Recently Discovered Letter Written by Albert Einstein Discusses Link Between Physics and Biology – Seven Decades Before Evidence Emerges

Albert Einstein Portrait

Previously Unknown Letter Reveals Einstein’s Thinking on Bees, Birds and Physics

The 1949 letter by the physicist and Nobel laureate discusses bees, birds, and whether new physics principles could come from studying animal senses.

It’s a position still being realized within physics to this day, with a growing body of research and understanding of how animals such as birds and bees find their way around.

Now a study led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, discusses how recent discoveries in migratory birds back up Einstein’s thinking 72 years ago.

The previously unpublished letter was shared with researchers by Judith Davys — Einstein had addressed it to her late husband, radar researcher Glyn Davys.

RMIT’s Associate Professor Adrian Dyer has published significant studies into bees and is the lead author of the new paper on Einstein’s letter, published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

Albert Einstein Letter

Letter by Albert Einstein, validated by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where Einstein bequeathed his notes, letters and records. Credit: Dyer et al. 2021, J Comp Physiol A / The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dyer said the letter shows how Einstein envisaged new discoveries could come from studying animals.

“Seven decades after Einstein proposed new physics might come from animal sensory perception, we’re seeing discoveries that push our understanding about navigation and the fundamental principles of physics,” he said.

The letter also proves Einstein met with Nobel laureate Karl von Frisch, who was a leading bee and animal sensory researcher.

In April 1949, von Frisch presented his research on how honeybees navigate more effectively using the polarization patterns of light scattered from the sky.

The day after Einstein attended von Frisch’s lecture, the two researchers shared a private meeting.

Although this meeting wasn’t formally documented, the recently discovered letter from Einstein provides insight into what they might have talked about.

“It is thinkable that the investigation of the behavior of migratory birds and carrier pigeons may someday lead to the understanding of some physical process which is not yet known,” Einstein wrote.

Professor Andrew Greentree, a theoretical physicist at RMIT, said Einstein also suggested that for bees to extend our knowledge of physics, new types of behavior would need to be observed.

“Remarkably, it is clear through his writing that Einstein envisaged new discoveries could come from studying animals’ behaviors,” Greentree said.

More than 70 years since Einstein sent his letter, research is revealing the secrets of how migratory birds navigate while flying thousands of kilometers to arrive at a precise destination.

In 2008, research on thrushes fitted with radio transmitters showed, for the first time, that these birds use a form of magnetic compass as their primary orientation guide during flight.

One theory for the origin of magnetic sense in birds is the use of quantum randomness and entanglement. Both of these physics concepts were first proposed by Einstein.

Reference: “Einstein, von Frisch and the honeybee: a historical letter comes to light” by Adrian G. Dyer, Andrew D. Greentree, Jair E. Garcia, Elinya L. Dyer, Scarlett R. Howard and Friedrich G. Barth, 10 May 2021, Journal of Comparative Physiology A.
DOI: 10.1007/s00359-021-01490-6

The letter to Glyn Davys shows the openness of Einstein’s mind to novel possibilities observed in nature and the evidence that he took an interest in von Frish and his bee research.

13 Comments on "Recently Discovered Letter Written by Albert Einstein Discusses Link Between Physics and Biology – Seven Decades Before Evidence Emerges"

  1. This is incredible research. Although one thing in this post is bothering me. In Einstein’s letter it is addressed to Mr. Ghyn Davys but in your prompt, you had spelt the name “Glyn Davys”. Was this intentional?

  2. Laszlo G. Meszaros | June 27, 2021 at 8:54 pm | Reply

    What Einstein said in his letter: “I do not know, but maybe…”. So, what is the message of this ‘pamphlet’?

  3. Migration isn’t just a moving from place to another . it’s innateness of animals through making life persisted as the human that has developed the world.

  4. I don’t think quantum physics is involved here….it may be simple inertial navigation coupled with terrain matching…something we humans use in missiles.

  5. Ray Viana Sampaio | June 29, 2021 at 5:48 pm | Reply

    Existem no youtube 3 videos sobre ” Quantum Biology “, onde se fala que que os pássaros sentem nos cérebros diminutas variaçōes do campo magnético da Terra, e assim êles percebem quando sairam da rota principal, para um lado ou para outro , podendo então corrigir a rota ,voltando para o sentido correto original.Se não estou enganado,há neste mecanismo, o principio do “” entanglement “”, que existe na mecânica qüântica. Mas para esta última frase, preciso rever os videos, para ter certeza .

  6. Ray Viana Sampaio | June 29, 2021 at 5:52 pm | Reply

    Corrigindo e acrescentando: Há no you tube 3 videos sobre Bilogia Qüântica (em inglês) , onde se fala que os pássaros …………..

  7. Ray Viana Sampaio | June 29, 2021 at 5:54 pm | Reply

    Corrigindo e acrescentando: Há no you tube 3 videos sobre Bilogia Qüântica …….

  8. Life is:
    Life is the greatest power, force in the Universe, but it can not exist without the space and the energy in wich to expand to infinity cause that is its scope, drive, force, Ultimate Power.
    “Standard Model” Needs to be Update in the face of new Discoveries;
    Einstein should have looked a bit closer to James Clerk Maxwell and Nikola Tesla work.
    Newton Law and Einstein Theory works only for the immediate Space around us
    They ALL did not know about Supermassive black holes, Dark Energy, Dark Matter or Muons.
    Nowdays for laws of the visible Universe in physics We got almost all discoverd just Dark matter missing even if already discovered & none realised it yet.

  9. Well I’m never sure what goes on in the mind of a genius, but I think the pattern would make a great screen saver

  10. Josué Adán | July 2, 2021 at 6:14 pm | Reply

    ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING IS ALIVE IN THEIR OWN WAY,,.

  11. Ana A. Rogerio | July 3, 2021 at 6:24 am | Reply

    Ray Viana Sampaio,
    Os passaros tem um GPS biologico no cerebro…

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