Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Statuary (Einstein & Jefferson) of Washington, DC

One thing about coming back home for a visit: this time one comes back as a curious tourist. I was born in Alexandria, VA, and when I was about six years old, my family moved to Bethesda, MD, just about 4 miles north of the District of Columbia city boundary. After I graduated from High School and the University of Maryland around 1964, I left the Metropolitan area, never to return again as a resident. Well, I did return to live for about a year in 1967, after serving my military obligation, but I don't count that.

But now, I come back to visit my family and relatives, with a new passion for gathering family history and learning more about the events of our country's heritage which has influenced us. You see, now I have the time to read and reflect on our national heritage and how it has become entwined with my own, personal "Life's Journey". So, during the last week, I visited several memorials and monuments in the Washington, DC, read the guidebook descriptions, and took pictures. There is not a better place to learn about our national heritage than Washington, DC.

Image above: Do you believe in osmosis? I am laying my head on the lap of the famous Albert Einstein in hopes that some of his intellect might seep into my own brain. Good Luck. This statue is on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences. I noticed that many of the statues and memorials depict their subject in quite formal poses. However, more recent statuary shows the subject in a more relaxed, informal pose such as this one. The statue was sculpted by Robert Berks, and is 21 feet high from head to toe. It was dedicated in June 1979, the centennial of Einstein's birth on 11 Mar 1879. He died 18 Apr 1955, at age 76 years.

The papers in Einstein's left hand shows three equations of his most important scientific discoveries:

  • The Theory of General Relativity
  • The Photoelectric Effect. (Some of my former Health Physics students might be familiar with this equation- unless they weren't paying attention.
  • The equivalency of Energy and Matter. So simple and so elegant- why didn't I think of it first?

Incidentally, Einstein once said, "Politics is for the present, but an equation ... is for an eternity".

Einstein sits on a 3 step bench of white granite quarried from Mt. Airy, NC. On the back of the bench is inscribed a quote attributed to Einstein. Other scientists and genealogists should take note:

"The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true"

And how does one recognize the truth: sources, sources, sources, and if one is lucky, PRIMARY sources. Of course, sometimes family historians might have to be a little discreet- at least for awhile.

Image: Einstein's statue sets on a slap, 28 feet in diameter, of emerald pearl granite from Lavrick, Norway. Embedded in the granite are 2700 stainless steel studs of various diameters which represent the stars in the heavens as positioned at noon on 22 Apr 1979 (dedication day). I'm no Einstein but the architects of this monument most surely were.

In the present campaign for President, both parties have claimed that their group represents CHANGE- as nobody seems to want to be associated with same old, same old, of George W. Bush's administration. However, after I climbed the steps of the Jefferson Memorial and then gazed around the rotunda, I was struck by an inscribed statement attributed to our second President, Thomas Jefferson. See the image below Jefferson's statue and click to enlarge.

Image: Thomas Jefferson in the rotunda of the Jefferson Memorial

What? "Barbarous Ancestors"- Thomas, what are you trying to say? It seems that Jefferson realized that institutions (and laws) must change to reflect and "keep pace" with the progress of man. I guess the question remains whether or not man is progressing.

1 comment:

Thomas MacEntee said...

The Einstein statue was one of my "contemplative" hangouts as a student at George Washington University back before dirt. I hadn't thought about old Albert in a long time - thanks for bringing back memories!