16 quotes that take you inside Albert Einstein's revolutionary mind

Over the years, Albert Einstein’s name has become synonymous with genius.

In his lifetime, Einstein changed the world, describing the workings of reality better than anyone since Isaac Newton and revealing the capabilities of the atom bomb. In 1999, TIME named him Person of the Century.

Here are 16 of Einstein’s most telling quotes; each will take you inside the mind of the legend.

On politics

'I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.'

('The Yale Book of Quotations')

On relativity

'When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute -- and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.'

('The Yale Book of Quotations')

On his growth

'It is true that my parents were worried because I began to speak fairly late, so that they even consulted a doctor. I can't say how old I was -- but surely not less than three.'

(Letter, 1954)

On nationalism

'Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race.'

('Albert Einstein, the Human Side')

On mystery

'The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.'

('The World As I See It,' 1930)

On solitude


'My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced lack of need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I am truly a 'lone traveller' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude.'

('The World As I See It,' 1930)

On presentation

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'If I were to start taking care of my grooming, I would no longer be my own self.'

(Letter, December 1913)

On imagination


'Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.'

(Smithsonian, February 1979)

On ambition

'Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty; it stems rather from love and devotion towards men and towards objective things.'

(Letter, July 1947)

On thinking

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'I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express in words afterwards.'

('Productive Thinking,' 1959)

On work ethic

'The state of mind which enables a man to do work of this kind ... is akin to that of the religious worshipper or the lover; the daily effort comes from no deliberate intention or program, but straight from the heart.'

(Speech, 1918)

On the role of science

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'One thing I have learned in a long life: that all our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike -- and yet it is the most precious thing we have.'

('Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel,' 1972)

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