Of Albert Einstein, Emmanuel Lasker and Edward Lasker.
1. Albert Einstein: Father of the theory of Relativity; an amateur chess player.
2. Edward Lasker: An Engineer and cousin to the World Chess Champion Emmanuel Lasker.
3. Emmanuel Lasker: A celebrated mathematician and a former world chess champion.
Now the first part here is a humorous side of part of a true story as written by Bill Wall http://www.chessville.com/BillWall/index.htm.
The second part was actually written by Einstein on Lasker after his death.
Einstein was a good friend of Emmanuel Lasker (1868-1941). Lasker thought Einstein's theory of relativity was wrong and that the speed of light was limited due to particles in space. Lasker did not think there was a perfect vacuum.
Einstein knew Edward Lasker (1885-1981) cousin to Emmanuel Lasker. On one occasion, Edward Lasker visited Einstein at Princeton and gave him an autographed copy of his book Go and Gomoku (an abstract strategy board game ), written in 1934. Einstein, in return, gave Edward Lasker an autographed copy of one of his papers on relativity.
The book given to Einstein later showed up in a Baltimore used bookstore. When someone told Edward Lasker about this, Lasker replied, "That's all right. I left his relativity paper on the subway."
Einstein thanked Edward Lasker for his book, but then asked, "You are obviously an intelligent man; clearly a great deal of work went into this book. But why for such a trivial and unimportant topic?" Edward Lasker replied, "A friend of mine recently said the following, and I must say I agree with it:
'We are born and we die, and in between these two events of a lifetime, there is a lot of time that must be wasted. Now, whether it is wasted by doing mathematics, practicing law, or playing games, it is really quite insignificant.'"
Ed Lasker was quoting Clarence Darrow..
Einstein is quoted as saying that "chess grips its exponent, shakling the mind and brain so that the inner freedom and independence of even the strongest character cannot remain unaffected."Einstein also said, "I always dislike the fierce competitive spirit embodied in [chess]."
THE SECOND PART
Einstein wrote a preface to a posthumous biography of Emanuel Lasker, Emanuel Lasker, The Life of a Chess Master, published by Dr. Jacques Hannak in 1952 (written in German in 1942). Barnie Winkelman wrote to Einstein to see if he would write an introduction to Hannak's book for an Engish edition. Einstein replied back with this foreward:
"Emanuel Lasker was undoubtedly one of the most interesting people I came to know in my later years. We must be thankful to those who have penned the story of his life for this and succeeding generations. For there are few men who have had a warm interest in all the great human problems and at the same time kept their personality so uniquely independent.
I am not a chess expert and therefore not in a position to marvel at the force of mind revealed in his greatest intellectual achievement - in the field of chess. I must even confess that the struggle for power and the competitive spirit expressed in the form of an ingenious game have always been repugant to me.
I met Emanuel Lasker at the house of my old friend, Alexander Moszkowski, and came to know him well in the course of many walks in which we exchanged opinions about the most varied questions. It was a somewhat one-sided exchange, in which I received more that I gave. For it was usually more natural for this eminently productive man to shape his own thoughts than to busy himself with those of another.
To my mind, there was a tragic note in his personality, despite his fundamentally affirmative attitude towards life. The enormous psychological tension, without which nobody can be a chess master, was so deeply interwoven with chess that he could never entirely rid himself of the spirit of the game, even when he was occupied with philosophic and human problems. At the same time, it seemed to me that chess was more a profession for him than the real goal of his life. His real yearning seems to be directed towards scientific understanding and the beauty inherent only in logical creation, a beauty so enchanting that nobody who has once caught a glimpse of it can ever escape it.
Spinoza's material existence and independence were base on the grinding of lenses; chess had an analogous role in Lasker's life. But Spinoza was granted a better fate, because his occupation left his mind free and untroubled, while, on the other hand, the chess playing of a master ties him to the game, fetters his mind and shapes it to a certain extent so that his internal freedom and ease, no matter how strong he is, must inevitably be affected. In our conversations and in the reading of his philosophical books, I always had that feeling. Of these books, "The Philosophy of the Unattainable" interested me the most; the book is not only very original, but it also affords a deep insight into Lasker's entire personality.
Now I must justify myself because I never considered in detail, either in writing or in our conversations, Emanuel Lasker's critical essay on the theory of relativity. It is indeed necessary for me to say something about it here because even in his biography, which is focused on the purely human aspects, the passage which discusses the essay contains something resembling a slight reproach. Lasker's keen analytical mind had immediately clearly recognized that the central point of the whole question is that the velocity of light (in a vacuum) is a constant.
It was evident to him that, if this constancy were admitted, the relative of time could not be avoided. So what was there to do? He tried to do what Alexnder, whom historians have dubbed "the Great," did when he cut the Gordian knot. Lasker's attempted solution was based on the following idea: "Nobody has any immediate knowledge of how quickly light is transmitted in a complete vacuum, for even in interstellar space there is always a minimal quantity of matter present under all circimstances and what holds there is even more applicable to the most complete vacuum created by man to the best of his ability. Therefore, who has the right to deny that its velocity in a really complete vacuum is infinite?"
To answer this argument can be expressed as follows: "It is, to be sure, true that nobody has experimental knowledge of how light is transmitted in a complete vacuum. But it is as good as impossible to formulate a reasonable theory of light according to which the velocity of light is affected by minimal traces of matter which is very significant but at the same time virtuallt independent of ther density." Before such a theory, which moreover, must harmonize with the known phenomena of optics in an almost complete vacuum, can be set up, it seems that evey physicist must wait for the solution of the above-mentioned Gordian knot - if he is not satisified with the present solution. Moral: a strong mind cannot take place of delicate fingers.
But I liked Lasker's immovable independence, a rare human attribute, in which respect almost all, including intelligent people, are mediocrities. And so I let matters stand that way. I am glad that the reader will be able to get to know this strong and, at the same time, find and lovable personality from his sympathetic biography, but I am thankful for the hours of conversation which this ever striving, independent, simple man granted me".
By Albert Einstein
Right: Edward Lasker : Cousin to Emmanuel Lasker and friend of Einstein