Einstein was – like all of us – a bundle of contradictions, someone who behaved well sometimes and badly at others. As a world-famous scientist, he had a louder amplifier than an ordinary person, but if we expect a genius to be somehow fundamentally different from the rest of humanity, studying Einstein’s life and opinions will disappoint.

And as is always the case with scientific geniuses, Einstein’s theories would exist even if he had not. Special relativity, general relativity, and the photon model of light might not have been developed by the same individual, butsomeone would have sussed them out. Henri Poincaré, Hendrik Lorentz and others worked out much of relativity before 1905, just as Gottfried Leibniz independently worked out the calculus in parallel with Newton, and Alfred Russel Wallace developed natural selection in isolation from Charles Darwin. Historians of science once subscribed to a ‘Great Man’ theory, but we now know that transformative ideas emerge from the work of many talented individuals, instead of emerging ex nihilo from one brilliant mind.

Read the complete article: Cognitive Celebrity by Matthew Francis

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