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

einsteing common langauge of science

Albert Ein­stein, 1921, by Fer­di­nand Schmutzer via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

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.

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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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Comments (64)
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  • Wayne Durant says:

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

  • John says:

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

  • Isolina Sanchez says:

    Very nice to hear this record­ing, Thank you.

  • Richard says:

    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.

  • dayany says:

    to emo­ciona­da

  • Anna Ahumada says:

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

  • Sam says:

    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.

  • Yusuf says:

    Great»>Just great…
    thank you

  • Kiril Kolev says:

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

  • Melisa says:

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

  • Melisa says:

    sounds* :)

  • NaveenKumar I says:

    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

  • Robson says:

    His voice is like David Robert Jones’ from Fringe.

  • Christian says:

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

  • dennisingen.gk says:

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

  • Dontae Grose says:

    This is amaz­ing.

  • Jason Rhee says:

    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!

  • Tesfaye says:

    great man of every­time.

  • Tarello says:

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

  • Gambit says:

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

  • rakesh says:

    wow,it’s amaz­ing

  • mierlok says:

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

  • Kashif Ahmed says:

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

  • Pedro Dones says:


  • Iqra Batool says:

    m so hap­py that i heard voice of a great sci­en­tist

  • Thiha says:

    Love his accent!

  • Thiha says:

    Does any­one know how to down­load this audio file?

  • marcomansari says:

    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.

  • joolsca says:

    This won’t play on a Mac

  • phillip says:

    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?

    • __m says:

      “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.”

  • prakash says:

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

  • Ku00e0hlOu00f9 Chet says:

    goOd OMG, can’t believe.… Albert woOw

  • Fouad Mulla says:

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

  • Abualtayef Waleed says:

    u0641u0646u0627u0646 u064a u0627u0644u0628u0631u062a :)n

  • The Chosen One. says:

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

  • DISHwasher says:

    accent of a genius

  • jazmin says:

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

  • christine_andrade says:

    Richard, thanks for the pedan­tic buzz-kill jack­ass!

  • Karma O'malley says:

    An atom-Bud­dha speaks with grace and out­ra­geous­ness.

  • Karma O'malley says:

    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.

  • Karma O'malley says:

    Every­thing IS relative.Relative to SPACE.How fab­u­lous.

  • Nate Blank says:

    Sounds like a car­toon char­ac­ter. I like it.

  • Christos Dimou says:

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

  • Wilson Norris says:

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

  • Alejandro Lopez says:

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

  • Craig Miller says:

    Pro­fes­sor Lud­wig Von Drake!!!

  • Feuer Licht says:

    Seems like Some Char­ac­ter is from Har­ry Pot­ter :D

  • Giulia Guidi says:

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

  • John says:

    Cool Ger­man accent ‘sounds like Boris from the Rocky and Bull­winkel car­toon, and Albert makes one under­stand and feel calm , thanks. J

  • asefa says:

    I need radio down load to get more infor­ma­tion in the world and enter­tain with learn­ing new things

  • edgar says:

    i almost cryed lis­ten­ing to him, his voice is amaz­ing

  • Ralph Hickok says:

    But Boris has a Russ­ian accent.

  • Tracy Yucikas says:

    It would have been eas­i­er to under­stand the spo­ken words if I had read a tran­script in par­al­lel. It was quite an expe­ri­ence to hear the voice of the man who became an icon of “bril­liant mind”.

  • Issa Tolo says:

    Inter­est­ing and excit­ing to hear this Man . I look like his style just a lit­tle.

  • Iman Ibrahim 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.

  • Iman Ibrahim 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. sci­en­tif­ic method of think­ing depend on the lan­guage

  • Iman Ibrahim says:

    Sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods of think­ing depend on the lan­guage and the high think­ing lev­el can’t be expressed with­out the lan­guage

  • Tom Burrows says:

    The cool Ger­man accent also helped fiend Hitler along his rise to pow­er, achieve good and bad but most cer­tain­ly notable Unfor­tu­nate­ly both men turned out mis­guid­ed Hitler in his ego dri­ven land grabs, or desire for reuni­fi­ca­tion of the Ger­man peo­ples so bru­tal­ly torn asun­der and treat­ed less than human(sic) and Ein­steins lat­er admis­sion that his mod­el just did­n’t com­pute when the slow­ing effects of the aether was tak­en into account and so sim­ply ignored in his desire to prove his math, ego rears it’s ugly head once more When asked how it felt to be the world’s smartest man he replied you should ask Nico­la Tes­la. So cool accents aside, maybe that pedestal isn’t as high as we think?

  • I have the hots for Britt Ekland says:

    I try to imag­ine ol’ Albert’s bar mitz­vah. For exam­ple, he dis­cuss­es Noah’s ark or the part­ing of the Red Sea in terms of the­o­ret­i­cal physics to explain how nei­ther sto­ry could’ve hap­pened as described, leav­ing his friends and fam­i­ly befud­dled.

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