suppose that is the case with any genius, and it must have been a problem for many a teacher, not to mention to the child’s parents. Geniuses are a phenomena that most of us can only imagine, and maybe that is why it is felt that they should have a national day of their own. Often, the day is celebrated by a gathering of confirmed geniuses getting together to “show off” their skills. It is filled with competitions designed to exercise their minds in a group of their peers, which is definitely something they don’t get to do very often. I can’t think of a more fitting day for it to be celebrated than Albert Einstein’s birthday.