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Banish despair

One of Einstein’s biographers writes: “We can take heart that it is not necessary to be a good student to become Einstein.” Considering that Albert Einstein brought about a veritable revolution in twentieth-century science, this statement would seem to be something of a paradox. But it is quite true. One of his teachers summed him up as a “lazy dog” and he was even once expelled from school, so inept was he in his studies. He was not even able to gain admission to the Zurich Polytechnic at the first try, because his marks were not high enough. It took a whole further year of hard work to get him his admission.

No signs of his extraordinary genius appeared until he was twenty years of age. But then he began to work really hard and ended by ­outstripping all other contemporary scientists. With the passage of time, his fame, if anything has continued to grow.

He should banish despair, for there is no end to possibilities in this world. It is simply a question of being determined to make the best use of them.


It is remarkable that a child of ordinary parents in humble circumstances should have been so successful. But history abounds in instances of men starting with nothing, yet scaling phenomenal heights of success. The thing which they have in common is their dedication to a goal. Einstein certainly falls into this category, for he lived a very simple life, remaining engrossed in his work until late at night.

When offered the presidentship of Israel, he refused, saying that politics was the “cancer of humanity”. When he left Germany in 1933, Hitler’s government put a 20,000 mark price on his head. That was a very large sum of money in those days, but such was the awe and reverence that Einstein commanded that no one dared come forward to make a bid for this prize.

When we consider the drawbacks in Einstein’s early life—the lack of financial resources, his inability to speak at all until he was three, the hostility of his school environment—we must marvel at his late attainments.

We must also see in this the lesson that adverse circumstances can arouse latent potential and act as a spur to greater and more determined action. That great souls are the product not of ease but of adversity is borne out by history. This being so, no one who is financially or culturally disadvantaged should feel himself irrevocably the prisoner of his circumstances. He should banish despair, for there is no end to possibilities in this world. It is simply a question of being determined to make the best use of them.

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