By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

One of my hobbies is reading. I read a lot. Most of my reading is non-fiction.  It has been a long time since I read a novel or short story. The subject of most of my reading is History, Biography or Science. The fact that I read a lot on those subjects doesn’t make me an expert. But, as I read and learn I do pick up some interesting facts about those subject categories. And I like to use a bit of them in my columns from time to time.
What I decided to write about this week deals with the field of science, more pointedly scientists themselves. As I read about the stalwarts of science and what they have contributed to our world, I am amazed at their insight and perseverance. In this column I want to feature two scientists that I admire as much or more than any others.
One of my first choices is one that I suspect many others would also agree is one of the most popular and influential scientists of all time — Albert Einstein. Dr. Einstein was born at Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. After continuing his education in a number of schools, he entered in 1896 the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. Five years later he received his diploma. He then went to work as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. Four years later he received his doctor’s degree. After a number of important posts, he   immigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton University. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired in 1945. Most folks know something about his famous formula Energy=Mass times the speed of light squared. Of course his Special Theory of Relativity and his General Theory of Relativity were revolutionary. He received a number of Honorary Degrees and other accolades before he died at Princeton April 18, 1955.

The other scientist I want to call attention to is Dr. Stephen Hawking. While I admire his work, it is his determination to continue in his work in the field of cosmology despite his physical limitations that impresses me. He was diagnosed with ALS, also known in America as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, at the age of 21. He is wheel chair bound and dependent on a computerized voice system for communication. Dr. Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 in Oxford, England. When he was 11, he went to St. Albans School and then on to University College. He wanted to study Mathematics, but Mathematics wasn’t available there. Instead, he studied Physics. From there he went to Cambridge to do research in Cosmology. After earning his Ph.D, he was employed at a number of institutions before coming to the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics in 1979. Dr. Hawking is still an active part of Cambridge University and has an office there. He is the author of several publications.
Of course there are many other scientists who deserve our admiration for their contribution to a better understanding of the universe and for making our lives better.