D O C . 5 3 2 O N A R A G O S O B I T U A R Y O F Y O U N G 4 5 7 532. On Arago’s Obituary of Thomas Young [Einstein 1929gg] Published 17 May 1929 In: Die Naturwissenschaften 17 (1929): 363. The editor of this journal[1] had the felicitous idea of honoring the memory of this truly brilliant man[2] by reprinting Arago’s[3] splendid eulogy. Arago himself was a powerful mind, a subtle and tenderly empathetic psychologist, as well as a contemporary of Young’s who is capable of bringing us closer not only to his achievements, but also to his attractive and vigorous personality. Of Young’s two great intellectual achievements Arago clearly recognized only the one related to the explanation of the interference and bending of light, but not the one related to the explanation of the manifold nature of our experience of colors.[4] The reason for this is simple. Young was one of those rare imaginative spirits whose patience for working out their ideas—or more simply, whose ability to sit still—does not match the wealth of their original world of ideas. It took first-rate scientific talents—Fresnel and Helmholtz[5]—to develop these two great ideas far enough for them to be assimilated by the scientific world. When Arago wrote, Fres- nel had already done his part, but we had to wait a few decades longer for Helm- holtz to do his.[6] Thus Arago was able fully to acknowledge only Young’s first great idea, but not his second. What he was able to do, he did with invigorating sympathy and grace. Upon reading Arago’s speech, it was not without a certain Schadenfreude that I noted, as a child of our generation, that in his time men of science were already then not free from the weaknesses of nationalistic pettiness [7] and thus, today, we needn’t see ourselves as having been driven out of paradise. But I hope that this consolation will not grant us complete satisfaction. Alb. Einstein
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