2016年5月11日 星期三

Albert Einstein. Einstein as a Jew and a Philosopher (Freeman Dyson) ; Einstein’s Man in Beijing: A Rebel With a Cause 許良英,為民主真理造反

Albert Einstein's "The Foundations of the General Theory of Relativity" was published on May 11th, 1916. The appeal of the theory goes beyond its elegance. It provides a theoretical underpinning to the wonders of modern cosmology; and may still have secrets to give up

Albert Einstein 新增了 1 張相片。

"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
then what are we to think of an empty desk?"  ---Einstein

The photograph above is from Einstein's office in Princeton from Life magazine in 1955.

What would Einstein's and Christie's "desktop" look like today?

Scientist at Work | Xu Liangying

Einstein as a Jew and a Philosopher

Ferdinand Schmutzer/Austrian National Library/Anzenberger/Redux
Albert Einstein, Vienna, 1921
Why would anybody want to write another book about Albert Einstein? Why would anybody want to read it? These are two separate questions, but both of them have satisfactory answers. In spite of the large number of books already written about Einstein, there is still room for one more.
There were several good reasons for writing this book. Yale University Press is publishing a big series of short biographies under the heading “Jewish Lives.” Among the twenty already published are Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Rothko, and Leon Trotsky. Among the twenty-five announced as forthcoming are Benjamin Disraeli, Bob Dylan, Jesus, and Moses. Einstein obviously belongs on this list.
John Reed in his eyewitness report, Ten Days That Shook the World, describing the Bolshevik Revolution in Petrograd in 1917, proclaimed Leon Trotsky to be “the greatest Jew since Jesus.” Over the last hundred years, Einstein has displaced Trotsky as the second-brightest star of the Jewish pantheon. It would be absurd to display a gallery of famous Jews without putting Einstein in a prominent place. Another reason this Einstein book is welcome is that it is short. Most of the earlier books are much longer, with detailed and lengthy accounts of Einstein’s personal life and scientific thinking. The time is now ripe for a short book, summarizing briefly the well-known facts about Einstein’s rocky road as a husband and father and scientist, and emphasizing his lasting importance as a politician and a philosopher. This book is accurate and well balanced. It presents Einstein’s Jewish heritage as he saw it himself, not as the core of his being, but as a historical accident bringing inescapable responsibilities.

The reasons for reading this book are also simple. The majority of famous scientists have books written about them that are of interest to historians and specialists. The scientists remain famous for a few decades and then gradually fade. The books contain almost all the information about them that is worth preserving. But there are a few scientists whose lives and thoughts are of perennial interest, because they permanently changed our way of thinking. To the few belong Galileo and Newton and Darwin, and now Einstein. For the select few, there will be no end to the writing of books. New books will need to be written and read, because these people had enduring ideas that throw light on new problems as the centuries go by.

The later chapters of Steven Gimbel’s book describe Einstein’s deep involvement with the Zionist movement, promoting the settlement of Jews in Palestine. Einstein saw these settlements as a benefit both to Jews and to Arabs, giving Jews a place to live and prosper, and giving Arabs a chance to share the blessings of progress and prosperity. In 1929, when some Palestinian Arabs organized a violent opposition to Jewish settlement and killed some Jews, the British colonial government suppressed the rebellion and enforced a peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs. But Einstein understood that this enforced coexistence could not last. He wrote an article with the title “Jew and Arab” from which Gimbel quotes:
The first and most important necessity is the creation of a modus vivendi with the Arab people. Friction is perhaps inevitable, but its evil consequences must be overcome by organized cooperation, so that the inflammable material may not be piled up to the point of danger. The absence of contact in every-day life is bound to produce an atmosphere of mutual fear and distrust, which is favorable to such lamentable outbursts of passion as we have witnessed. We Jews must show above all that our own history of suffering has given us sufficient understanding and psychological insight to know how to cope with this problem of psychology and organization: the more so as no irreconcilable differences stand in the way of peace between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Let us therefore above all be on our guard against blind chauvinism of any kind, and let us not imagine that reason and common-sense can be replaced with British bayonets.
Einstein worked with Chaim Weizmann, the leader of the Zionist organization, to raise money for the settlements and for the foundation of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But while he worked with Weizmann as a fund-raiser, he disagreed fundamentally with Weizmann’s aims for the future. In the early days, before Israel existed, Einstein was opposed to the idea of a Jewish state. Weizmann aimed from the beginning to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, and he lived long enough to see his dreams come true, serving as the first president of the State of Israel. After the State of Israel was established, Einstein gave it his full support. But he said that a peaceful and permanent presence of Jews in Palestine could only be possible if they worked side by side with Arabs under conditions of social and political equality.
Einstein felt a deep personal responsibility for the actions of the Jewish community to which he never wholeheartedly belonged. He tried with all his strength to stop the Jewish people from becoming another nationalistic culture glorifying military strength, like the militaristic German culture that he had hated as a child and repudiated as a teenager when he renounced his German citizenship. He continued to support Israel while severely criticizing it. At the end of his life, when he had become an American citizen, he felt an equally deep responsibility for the actions of the American community to which he never wholeheartedly belonged. He had gone through the ritual of naturalization, but he remained an alien spirit in America.
He saw the American people, after their victory over Germany and Japan, sliding into the same militaristic arrogance that overcame the German people after their victory over France in 1871. He had experienced in Berlin in 1914 the insane enthusiasm with which the German people, including his scientist friends and colleagues, welcomed the outbreak of World War I. He saw the same insanity taking root in America, with patriotic citizens imagining that the possession of nuclear weapons would give America the power to rule the world. Just as he spoke out against the militarization of Israel, he spoke out against the militarization of America. He spoke with particular clarity against the delusion that staying ahead in the race to develop nuclear weapons could give America a permanent national security.
Gimbel quotes an excerpt from Einstein’s statement reacting to President Truman’s announcement in 1950 that the United States was developing a hydrogen bomb:
The arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, initiated originally as a preventive measure, assumes hysterical proportions. On both sides, means of mass destruction are being perfected with feverish haste and behind walls of secrecy. And now the public has been advised that the production of the hydrogen bomb is the new goal which will probably be accomplished. An accelerated development toward this end has been solemnly proclaimed by the President. If these efforts should prove successful, radioactive poisoning of the atmosphere and, hence, annihilation of all life on earth will have been brought within the range of what is technically possible. The weird aspect of this development lies in its apparently inexorable character. Each step appears as the inevitable consequence of the one that went before. And at the end, looming ever clearer, lies general annihilation.
These words have had a lasting impact. Many world leaders, civilian and military, have made similar statements during the subsequent sixty years. More importantly, the governments of powerful countries have behaved cautiously, showing by their actions that they do not consider victory in a major war to be a meaningful objective. Wars continue to be fought, but they are mostly local in scale and extended in time, as different as possible from a nuclear holocaust that could destroy half the world in a few hours. Military leaders in all countries have learned that nuclear weapons are not very useful. They are effective for murdering huge numbers of people in a short time, but not for winning real battles in real wars. For almost all situations in local wars, nuclear weapons are too big and the targets are too small.
From 1945 until the end of his life in 1955, Einstein saw the abolition of nuclear weapons as a necessary objective. Abolition was for him the only way to save mankind from the threat of nuclear destruction. He was not sure how abolition could be achieved. Sometimes he spoke of a world government with power to stop nuclear activities in every country. Sometimes he spoke of formal agreements between existing governments. Sometimes he spoke about abolishing war as well as abolishing nuclear weapons. He understood that any abolition of war or of weapons would require a radical change in our way of thinking.
The essential first step, before any abolition agreement could be effective, was to educate the public. The public and the political leaders must understand that nuclear weapons were not only intolerably dangerous but also militarily useless. Once these facts of life were clearly understood, there would be a fighting chance that an abolition agreement could work. Einstein did whatever he could in his final years to educate the public.
In the last month of his life, he joined with Bertrand Russell to make a public statement that he did not live to see published. Here are its concluding words:
In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purposes cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.
After the Russell-Einstein manifesto was published, there grew out of it an organization called the Pugwash movement, bringing together scientists from East and West to discuss the problems of war and weapons. The name Pugwash came from the small town in eastern Canada where the first meeting was held in 1957. Since that time, meetings have been held in many countries, continuing up to the present day. The basic idea of the meetings is that science gives to scientists of all countries a common language, so that they can understand one another even when talking about political and human problems having little to do with science.
Politicians and diplomats have much greater difficulty in understanding one another. Scientists have long experience of working together in an international enterprise that pays no attention to national or ideological differences. At the beginning, Bertrand Russell himself presided over the Pugwash meetings. After Russell retired, the leadership was taken over by Joseph Rotblat, a Polish nuclear physicist who worked at Los Alamos and became famous as the only scientist who walked out of Los Alamos for reasons of conscience in 1944, when it became known that Germany did not have a serious nuclear weapons project. General Leslie Groves let him go after he promised not to tell his friends the reason for his departure. Rotblat ran the Pugwash meetings for forty years. He won the respect of all the participants and many of their governments.
I attended several of the early Pugwash meetings under the auspices of Russell and Rotblat. At that time they were acting as a valuable back channel for exchanging views between the American and Soviet governments, when the official diplomatic channel was blocked by ideological disagreements. The two dominant personalities were Leó Szilárd on the American side and Vladimir Pavlichenko on the Soviet side. Szilárd was an old friend of Einstein from Einstein’s Berlin days. He wrote the letter that Einstein signed in 1939, warning President Roosevelt that nuclear weapons were a possibility, that uranium was the crucial material for their manufacture, and that it was important to keep the rich uranium ores of the Belgian Congo out of the hands of Hitler.
Szilárd had also tried in vain to deliver an appeal to President Truman in 1945, urging him to give Japan warning and an opportunity to surrender before dropping nuclear bombs on Japanese cities. Pavlichenko was the KGB man on the Soviet side, sent to Pugwash conferences along with the scientists to make sure that they did not deviate from the Soviet line. He was highly intelligent and well informed about technical and political questions. He knew far more than the scientists about the actions and intentions of his own government.
Szilárd immediately recognized Pavlichenko as the man to talk to when serious issues were discussed. Any proposal made to Pavlichenko would reach high levels in the Soviet government. Szilárd had friends at high levels in the American government, and so this unlikely pair, the Hungarian rebel and the KGB apparatchik, worked fruitfully together to carry messages in both directions. Now, fifty years later, Pugwash meetings are carrying messages between Israel and hostile Arab states in the Middle East, and between India and Pakistan in Asia. The hope expressed by Einstein is still alive, that our way of thinking could one day change, and abolition of war and weapons could become possible.

Science Society and Picture Library/Getty Images
Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, circa 1920
Less than half of Gimbel’s book is about Einstein’s politics. The rest of it is about his science and his philosophy. In this review I reverse the proportions, giving more space to politics and less to philosophy. Einstein’s philosophy grew directly out of his science. During the ten years from 1905 to 1915, he created a new view of the physical universe, including atoms and light-quanta, space and time, electromagnetism and gravitation, with all their motions and interactions governed by precise mathematical laws. His theories were tested by observation and experiment and found to be correct. On the basis of this dazzling success, he built a philosophy.
A philosophy for Einstein meant a general view of nature into which the scientific details can fit. His philosophy describes nature as a single layer of observable objects with strict causality governing their movements. If the state of affairs at the present time is precisely known, then the laws of nature allow the state at a future time to be precisely predicted. The uncertainty of our knowledge of the future arises only from the uncertainty of our knowledge of the past and present. I call this view of nature the classical philosophy, since all objects obey the laws of classical physics.
Ten years after Einstein completed his theories, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger invented quantum mechanics, describing the behavior of atoms and light-quanta in a radically different way. Experiments confirmed that quantum mechanics gives a true picture of atomic processes that Einstein’s theories could not explain. Niels Bohr worked out a philosophy, generally known as the Copenhagen interpretation, to explain quantum mechanics. I prefer to call it the dualistic philosophy, since it describes the universe as consisting of two layers. The first layer is the classical world of Einstein, with objects that are directly observable but no longer predictable. They have become unpredictable because they are driven by events in the second layer that we cannot see. The second layer is the quantum world, with states that are not directly observable but obey simple laws. For example, the laws of the second layer decree that every particle travels along every possible path with a probability that depends in a simple way on the path.
The two layers are connected by probabilistic rules, so that the quantum state of an object tells us only the probabilities that it will do various things. The dualistic philosophy allows us to divide our knowledge of nature into facts and probabilities. Observation of the first layer gives us facts about what happened in the past, but only gives us probabilities about what may happen in the future. The future is uncertain because the processes in the second layer are unobservable. The power and the beauty of quantum mechanics arise from the fact that the physical laws in the second layer are precisely linear.
All points in a linear theory are equal, and a linear space has perfect symmetry about any of its points. As a result of the linearity of the laws, the second layer possesses a wealth of marvelous symmetries that are only partially visible in the first layer. For example, in the first layer, symmetries between space and time are only partly visible. In daily life, we do not mix up inches with seconds or miles with days. In the second layer, as the result of Paul Dirac’s elegant equation describing the quantum behavior of the electron, the mixing of space with time in the electron’s movements would be clearly visible. But we do not live in the second layer, and so the mixing is hidden from us.
The dualistic philosophy gives a natural frame for the new sciences of particle physics and relativistic cosmology that emerged in the twentieth century after Einstein and Bohr were dead. The new sciences are dominated by mathematical symmetries that are exact in the second layer and approximate in the first layer. The dualistic philosophy seems to me to represent accurately our present state of knowledge. It says that the classical world and the quantum world are both real, but the way they fit together is not yet completely understood. The dualistic philosophy is flexible enough to accept unexpected discoveries and conceptual revolutions.
Now, eighty years after the dualistic philosophy was invented by Bohr, it is generally regarded by the younger generation of physicists as obsolete. The younger generation mostly rejects duality and accepts what I call the quantum-only philosophy. The quantum-only philosophy says that the classical world is an illusion and only the quantum world exists. The concept of a classical world arose because the effects of quantum mechanics are rapidly erased by a phenomenon known as decoherence. Decoherence hides the quantum world by destroying rapidly the waves arising from quantum effects. After the waves have disappeared, whatever is left obeys classical laws and looks like a classical world. According to the quantum-only philosophy, the marvelous harmony of Einstein’s classical universe is only an approximation, valid when quantum waves happen to be small enough to be neglected.
To summarize the present situation, there are three ways to understand philosophically our observations of the physical universe. The classical philosophy of Einstein has everything in a single layer obeying classical laws, with quantum processes unexplained. The quantum-only philosophy has included everything in a single layer obeying quantum laws, with the astonishing solidity and uniqueness of the classical illusion unexplained. The dualistic philosophy gives reality impartially to the classical vision of Einstein and to the quantum vision of Bohr, with the details of the connection between the two layers unexplained. All three philosophies are tenable, and all three are incomplete. I prefer the dualistic philosophy because I give equal weight to the insights of Einstein and Bohr. I do not believe that the celestial harmonies discovered by Einstein are an accidental illusion.
Einstein in real life was not only a great politician and a great philosopher. He was also a great observer of the human comedy, with a robust sense of humor. The third side of Einstein’s personality is not emphasized by Gimbel, but was an important cause of his immense popularity. He came as an observer to my boarding school in England in 1931, a few years before I arrived there. He was in England as the guest of Frederick Lindemann, an Oxford physicist who was also a friend and adviser to Winston Churchill.
Lindemann took him to the school to meet one of the boys who was a family friend. The boy was living in Second Chamber, in an ancient building where the walls are ornamented with marble memorials to boys who occupied the rooms in past centuries. Einstein and Lindemann wandered by mistake into the adjoining First Chamber, which had been converted from a living room to a bathroom. In First Chamber, the marble memorials were preserved, but underneath them on the walls were hooks where boys had hung their smelly football clothes. Einstein surveyed the scene for a while in silence, and then said: “Now I understand: the spirits of the departed pass over into the trousers of the living.”

Einstein’s Man in Beijing: A Rebel With a Cause

BEIJING — The first time he was purged, Xu Liangying was 37, an up-and-coming physicist, philosopher and historian and a veteran of the Communist underground. He had to divorce his wife, leave his sons and go live on his mother’s farm in the country.Three decades later, only a heart attack saved him from imprisonment or worse during the massacre that ended the democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards stole the Einstein translations that Dr. Xu had labored over during his farm exile. Armed guards once surrounded his apartment to keep him away from Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
For seven decades, Xu Liangying has been Albert Einstein’s man in China, intertwining revolution and physics to speak up for political freedom and the value of scientific curiosity in a land where the rulers have often had a different agenda. His Einstein translations, retrieved and published, helped inspire a rebirth of interest in Einstein and in science in China.
Chinese leaders say today that science is the key to the country’s modernization and growth, but Dr. Xu finds no pleasure in that.
“They are just using it to serve themselves,” he said recently.
His phone, he says, is still bugged.
Today, at 86, his hair is white, and history, in the form of scholars, human rights activists and journalists, comes to him, in his book-lined apartment overlooking the university district in Beijing.
If he is not the oldest living Chinese dissident, he is easily one of the most intellectually distinguished, the author of some 200 papers and editor of a half-dozen books. The historian H. Lyman Miller called him an “archetypal figure” in his book “Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China.” The adjective “venerable” seems to attach itself to him the way snow is attracted to the mountains, but he does not seem to have lost an ounce of rebelliousness.
A dozen years ago in this newspaper he referred to would-be Communist reformers as “boot lickers.”
On a recent morning, Dr. Xu held forth from an armchair on his adventures as an Einsteinian democrat, jabbing the air, waving his arms and laughing often. Albert Einstein stared down sternly from above a file cabinet.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds,” the inscription read.
Clad in a blue shirt, slippers and thick glasses, Dr. Xu got up from his easy chair to stand beneath the poster. “Those are some of his best words,” he said.
The love affair between Dr. Xu, who was born in Linhai, Zhejiang, in 1920, and Einstein began when Dr. Xu was in secondary school and read a collection of Einstein’s essays called “The World as I See It.” The book had as much politics as science.
In one passage that the young Xu underlined, Einstein wrote: “The state is made for man, not man for the state. I regard the chief duty of the state to protect the individual and give him the opportunity to develop into a creative personality.”
Dr. Xu said, “I wanted to be such a person.”
In 1939, he entered Zhejiang University, intending, as he wrote on his entrance form, to become “the authority of modern physics.” But politics intruded.
To evade the Japanese Army, which had invaded China in 1937, the university repeatedly had to move and sometimes during bombings students had to take shelter in caves. This provided Dr. Xu a revealing and disturbing tour of the Chinese countryside. Some people were living in caves with ragged clothes, while their landlords lived well.
“This difference was unreasonable,” he recalled thinking. Concluding that China needed “total revolution,” he resolved to join the Communists underground.
In the meantime, he was excelling at his studies, and when he graduated, his mentor Wang Ganchang, the architect of China’s first atomic bomb, wanted him as a research assistant to study the mysterious subatomic particles known as neutrinos.
Instead, the young Xu went off in search of the revolution, teaching in five schools over the next two years. When the Japanese Army overran the province where he was teaching, his old mentor put an advertisement in the local newspaper pleading with him to return to research. Dr. Xu did return to the university, but he took his politics with him and the physics department became the center of Communist activity at the university, with Dr. Xu as the party secretary.
When the Communists finally prevailed in 1949, Dr. Xu and Dr. Wang moved to Beijing and joined the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where in what he refers to now as “a bad deed,” Dr. Xu became for a while the chief censor, inspecting scientific writings for antirevolutionary sentiment or threats to national security. But it turned out that he could not serve both Einstein and Mao.
In 1957, Mao announced the “100 flowers” campaign, encouraging people to speak up and criticize, only to decide later that things had gone too far and to instigate a new campaign to weed out “rightists.”
Dr. Xu spoke out against the new campaign and was himself denounced in The Chinese People’s Daily, not just as a rightist, but an “extreme rightist.” The academy ordered him to go work on a farm in northeastern China, but Dr. Xu argued that he had arthritis and that it was too cold there.
Told then that he was on his own, Dr. Xu went back to his apartment in Beijing.
His wife, Wang Laili, a historian and mother of their 7- and 14-year-old children, was pregnant.
She cried so hard for three days, he said, that she lost the baby. For sheltering her husband, Dr. Wang was kicked out of the party, and under “ big pressure,” Dr. Xu said, she asked him for a divorce. Dr. Xu was banished to his family farm in Linhai.
Eventually, the rightist label was lifted, and in 1962, the academy asked him to do the translation for a new collection of Einstein’s philosophical essays and speeches.
The decision to publish Einstein was not made wholly out of admiration. “Mao Zedong wanted to be the revolutionary leader of the whole world,” Dr. Xu explained. As part of that plan, he said, “Mao planned to identify and criticize all the world’s scientists whose political or philosophical positions were anti-Marxist.”
Einstein was on the list courtesy of Andrei Zhdanov, an assistant to Stalin, who argued in 1947 that Einstein’s cosmological theories were reactionary and bourgeois. Marxist philosophy postulated an endless and unlimited universe, but according to general relativity, space-time could be curved around on itself like a sphere, and thus be finite even if it lacked boundaries. Moreover, it promoted theology by implying that the universe had a beginning.
Mr. Zhdanov’s argument resonated with Mao’s view that the universe should be in a state of eternal revolution. And for a brief while it resonated with Dr. Xu, who referred to the Soviet criticism as “a vibration on my mind.”
Scientifically, he said, “I affirmed Einstein’s theory because in science there are no classes.” But, he said, “Influenced by Marxism, I thought that the philosophy part of Einstein’s theory is some capitalism theory.’’
It took him two years, working mostly by himself, to translate 197 of Einstein’s articles. But publication was suspended because the workers at his printer had been dispersed to the countryside in another of Mao’s campaigns.
Then came the Cultural Revolution. The Red Guards confiscated Dr. Xu’s translations, as well as a manuscript he had written on Einstein’s philosophy.
In 1969, Dr. Xu learned that the papers were in the hands of a group of Shanghai radicals known as the Shanghai Science Criticism Group, a collective that had been set up to attack Einstein and relativity.
Dr. Xu demanded his papers back and appealed to the Shanghai Revolutionary Committee to prevent the group from publishing the translations themselves. Then he wrote to Premier Zhou Enlai. His courage unnerved the Shanghai group, according to Danian Hu, a historian at the City College of New York, who tells the story in a new book, “China and Albert Einstein.” (Harvard University Press, 2005).
In the end Dr. Xu got back his translations and the publications rights, but the other manuscript was lost.
The Einstein volumes were published, beginning in 1975, just as the Cultural Revolution was winding down. Mao died and the members of the infamous “Gang of Four” were arrested in 1976. On March 14, 1978, the 99th anniversary of Einstein’s birth, the foreword to Dr. Xu’s book, calling Einstein “a giant bright star in human history,” was reprinted in The People’s Daily. A year later a thousand Chinese scientists gathered in Beijing to celebrate the old sage.
New leaders like Deng Xiaoping began emphasizing science as the key to uplifting China, and urging the people to “seek the truth through facts.”
Dr. Xu rejoined the academy in Beijing, remarried Wang Laili and became the editor of a new journal, The Bulletin of Natural Dialectics.
But Einstein proved a truer beacon than the party. In a paper in 1981, Dr. Xu cited Einstein on the necessity of freedom, particularly of speech, as a prerequisite for scientific progress.
Many scientists, including Dr. Xu, soon became disillusioned as the government put resources into technological development, starving basic research institutions.
This, Dr. Xu said, was a symptom of closed societies. “In this respect we have much to learn from the experience of the developed Western countries,” he wrote in 1986, “where academic freedom is recognized as a necessary condition for human progress.” By the end of the decade, he said, “I gave up Marxism totally and returned to Einstein.”
In January 1989, Dr. Xu’s friend Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist, wrote an open letter calling for the release of political prisoners. That was too limited, Dr. Xu concluded. He and an old friend, Shi Yafeng, a geographer at the academy, then in February drafted their own letter calling for democracy. “We agreed that actually China needs political reform,” Dr. Xu said.
“They need political democracy and need to protect the rights of citizens, and there should be freedom of thinking, speaking and publishing,” he said, “and they need to end the long history of punishing people because of their words. China has such a history, which has lasted for thousands of years.”
Asked if he had worried when he wrote the letter, Dr. Xu laughed, explaining that he had risked his life long before when he first joined the Communist underground. “There was nothing to dare,” he said.
His letter was signed by 42 people, including many scientists.
It and Dr. Fang’s letter helped provide inspiration for students and others who swarmed Tiananmen Square in April 1989 to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, a purged political activist, and then stayed to protest corruption and the lack of human rights. Many of them were wearing T-shirts that said “Science and Democracy,” watchwords of Chinese politics and aspirations since the early 20th century.
On June 4, Chinese troops invaded the square with tanks and killed hundreds of people.
The massacre, Dr. Xu said, will live as Deng Xiaoping’s one historical event. “Mr. Deng used tanks and plane to kill people; he killed them with bullets without blinking his eyes,” he said. “Even the Japanese never did that.”
In the aftermath, Dr. Xu was not arrested, perhaps, he says, because he had had a heart attack a couple of months earlier and had thus never gone down to the demonstrations. (Dr. Fang had to take refuge in the United States Embassy and later left the country.)
When it was suggested to him that he leave the city, Dr. Xu refused. He was 69 and weakened. “If I get arrested, then I’m ready to be dead in prison,” he said.
In 1994, Dr. Xu and six others, including the parents of one of the slain Tiananmen protesters, published a new appeal for human rights in China. “To talk about modernization without mentioning human rights is like climbing a tree to catch a fish,” it said. The letter coincided with a planned visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Christopher, and occasioned a temporary house arrest to prevent a meeting.
In 1995, Dr. Xu was given the Heinz R. Pagels award by the New York Academy of Sciences for his work for freedom, but after another letter and another house arrest, the president of the American Physical Society wrote to the Chinese government asking about his safety.
Dr. Xu is now retired. In 2001 his book “My Views: Xu Liangying’s Collection of Essays on Science, Democracy and Reason” was published by Mirror Books in Hong Kong. He and his wife, who works at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, are working together on a book about the history and theory of democracy.
“Science and democracy are separate concepts,” he said. “They are mutually supportive, but democracy is more fundamental.”
Despite their showy embrace of science, China’s present leaders have not won over Dr. Xu.
Jiang Zemin, who inherited power from Mr. Deng, earned Dr. Xu’s scorn in 1997 when he invoked Einsteinian relativity to justify China’s human rights record, saying democracy was a relative concept. “It’s just nonsense because, first, Einstein’s relativity principle is actually essentially emphasizing the absolute,” Dr. Xu said, referring to the notion that the laws of physics and speed of light are the same for all observers.
“And the other part is democracy and freedom are also absolute because human nature is universal and needs to pursue freedom and equality.”
Dr. Xu said he was optimistic that China’s future would embrace those qualities. He pointed out that when the student leader Wang Dan first tried to start a democracy salon in 1989, only 20 people showed up. But only half a year later, more than 3,000 people joined a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.
“So I never doubt the power of the youth,” Dr. Xu said.


北京——[中國知名物理學家、思想家、社會活動家許良英,2013年1月28日在北京海 淀醫院去世,享年93歲。——編者] 第一次遭到清洗時,許良英37歲,是一名很有前途的物理學家、思想家和歷史學家,也是一名共產黨老地下黨員。他不得 不和妻子離婚,離開自己的兒子,搬到母親鄉下的農場。
文化大革命時期,紅衛兵搶走了許良英博士在農場改造期間嘔心瀝血翻譯出來的愛因斯坦文集。武裝警衛曾經包圍了他的住所,以防止他接近當時的美國國務卿沃倫·克里斯托弗(Warren Christopher)。
70年來,許良英是阿爾伯特·愛因斯坦(Albert Einstein)在中國的傳人。他把革命和物理學交織在一起,為政治自由和科學探索精神之價值而呼喊,儘管執政者往往不關心這些。他翻譯的愛因斯坦文集 在失而復得後出版,幫助中國人再次燃起了對愛因斯坦和科學的興趣。
如果他不是中國年紀最大的異見人士,他至少一定是中國學問最卓越的異見人士了,發表了200多篇論文,編著了六本書。歷史學家梅瀚瀾(H. Lyman Miller)在其著作《中國在後毛澤東時代的科學和異見》(Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China)一書中,稱他為“典範人物”。高山仰止,景行行止,用來形容他,庶不為過。而他那一身傲骨,卻絲毫不減當年。
許良英於1920年出生在浙江臨海市,他和愛因斯坦之間的緣分始於中學時讀到的一本愛因斯坦文集《我眼中的世界》(The World as I See It),這本書中既講科學,又談政治。
愛因斯坦也上了共產黨的黑名單,這還要拜斯大林的助手安德烈·日丹諾夫(Andrei Zhdanov)之賜。此人在1947年稱愛因斯坦的理論是反革命,有資產階級思想。馬克思哲學假設的是一個無窮無盡的宇宙,但根據廣義相對論,時空可以 被彎曲成一個球體,因此,即使時空沒有邊界,但也是有限的。另外,相對論暗示宇宙有一個起源,因此宣揚了神學。
許良英要求拿回他的文稿,並且向上海革委會投訴,以防理科批判組自行發表這些翻譯稿。隨後,他寫信給周恩來總理。據紐約城市大學(City College of New York)的歷史學家胡大年說,許良英的勇氣折服了理科批判組。胡大年的新書《中國與愛因斯坦》(哈佛大學出版社,2005年)講了這段故事。
隨着文化大革命接近尾聲,從1975年開始,愛因斯坦的文章先後出版。1976年,毛澤東去世,“四人幫”被捕。1978年3月14日,愛因斯坦誕 辰99年之際,《人民日報》重新刊登了許良英著作的序言。序言中稱愛因斯坦是“人類歷史上一顆明亮的巨星”。一年後,一千名中國科學家齊聚北京,慶祝這位 智者的百年誕辰。
許良英表示,這場鎮壓將會作為鄧小平的一個歷史事件被人銘記。“鄧小平出動坦克和飛機殺害群眾, 他槍殺群眾,眼都不眨一下,”他說,“甚至連日本人都沒這麼做過。”
1994年,許良英和其他六人發表了一份新的呼籲人權的公開信,這些人中包括一位遇難的天安門抗議者的父母。信中說道,“探討現代化而不提及人權, 這無異於緣木求魚。”發表這封信時,恰逢美國國務卿克里斯托弗按計劃訪問北京,許良英因此被暫時軟禁在家,以防止他與克里斯托弗會談。
1995年,美國紐約科學院(New York Academy of Sciences)授予許良英漢恩茨·R·佩格爾斯(Heinz R. Pagels)科學家人權獎,以表彰他為爭取自由做出的貢獻。但在許良英寫了另一封信並再次遭受軟禁後,美國物理學會(American Physical Society)會長給中國政府寫信,詢問許良英的安全情況。
如今,許良英已經退休。2001年,《科學·民主·理性——許良英文集(1977-1999)》(My Views: Xu Liangying’s Collection of Essays on Science, Democracy and Reason)由香港明鏡出版社(Mirror Books)出版。他和妻子正在共同撰寫一本有關民主的歷史與理論的書。其妻仍在中國社會科學院工作。