2 min read
18 Feb

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics

In 1919, Einstein became perhaps the world’s first celebrity scientist, after his groundbreaking theory of relativity was confirmed by British astronomer Arthur Eddington and his team. Suddenly, the man—and not just his science—was front-page news around the world. "Lights all askew in the heavens; Men of science more or less agog over results of eclipse observations; Einstein theory triumphs," read a November 20 headline in The New York Times. The Times of London was no less breathless: "Revolution in Science; Newtonian ideas overthrown." J. J. Thomson, discoverer of the electron, called his theory “one of the most momentous, if not the most momentous, pronouncements of human thought.” Einstein's social circles expanded to encompass the likes of Charlie Chaplin and the Queen of Belgium.As soon as he had the limelight, Einstein began speaking out. In interviews, he advocated for an end to militarism and mandatory military service in Germany (he had renounced his German citizenship at age 16, choosing statelessness over military service). While he never fully endorsed the Zionist cause, he spoke frequently of his Jewish identity and used his fame to help raise money for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, making him a very public face not just of science but of Jewishness."I am really doing whatever I can for the brothers of my race who are treated so badly everywhere," he wrote in 1921.His identity politics aroused the ire of many people in Germany, including those who were motivated by nationalism and anti-Semitism. Nobel Prize-winner Philipp Lenard, who eventually became a Nazi, fought hard behind the scenes to make sure Einstein wouldn't win a Nobel himself. Ultimately the Nobel committee decided not to award any physics prize in 1921, partly under anti-Semitic pressures from Lenard and others. (They honored Einstein the following year, giving him the delayed 1921 prize alongside his friend Niels Bohr, who got the 1922 prize.)In 1929, a German publisher distributed a book titled One Hundred Authors Against Einstein. Although it was primarily a compilation of essays seeking to disprove the theory of relativity, the book also included some openly anti-Semitic pieces.But it wasn’t just anti-Semitic scientists who criticized Einstein. Fellow scientists, including Einstein’s friends, expressed disapproval of his love of the limelight. "I urge you as strongly as I can not to throw one more word on this subject to that voracious beast, the public," wrote Paul Ehrenfest, Einstein's close friend and fellow physicist, in 1920. Max and Hedwig Born, two other friends, were even more adamant, urging him to stay out of the public eye: "In these matters you are a little child. We all love you, and you must obey judicious people," Max wrote to him the same year. source. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/

Photo credit @MoalisiVictor 

* The email will not be published on the website.