Famed German physicist Albert Einstein may have been one of the earliest globally renowned guest lecturers on UCLA’s campus. During his first visit to Southern California as a guest researcher at Caltech, the Nobel Winner was invited by members of UCLA’s chapter of the Sigma Xi scientific honors society. Einstein spoke at the Royce Hall auditorium to a packed audience of 2,200 students and faculty, about one third of the entire university population at the time. With the assistance of a translator, he lectured on his theory of general relativity as well as the impact of gravitational and electric fields on current scientific scholarship.
“Science is seeking a system which will bind together the observed facts to make for the greatest simplicity,” Einstein proclaimed, touching on what would become a decades-long quest to explain the singular interrelationship between the fundamental forces of nature. This would be called the unified field theory, and it remains unsolved today.
Just over a decade into UCLA’s founding as an institution, Einstein’s visit stirred a shift in the zeitgeist and kickstarted a celebrated pursuit of scientific innovation at UCLA that has become unwavering, deeply imaginative and global in scale. Today, this spirit lives on in students within the sciences who collaborate with one another and the community at large to advance further into the unknown and imagine bold, new futures.