More Articles | Home | - offers calling cards with great domestic and international rates. Sign up now and get 10% off instantly.

 Reaching for the Stars: Einstein
At the American Museum of Natural History

Half way through the Einstein exhibit currently at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City is a larger than-life-sized statue of the famed physicist.  Made of a crinkly kind of bronze by sculptor Robert Berks, it is an avuncular Albert Einstein, an older man in rumpled clothes seated on a curved bench in a recess that was, during the time of our visit, crowded with real, live kids.

Albert Einstein

Third graders, high school seniors, and every level in between, they were leaning up against the statue, sitting on the bench beside it or cross-legged on the floor, scribbling in notebooks, kidding around, hanging out. You felt the man who forever changed the way we look at the world and our place in it would have been pleased.

The exhibit, a many-layered journey through the mysteries of the universe and into the soul of a great humanitarian, begins in New York, moves on to the Skirball Cultural Center of Los Angeles, and will wind up at Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem in 2005 in time to celebrate the centennial of Einstein’s “miracle year.”  It was in 1905 that the 26-year-old patent-office worker established the existence and sizes of molecules, explained light as particles and waves moving at a never-changing speed, and created the Special Theory of Relativity which defines the relationship between mass and energy.

Originally envisioned as a showcase for Einstein’s scientific theories, the exhibit’s scope was expanded when Hebrew University offered to loan the Museum original documents from its Albert Einstein Archives. The result is a wonderful hybrid that combines video and interactive installations, films, high-tech sculptures, computer simulations, and digital clocks with letters, manuscripts, photographs from all stages of the scientist’s life, even a report card.  From this cornucopia, a complex portrait emerges of the genius who achieved international fame and acclaim yet never lost touch with his essential humanity.

A high school report card – Einstein was a good science student but rather mediocre in French

During a solar eclipse in 1919, light rays suddenly visible from distant stars appeared in unexpected positions confirming Einstein’s three year old theory of General Relativity which predicted the sun’s gravity would deflect light from distant stars. Gravity is not the force between objects Newton thought it was, said Einstein, but a consequence of mass warping the fabric of space and time. You see as much upon entering the exhibit where a video installation shows your own image distorted by the imaginary gravity of a projected black hole.         

Some yards away, a high-tech light sculpture creates moving light patterns, a visual demonstration of Einstein’s discovery of the single constant in the universe: the speed of light. Nearby a display of digital clocks keeping time at different rates illustrates the relativity of time. And just beyond, a graphic panel revealing the difference between fusion and fission as methods of releasing energy shows the relationship between mass and energy expressed in the forever famous equation E=mc2. 

Original handwritten notes of the famous equation

Along the way are objects that document the chronology and causes of an eventful life: a magnetic compass and a Nobel Prize, original hand-written manuscripts of the Special and General Theories of Relativity, Einstein’s letter to President Roosevelt that sparked the Manhattan Project, FDR’s reply, and  a subsequent letter from Einstein in 1945 warning FDR not to use the bomb (which probably arrived after the president’s death) – arguably three of the most significant letters of the twentieth century.

Einstein the global citizen is as much on display as Einstein the scientist. The great discoveries were made during the first half of his life, but its second half was devoted to using his fame in the service of humanitarian causes. He was an ardent Zionist, an outspoken foe of anti-Semitism, racism, McCarthyism, and nuclear proliferation. He was a faithful correspondent to children who wrote to him from all over the world. He was an accomplished amateur violinist. “Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful, that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe,” he once said, and “I get most joy of life out of music.”

During the last decades of his life at Princeton University’s Institute for Advance Studies, Einstein searched for a “Grand Unified Theory” that would explain all physical phenomena from the smallest atomic particle to the largest galaxy. Though its discovery eluded him, it continues to challenge the leading physicists of our day who describe Einstein’s legacy of achievement and commitment in videotaped interviews.

One comes away from this multi-faceted exhibit with an enhanced understanding of Einstein’s theoretical discoveries that have so dramatically altered our world view and a nuanced appreciation of his exceptional humanity.  Though his life spanned the last decades of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, he seems the most contemporary of men. The concerns we face today are in part consequences of his discoveries; the issues we confront were those he recognized and articulated so well.

An image lingers long after one’s visit. It is the exhibit’s motif, a photograph of an elderly Einstein, the familiar crown of white hair blowing in the wind, joyfully riding a bicycle before a field of stars. The light on the bicycle, the light from the stars are beacons that seem to illuminate the way to new understandings. And we know -- because he told us so -- they are all traveling at the same speed.

Images courtesy American Museum of Natural History

Einstein can be seen through August 10, 2003 at:

The American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY

Phone: 212-769-5800

  • Hours 10:00 am to 5:45 pm daily
  • Tickets to exhibit and admission to Museum:
  • $17 for adults; $12.50 for children and seniors; $10 for children
  • Advance sales: 212-769-5200

#  #  #

About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


| Top of Page | More Articles | Home |


Questions or Problems? Email:
Last Revised: Friday, May 15, 2015 06:38:58 AM
Copyright © 1995 - 2013 Travel-Watch. All rights reserved worldwide.
Travel-Watch - 1125 Bramford Court, Diamond Bar, CA 91765 - Phone: 909-860-6914 - Fax: 909-396-0014
Email: - Web: