Egad, Einstein: Jefferson Lab lecture offers a rare look at the great man

While the name Albert Einstein is still spoken with awe, his image over the years has been reduced to caricature. People recognize the unruly shock of white hair and the kindly, even childlike face. They know his most famous equation (E=mc2) even if they haven't a clue to its meaning. They plunder his voluminous writings for platitudes and bumper sticker slogans ("Imagination is more important than knowledge"), but they don't understand what he believed and what he stood for.

This year marks the centennial of three of Einstein's groundbreaking contributions to physics, including publication of the paper that first proposed the theory of relativity - and next week the Jefferson Lab in Newport News is offering a window into the great man's mind.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 20, the Jeff Lab will host a talk by Erich Vogt, one of Canada's leading physicists. Vogt attended the last lecture Einstein gave before his death in 1955 and has spent years studying his contributions to physics. At the Jefferson Lab, he will talk about Einstein's life, his work and his place among the physicists who have changed the world and our comprehension of it.

The lecture is free. Guests will be admitted at the lab's main entrance (off Onnes Drive) and must have a photo ID; for security purposes, bags and vehicles may be searched.

There is an iconic image of Einstein as the cuddly, eccentric genius who has entered the popular culture. He has been depicted in movie comedies as everything from a genteel matchmaker to a wannabe rock-and-roller, something that will never be said about, say, Enrico Fermi.

This month's lecture at Jefferson Lab offers a unique opportunity to go beyond the caricature and learn about one of the most important and fascinating human beings of the 20th century.