Albert Einstein Reads ‘The Common Language of Science’ (1941)

einstein language

Here’s an extraordinary recording of Albert Einstein from the fall of 1941, reading a full-length essay in English:

The essay is called “The Common Language of Science.” It was recorded in September of 1941 as a radio address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The recording was apparently made in America, as Einstein never returned to Europe after emigrating from Germany in 1933.

Einstein begins by sketching a brief outline of the development of language, before exploring the connection between language and thinking. “Is there no thinking without the use of language,” asks Einstein, “namely in concepts and concept-combinations for which words need not necessarily come to mind? Has not every one of us struggled for words although the connection between ‘things’ was already clear?”

Despite this evident separation between language and thinking, Einstein quickly points out that it would be a gross mistake to conclude that the two are entirely independent. In fact, he says, “the mental development of the individual and his way of forming concepts depend to a high degree upon language.” Thus a shared language implies a shared mentality. For this reason Einstein sees the language of science, with its mathematical signs, as having a truly global role in influencing the way people think:

The supernational character of scientific concepts and scientific language is due to the fact that they have been set up by the best brains of all countries and all times. In solitude, and yet in cooperative effort as regards the final effect, they created the spiritual tools for the technical revolutions which have transformed the life of mankind in the last centuries. Their system of concepts has served as a guide in the bewildering chaos of perceptions so that we learned to grasp general truths from particular observations.

Einstein concludes with a cautionary reminder that the scientific method is only a means toward an end, and that the welfare of humanity depends ultimately on shared goals.

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem–in my opinion–to characterize our age. If we desire sincerely and passionately for the safety, the welfare, and the free development of the talents of all men, we shall not be in want of the means to approach such a state. Even if only a small part of mankind strives for such goals, their superiority will prove itself in the long run.

The immediate context of Einstein’s message was, of course, World War II. The air force of Einstein’s native country had only recently called off its bombing campaign against England. A year before, London weathered 57 straight nights of bombing by the Luftwaffe. Einstein had always felt a deep sense of gratitude to the British scientific community for its efforts during World War I to test the General Theory of Relativity, despite the fact that its author was from an enemy nation.

“The Common Language of Science” was first published a year after the radio address, in Advancement of Science 2, no. 5. It is currently available in the Einstein anthologies Out of My Later Years and Ideas and Opinions.

Related Content:

Albert Einstein on Individual Liberty, Without Which There Would Be ‘No Shakespeare, No Goethe, No Newton’

“Do Scientists Pray?”: A Young Girl Asks Albert Einstein in 1936. Einstein Then Responds

Einstein Explains His Famous Formula, E=mc², in Original Audio

Find Courses on Einstein in the Physics Section of our Free Online Courses Collection



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  1. Nabih Arrage says . . . | March 21, 2013 / 6:08 pm

    just awesome !!

  2. Wayne Durant says . . . | March 21, 2013 / 11:12 pm

    This is awesome!! Einstein has always been a step above his competiton and a privator of peace.

  3. John says . . . | March 22, 2013 / 12:04 am

    This is amazing, I am glad to something of this caliber posted here.

  4. Isolina Sanchez says . . . | March 22, 2013 / 8:03 am

    Very nice to hear this recording, Thank you.

  5. Richard says . . . | March 22, 2013 / 8:22 am

    Tetryonics is a newly developed
    quantum theory of mass-ENERGY-Matter,
    stemming from a radical reinterpretation of what square numbers are in physics and its application to quantized angular momentum(QAM). It can now be shown through the geometry that the QAM of planks constant is in fact the result of its quantized equilateral triangular geometry (not a vector rotation
    about a point).

    The equilateral geometry itself gives rise to the physical properties of charge, electrical permittivity, magnetic permeability and the
    rigid physical relationships between inertial mass-energy and moment in physical systems at the quantum level. Charge(QAM/C2), in addition to its role as the geometric source of physical properties, also provides the
    quantum frame work for radiant 2D mass-
    energies to become 3D standing waves Matter geometries facilitating the development of large scale physical systems of atoms,compounds, stars and galaxies throughout our universe.

    Hitherto unexplained and mysterious properties of quantum mechanics are
    now revealed as having their origin in the geometry of planks constant itself.

  6. dayany says . . . | March 22, 2013 / 9:45 am

    to emocionada

  7. Anna Ahumada says . . . | March 25, 2013 / 6:35 am

    What a wonderful experience tio hear thr great man’s voice. Not only extremely intelligent, but wise.

  8. Sam says . . . | March 25, 2013 / 7:11 am

    Wow, this is amazing…his voice reminds me a bit of Mr. Clouseau, though, the last person you’d expect to compare with Einstein lol.

  9. Yusuf says . . . | March 31, 2013 / 2:45 pm

    Great>>>Just great…
    thank you

  10. Kiril Kolev says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:07 am

    I really like his way of speaking (I mean the pronunciation) :)

  11. Melisa says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:10 am

    Wooow this is so great! I always wanted to know what he sounded like. He sound really really German :)

  12. Melisa says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:11 am

    sounds* :)

  13. NaveenKumar I says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:13 am

    Its really very glad to have a chance to listen to the voice of such great person… Every science person should worship towards his great achievements and contributions in Physics… With great respect E = MC^2

  14. Robson says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:14 am

    His voice is like David Robert Jones’ from Fringe.

  15. Christian says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 8:32 am

    How much I would give to just discuss his theories with him.
    He changed this Planet.

  16. dennisingen.gk says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 9:02 am

    intelligence woz paramount in This guys Life,I really admire Him; Einstein My Hero

  17. Dontae Grose says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 9:31 am

    This is amazing.

  18. Jason Rhee says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 10:16 am

    Hearing Dr. Einstein’s voice is amazing. Listening to the content of his words, even more so. This completely made my day. Thank you so much for posting this!

  19. Tesfaye says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 12:45 pm

    great man of everytime.

  20. Tarello says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 1:21 pm

    OMG, can’t believe when I listen, it is the voice of Markus Persson (notch)

  21. Gambit says . . . | April 2, 2013 / 3:57 pm

    i don`t know what it is, but when i listen to it, i feel very calm.

  22. rakesh says . . . | April 3, 2013 / 12:03 am

    wow,it’s amazing

  23. mierlok says . . . | April 3, 2013 / 12:53 am

    Wonderful
    Very nice, thank you I love him very much and you gave me a wonderful gift too
    Thank you

  24. Kashif Ahmed says . . . | April 4, 2013 / 6:10 am

    Awesome!!! can anybody tell me how to download this audio???

  25. Pedro Dones says . . . | April 6, 2013 / 11:03 am

    Amazing……

  26. Iqra Batool says . . . | April 9, 2013 / 3:52 am

    m so happy that i heard voice of a great scientist

  27. Thiha says . . . | April 10, 2013 / 5:38 am

    Love his accent!

  28. Thiha says . . . | April 10, 2013 / 6:04 am

    Does anyone know how to download this audio file?

  29. marcomansari says . . . | April 15, 2013 / 2:52 am

    albert explanation of his theory about the discovery of the universe big bang change the state of the man kind mind and help us to beleive in the power freedom of god hmself.he become the genius guru according to me of all time.god send him on earth for tfis reason and will be never forget and of course his recognition until the end of time.god bless him.

  30. joolsca says . . . | July 2, 2013 / 7:40 am

    This won’t play on a Mac

  31. phillip says . . . | July 9, 2013 / 1:32 am

    Profundity and intellect are concepts we have forgotten in our time of ‘moral’ relativism. His voice seems to stir the emotions with interest, and yet seems to still the mind and soul, for all he went through as well during WWII… It is redundant perhaps to say that his ideas have changed us as well as the ‘modern’ world; And he believed in God… What do people believe in today?

  32. prakash says . . . | July 12, 2013 / 10:50 pm

    how man can do such unexpected relation between space time and universe?????????

  33. Sebastian says . . . | September 22, 2013 / 5:25 pm

    African Head Charge sampled the essay in part for their dub classic “Language and Mentality”. Check youtube here: http://youtu.be/AfK236M7lfc

  34. XRaySpex says . . . | September 23, 2013 / 5:55 am

    Not true, plays just fine

  35. Helme says . . . | September 28, 2013 / 12:03 pm
  36. Ku00e0hlOu00f9 Chet says . . . | October 3, 2013 / 4:16 am

    goOd OMG, can’t believe…. Albert woOw

  37. Fouad Mulla says . . . | October 9, 2013 / 1:04 pm

    OMG … actually always wonder how his sound will be .. amazing

  38. Abualtayef Waleed says . . . | October 10, 2013 / 9:48 pm

    u0641u0646u0627u0646 u064a u0627u0644u0628u0631u062a :)nhttps://www.facebook.com/PaGe3aSal

  39. The Chosen One. says . . . | October 11, 2013 / 1:14 am

    I love his accent. Can’t believe I heard the voice of such greatest teacher in the history. :)

  40. DISHwasher says . . . | October 11, 2013 / 5:34 am

    accent of a genius

  41. jazmin says . . . | October 11, 2013 / 5:52 pm

    sounds fine. . . nothing to be amazed of -.-”

  42. christine_andrade says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 12:54 am

    Richard, thanks for the pedantic buzz-kill jackass!

  43. Karma O'malley says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 6:50 am

    An atom-Buddha speaks with grace and outrageousness.

  44. Karma O'malley says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 6:55 am

    Each passing seasonal year quantum physics comes closer to the historical Buddha’s wisdom of Emptiness.nWhat sure mind can conflate mind and all phenomena with Space.Without edge or centre.Space.Without limit.Space.Always accomodating.Naturally without obstacle.

  45. Karma O'malley says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 6:56 am

    Everything IS relative.Relative to SPACE.How fabulous.

  46. __m says . . . | November 14, 2013 / 7:13 am

    “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problemu2014the most important of all human problems.”

  47. Nate Blank says . . . | November 15, 2013 / 6:53 pm

    Sounds like a cartoon character. I like it.

  48. Christos Dimou says . . . | November 16, 2013 / 6:16 am

    Incredible. I like it. And the whole subject is very interesting.

  49. Wilson Norris says . . . | November 17, 2013 / 1:21 pm

    I’m brasilian, I don’t speak and listen english :(

  50. Alejandro Lopez says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 7:54 pm

    Gracias por publicar esta maravillosa grabacion del gran maestro y sabio Albert Einstein….me emociona escuchar su voz explicando el tema.

  51. Craig Miller says . . . | November 18, 2013 / 8:42 pm

    Professor Ludwig Von Drake!!!

  52. Feuer Licht says . . . | November 19, 2013 / 12:56 am

    Seems like Some Character is from Harry Potter :D

  53. Schrodinger says . . . | March 10, 2014 / 10:59 am

    When the greatest genius of the last ~400 years speaks, it behooves mankind to listen. Now with the revelations from Professor Douglas Stone’s new account of the history of Quantum Mechanics, it is apparent that Einstein was not only the father of relativity, but also of quantum mechanics. Sadly, his conscientious ability to connect the practice of science (“the means”) with the goal of moral advancement (“ends”) has been lost on many of today’s thinkers. Science and morality have always been co-dependent, as has science and language. Science empowers us and, to borrow the cliche, “with great power comes great (moral) responsibility.”

    All hail the master.

  54. Giulia Guidi says . . . | April 15, 2014 / 10:37 am

    Extremely interesting, and very cool to hear Einstein’s voice! Thank you very much.

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