Einstein and the Quantum:
The Quest of the Valiant Swabian
by A. Douglas Stone
Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest
of the Valiant Swabian. Princeton
University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2013.
344 pp., illus. Trade. ISBN:
Reviewed by Christopher B. Germann
Marie Curie Fellow 'CogNovo'
Plymouth University, Cognition Institute
Published by MIT Press (2014):
URL: https://www.mitpressjour-
This book sheds new light quanta on Einsteins multifaceted life. The take-home mes-
sage is that Einsteins thinking was essential to the development of quantum theory
even though his contributions are usually underemphasized or even neglected in the
scientific discourse.
The book is subdivided into 29 chapters and the text is peppered with numerous foot-
notes of historical facts and bibliographical details about many of the significant phys-
icist of this era such as Planck, Bohr, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, de Broglie, Dirac, Born,
etc. pp. The reference section includes a comprehensive collection of Einsteins corre-
spondences, his landmark papers, and his lesser-known works.
Stone highlights the role of the valiant Swabians creative genius as being pivotal to the
evolution of modern quantum theory. On the one hand, the scientific community pri-
marily associates Einsteins contributions with the “relativity revolution” which fun-
damentally changed our conceptualisation of the cosmology of the universe (e.g.,
). On the other hand, he is perceived as being antagonistic towards the
subsequent “quantum revolution”, which revolutionized our thinking about the nature
of matter and whose development is mainly (but wrongly according to Stone) attributed
to Max Planck. Stone illustrates Einsteins aversion to the indeterminism inherent in
quantum theory by citing his famous God doesnt play dicequote. Moreover, Stone
demonstrates that Einstein was clearly discontent with the epistemological implica-
tions of quantum theory as exemplified by one of his critical remarks concerning this
matter: Do you really think the moon only exists if I look at it?
These statements can be regarded as evidence that Einstein vehemently disagreed with
the fundamental stochastic indeterminism and non-objectivism advocated by the ad-
herents of the quantum school of thought. Nevertheless, Stone makes very clear that it
is Einsteins (not Plancks) unorthodox and nonconformist creative thinking which is
central to the genesis of quantum theory. In particular, Einsteins first (sole authored)
paper in his annus mīrābilis (1905) in which he developed the quantum theory of light
heralded the century of quantum theory. His ingenious idea was that light is quantized
into indivisible discrete particles, which were at that time labelled quanta and which
we now call photons. When he later received the Nobel Prize in 1921 the existence of
quanta was still highly controversial. He was credited for the explanation of the photo-
electric effect, which is just one of the many implications derived from his deep insights
into the quantum world.
In the majority of physics textbooks, Einsteins key contributions to quantum physics
are either underemphasized or completely ignored, but Stone is not the first author
who tries to rectify historical facts. For instance, Thomas Kuhn in his book on “Black-
Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuitydescribes Einsteins indispensable con-
tributions to the development of quantum theory. However, Kuhns book is mostly in-
accessible to non- physicist due to its highly technical nature. Stone clearly and persua-
sively articulates that it is in Einsteins creative mind in that the basic concepts which
initiated the shift towards the modern quantum theoretical paradigm evolved. Stone
enlists four major seminal contributions of Einstein to quantum theory: quantization
of energy, wave-particle duality, the probabilistic randomness of quantum mechanics,
and what Stone calls quantum unity(a.k.a. entanglement).
From a cognitive science perspective, this book is currently highly relevant because it
is related to the newly emerging field called quantum cognition. This novel paradigm
utilizes the mathematical axioms of quantum theory to model cognitive processes (e.g.,
Pothos & Busemeyer, 2013). Especially the chapter titled Quantum diceprovides a
neat introduction to the counterintuitive logic that underlies Bose-Einstein statistics.
In conclusion, the book at hand is pertinent to anyone interested in physics and the his-
tory of science and it is, for the most part, accessible by a lay audience. However, even
though mathematical equations are rare, it should be noted that some background
knowledge in physics is required in order to understand the discipline specific termi-
nology and to fully appreciate the depth of Stones elaborations. Having said that, even
specialised physicists will not be disappointed by the authors scholarly efforts.
Einstein, A., (1905). Über einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffen-
den heuristischen Gesichtspunkt (On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production
and Transformation of Light), Annalen der Physik, 17(6). 132-148.
Kuhn, T. S. (1978). Black-Body Theory and the Quantum Discontinuity, 1894-1912. Ox-
ford: Clarendon Press.
Pothos, E. M., & Busemeyer, J. R. (2013). Can quantum probability provide a new direc-
tion for cognitive modelling. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36, 255-274.