TRAGEDY OF ALBERT EINSTEIN
KRONOS I-4 Winter 1976
Relativity is consequently now
accepted as a faith. It is inadvisable to devote attention to its
paradoxical aspects. - R. A. Houstoun, Treatise on Light
Students of the physical sciences, and of mathematics, have for the
past 30-40 years been so busy mastering the basics of their chosen
field, that there has been little time or inclination to study the
history of their field in order to learn how the assumptions and logic
of the early workers in the field established the basic framework, now
quite rigid as the result of long usage. Today's scientists and
mathematicians assume that all that has gone before is flawless and they
can therefore proceed safely without a backward glance. They and most
of their teachers remain unaware of the hidden, unstated assumptions
which are an inherent part of every scientific field.
This is dangerous business since technical training is no insurance
that in days gone by very human frailties have not crept in, blurring
judgments and providing the basis for rationalizations which show so
clearly why some young upstart's fresh viewpoint or new method of
evaluating data must be in error.
If one takes as a reference point the date 1875, and examines the
rather unusual state of the sciences of that period, it will be found
that physics was making rapid strides as the result of the discovery of
stable sources of unseen electric current; of unseen electromagnetic
radiations; of visible effects in unseen gases produced by this electric
current. No longer were the experimenters working with easily observed
and measured phenomena. To explain unseen phenomena one must rely on
the imagination, on mental images, on conceptual models.
About 1875 there began the application of the rather new, exciting
and untried systems of mathematics to these unseen phenomena. These
mathematical manipulations often predicted phenomena which the
experimenter could not duplicate at the laboratory bench. This did not
deter the mathematical theorist in the least, for his limits were of the
mind, of his imagination. The straight line was assumed not to be the
shortest distance between two points. The unidirectional flow of time,
as observed in our everyday lives, was reversed simply by changing +t to
-t. To aid in other problems, the insoluble, imaginary expression - 1
used in the calculations involving unseen electric currents.
Increasingly as the years went on, I assume! Therefore it is!
began to take on more and more respectability.
There was a meld of philosophical methods with the abstractions of
metaphysical mathematics, such that the methods of the experimenters,
i.e. Faraday, Kelvin, Fizeau, Hertz, Fresnel, Cavendish et al., were
looked upon as of secondary importance by an ever increasing number of
those who considered themselves scientists, rather than philosophers
Some scientists at that time recognized the dangers of such a trend
and the effects such mental gymnastics were having on scientific
thought. The following was a most timely warning that unfortunately
"To the followers of
Pythagoras the world and its phenomena were all illusion. Centuries
later the Egyptian [?] mystic Plotinus taught the same doctrine, that
the external world is a mere phantom, and the mystical schools of
Christianity took it up in turn. In every age the mystically inclined
have delighted in dreaming that everything is a dream, the mere visible
reflection of an invisible reality. In truth the delusion lies in the
mind of the mystic, not in the things seen. The alleged
untrustworthiness of our senses we flatly deny. We frequently
misinterpret the messages they bring, it is true, but that is no fault
of the senses. The interpretation of sense impressions is something to
be learned; we never team it fully; we are liable to blunder through all
our days, but that gives us no right to call our senses liars. It is
our judgment, not the sense of sight, that is occasionally deceived. We
not only wrong our honest senses but also lose our grip upon this most
substantial world when we let mistaken metaphysics persuade us to doubt
the testimony they bear. - Scientific
American July 1875
Reprinted: July, 1975, p. 10B.
To an experimentalist the above paragraph may be summarized as
advising all scientists to adhere religiously to the spirit and letter
of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD that we all were required to learn as beginning
students of the physical and biological sciences. And the experimenter
should always keep in mind that our apparatus and measuring instruments,
no matter how sophisticated, are but extensions of our senses, thus
liable to "let mistaken metaphysics persuade us to doubt the testimony
It was at Ulm, Germany that Albert Einstein was born, 1879, to become
the most widely publicized scientist ever to have lived. And it was
into this milieu of science-mathematics-philosophy that the young man,
seemingly of no particular promise, grew into manhood. This scientific
climate of opinion was at that time essentially limited to Western
Europe, receiving its greatest impetus from the deluge of discoveries
made in this same area 1895-1900.
Between the ages of 16 and 25 Einstein learned of such discoveries as
x- and gamma rays, of the electron, of spontaneous transmutation of the
atom, of radium that continuously gave off heat without any apparent
reduction in weight. Here was another host of unseen phenomena which
could be evaluated by the use of metaphysical mathematics! Names which
were to become famous in the next decades were utilizing the
metaphysical methods of 1875 to explain this host of new phenomena.
Why? The phenomena which were being observed and quantified were so
foreign to any which had been observed prior to 1895 that the theories
and conceptual "models" which sufficed to explain pre-1895 "classical"
physics were certainly unable to account for this mass of new data. In
effect there was a "theoretical vacuum." As an obscure, almost unknown
patent clerk in Switzerland, young Einstein had the time and opportunity
to pour over the scientific papers appearing in the journals that came
to the nearby library. He studied. He thought. He was a mystic. And
in 1905 he wrote five papers on various aspects of these new phenomena.
All were accepted for publication—which, by the way, contrasts the
treatment accorded the young unknowns of today who take unorthodox
approaches to science. The present peer review systems are so stifling
that any manuscript so iconoclastic as Einstein's initial papers would
now have little chance of appearing in any ranking journal. This is
particularly true in physics, and especially so in the United States.
More on this later.
Of the five papers published by young Einstein in 1905, three were
destined to bring him fame. These three papers would by 1940 be
recognized as basic to the physical sciences.
A theoretical study of the only visible manifestation of perpetual
motion, termed "Brownian Movement," was completed by Einstein. This was
an extension of the existing knowledge concerning the incessant, random
motion imparted by atomic collisions to finely divided solid particles
when suspended in a liquid. An example of this is carbon particles in
India ink. By special microscopic techniques it is possible to show
that these particles can be visualized as constantly dancing points of
light. This theoretical study was a mathematical treatment of
observable events and was one of the two studies which won for Einstein
the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1921.
The second paper which provided the basis for the Prize was the
extension of the theoretical studies of Max Planck, who in 1900 proposed
that light was not necessarily a continuous wave train but reacted as if
it were a series of bundles of energy (E=hf) which he termed "quanta."
For this work Planck received the Prize just three years before
In this aspect of his historic work Einstein combined the
experimental findings of J.J. Thompson (Nobelist, 1906), which
demonstrated the existence of the electron (e-), with the theoretical
approach of Planck. By this method Einstein provided the basis for
explaining the experimental results of others, which had shown that the
kinetic energy of an electron emitted by a metallic surface, was
dependent on the wave length (i.e. color) of the light falling on the
This is termed the "Photoelectric
Effect," and is the basis for the operation of many modern electronic
units. These studies led others to apply the concept of the
photoelectric effect in clarifying the complex processes of x-ray
adsorption in solid materials.
These two theoretical papers are the reason for Einstein's receiving
the richly deserved Nobel Prize in 1921, although many historians of
science have led our students to believe that it was the much more
publicized Theory of Relativity that earned for him this coveted honor.
For this reason it is here emphasized that the papers on Brownian
movement and the photoelectric effect, based on directly observable
phenomena, are just as valid now as when written 70 years ago. Also it
is of utmost importance to note that these theoretical developments
required little or no use of the metaphysical mathematics and
philosophical assumptions which were becoming so popular in Western
Europe at that time.
Let us turn now to that third 1905 paper, usually called the "Theory
of Special Relativity," which together with a more generalized version,
General Relativity (1915), have generated mountains of papers and
correspondence every generation since 1905. In these one finds
controversy, ridicule, "proofs," "disproofs," and all too often the most
unscientific of attitudes imaginable. In those who support the theories
there is so often evidence of a quasi-religious, unquestioning faith.
Equally as vehement, pre-1930, were those who were most critical of
methods which made use of systems of metaphysical mathematics and
As with all controversies, and especially when unquestioned faith is
an armament, there is a middle ground wherein stands TRUTH, which will
be unveiled when additional information is obtained by observation
and experiment. Such has always been the course of every field of
experimental and applied sciences. Such is the history of science!
The scientists, in
playing their game with Nature, are meeting an opponent on her own
ground, who has not only made the rules of the game to suit herself, but
may have even queered the pitch, or cast a spell over the visiting
team. If space possesses properties which distort our vision, deform
our measuring-rods, and tamper with our clocks, is there any means of
detecting the fact? Can we feel hopeful that eventually
cross-examination will break the disguise? . . .
Ultimately, we can
only rely on the evidence of our senses, checked and clarified of course
by artificial apparatus, repeated experiment, and exhaustive inquiry.
Observations can often be interpreted unwisely, as an anecdote told by
Sir George Greenhill illustrates:
At the end of a
session at the Engineering College, Coopers' Hill, a reception was held
and the science departments were on view. A young lady, entering the
physical laboratory and seeing an inverted image of herself in a large
concave mirror, naively remarked to her companion: "They have hung that
looking glass upside down. " Had the lady advanced past the focus of
the mirror, she would have seen that the workmen were not to blame. If
nature deceived her it was deception which further experiment would have
unmasked. - Clement V. Durell, Readable Relativity
In contrast to the theoretical methods which he had utilized in
treating Brownian movement and the photoelectric effect, Einstein in
developing Relativity allowed himself to become an integral part, in
fact a leading disciple, of the "school" which made use of metaphysical
mathematics. This group assumed time to be an independent variable,
combinable with three coordinates of space (Minkowski's space-time). He
assumed as true the following unproved attributes of the physical world:
A. That there
exists no "ether," no generalized subquantic medium by which absolute
motion could be determined.
B. That mass
and energy are interconvertable (E=mc')
Reversability of time
With these unsupported hypotheses Einstein flew in the face of the
majority opinion then held by professional scientists, and particularly
experimentalists. He embarked on a course that brought eventual
It is proposed to present here a biographical sketch giving aspects
of his scientific career which have only been lightly touched on by his
contemporaries, and largely ignored by his biographers.
Einstein made use of a system of computation developed in Germany
(1850 - 1875) which assumes that a line projected in space curves, that
parallel lines converge. This was basic in developing what has become
known as the General Theory of Relativity. Using these methods he
predicted that a beam of light as it passed close to the sun would be
deflected 1.75 seconds of arc, as the result of the gigantic
gravitational field. Note particularly that he specified only
gravitational effects. Such a phenomenon had been qualitatively
predicted by Isaac Newton before 1700.
The observed weighted deflection was 1.98 arc seconds,
providing the initial impetus of one of the most unusual chapters in all
of man's history, not just scientific history.
An obvious question: Why should a rather obscure mathematical
theorist, whose prediction of an obscure astronomic event generate such
world-wide interest, producing a ticker-tape parade down New York's Wall
Street in 1921? 1 asked myself this question as a teenager and college
student, observing the outpourings of publicity in Sunday newspaper
supplements, in the Rotogravure sections, news reels, and "educational"
movies. I again asked myself this question in 1957 when a study was
begun of the historical background of the various systems of physical
theory which were then being taught as the fundamentals of atomic and
nuclear science. As will be shown below the final pieces of the puzzle
fell into place in mid-1975.
If one wishes to study the thinking of
those who early opposed the relativistic theories (and there were many!)
it-becomes a major research project even to learn of the authors of such
heresy. The usual abstracting services are strangely silent. Between
the years 1905 and 1930 the doctrines of relativity and of n-dimensional
and non-Euclidean geometries had a "good press." The theory was
publicized by the most astute, adroit application of subtle "soft sell"
techniques ever to be devised. Modern day advertising executives could
learn much of psychology in studying the showmanship by which persons in
high and influential places were favorably impressed, how the general
public was "educated," how scientists were swayed by the "fads" of the
Relativity, the New Science, became the rage of the intelligentsia,
the "smart" drawing-room set. Further, to bolster the claims of this
"new" and "different" science, data were culled, and that which upheld
the theory was praised and publicized, while more valid information was
There were some men who lived during the development of the basic
postulates of modern theories who doubted the logic on which they rest.
Moreover, these men resented the use of the promotional methods of the
market place, which were blatantly used to fasten on the minds of men,
at all levels of culture, what many considered to be a false scientific
doctrine. Certain of these men, having the courage of their
convictions, published books reporting on various aspects of the
situation as they saw it at first hand.
To attempt to dismiss all such publications as the work of crackpots,
as the railings of "cranks rebelling against the father-image of
established authority," is to belittle the work of technically trained
men of high renown, respected in their fields of specialization. In
order that students of the physical sciences may know that there were
(and are now!) other views in fundamental physical theories than are
presented in recent physics texts, there follow reviews of the more
pertinent of these works.
One of the first,(1) also one of the most scholarly, works to point
out the fallacies in logic was by Charles L. Poor, who obtained his
Doctorate in mathematics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University,
1892. He served as professor of astronomy at Hopkins, 1900-1910, and as
professor of celestial mechanics at Columbia University, 1910-1944. In
his volume, Dr. Poor clearly indicates the false premises of
n-dimensional and non-Euclidean geometries, and of the dual frames of
reference used by Lorentz and later theorizers. His greatest
contribution is the pinpointing of the manner in which the proponents of
relativity selected and culled astronomic data, no doubt unconsciously,
to uphold their own preconceived ideas. In this evaluation of the
"scientific advertising" used so effectively in promoting "The Theory,"
Dr. Poor gives a calm, dignified appraisal of a field of knowledge in
which he has few equals.
Another writer to question seriously the basis of relativity was
Arthur Lynch, a most remarkable man of unusual courage and breadth of
interest. He was a graduate engineer, a linguist; he studied physics in
Berlin, took his medical degree in London, and later an electrical
engineering diploma in Paris. He served in the British Parliament for
10 years, and practiced medicine in London for twenty-six years. In
1927 he published his first volume on scientific fallacies, and in 1931
his second. He shows clearly that relativity is an unhappy union of
philosophy, metaphysical mathematics, and science.(2)
In these two little-known works Dr. Lynch takes on the character of
the iconoclast, the rebel, against many of the scientific beliefs of the
1920's. In this respect he weakens his arguments and somewhat obscures
flashes of keen insight into many of the errors of logic in science,
some of which still exist in our thinking today. The great service
Lynch renders is to give an on-the-spot observer's biting account of the
causes (cultural, political, mathematical, and philosophical) which
resulted in the rapid rise in popularity of the Theory of Relativity.
He clearly outlines the well-managed showmanship that "sold" this theory
to those in influential places who could not understand the language in
which it was presented, much less the abstractions of metaphysical
mathematics on which the theory rests for its development.
The third writer to publish in English a volume critically discussing
at length the Einstein theories was J. J. Callahan.(3) He was a
Catholic priest and educator, having received his training in rigorous
logic and reasoning at Duquesne University and at the Gregorian
University at Rome. In this volume Dr. Callahan discusses the illogical
character of neo-geometries and the multiple frames of reference used in
the mathematical development of the fundamental ideas of relativity by
Lorentz, Poincare, Einstein, Minkowski and others.
Another scientifically trained writer to tilt with Einstein's
theories, and a contemporary of all those mentioned above, was a
Russian-born electrical and aeronautical engineer, George de Bothezat.
He secured his electrical-engineering degree in Liege, 1907, a Doctorate
in Paris, 1911. He was an aeronautical leader in Russia before 1918 and
later in the United States. He patented many inventions and organized
and directed a sizeable commercial enterprise. In 1959 his name
survived and appeared in the Manhattan telephone directory: de Bothezat
Division, American Machine and Metals Company. This unusual man took
the battle to the enemy's camp, lecturing at Princeton University during
the 1930's, questioning Einstein's doctrine of isochronous time.
The volume by de Bothezat makes difficult reading, as the author'
meaning is not clear in many cases.(4) But certainly it is clear in one
important aspect. Because he was a mathematician, de Bothezat saw that
by the mathematical processes utilized by Einstein, Grossman, and
Minkowski all manner of hypotheses could be proved. This observation of
course was not original with de Bothezat, as it was shown earlier by
many French mathematicians, particularly Painleve.
No doubt some will object to the use of the terms "sell" and
"promotion" to describe the methods by which the Theory of Relativity
was so quickly popularized. Perhaps some others feel that such methods
are not suitable or ethical in the world of science. It all depends on
the viewpoint. In the present era, nearly every laboratory of any size,
be it academic, commercial, or governmental, has as part of its
organization a publicity or public relations department. This is
staffed by persons whose livelihood depends on getting the laboratory's
findings, reports, papers, and accomplishments into as many news outlets
Being convinced that many of the mathematical systems responsible for
modem physical theories contain illogical, erroneous assumptions, this
writer has attempted to determine the processes through which this type
of mathematics, and the Theory of Relativity, have taken such a hold on
the minds of countless millions. It is believed that four volumes
published some few years ago explain how and why these ideas have gained
such a following. These books are not erudite, scholarly, studies in
psychology, mathematics, or physics. They are popularly, well written
blueprints of the way men's minds en masse are influenced and the
individual's supposed free-will actions channeled into a pattern set by
those who apply subtle pressures.
A summary of the new techniques of advertising are discussed in Vance
Packard's The Hidden Persuaders. No doubt there will be many who
will scoff at the statements in this volume; nevertheless, advertising
budgets in the millions of dollars are risked on these principles of
mass psychology. The effectiveness of this type of pressure is quickly
evidenced by the sales volume of the goods and the services being
In a second volume, Science Is a Sacred Cow, A. Stander gives
us a glimpse into the manner by which scientists delude themselves and
apply the same subtle suasions to the members of the learned professions
as are used by the men who guide modern-day advertising. This book will
make many scientists cringe as they see some of their most treasured
illusions trampled upon by another well-trained scientist.(6)
With regard to the subject which we are considering, Mr. Stander has
this to say:
And yet Einstein did
not destroy the Absolute. There is always an Absolute in science. In
the nineteenth century it was the ether, but when the ether fell to
pieces and disintegrated, there was no Absolute left at all—a condition
intolerable to scientists, although they don't know it. Einstein made
space and time relative, but in order to do this he had to take
something else, which was the velocity of light, and make it absolute.
The velocity of light occupies an extraordinary place in modern
physics. It is lese majeste to make any criticism of the
velocity of light. it is a sacred cow within a sacred cow, and it is
just about the Absolutest Absolute in the history of human thought.
There is a textbook on physics which openly says, "Relativity is now
accepted as a faith." This statement, although utterly astounding in
what purports to be a science, is unfortunately only too true.
The third volume for studying the methods by which men's minds are
influenced is C. D. MacDougall's Hoaxes.(7) This also shows very
graphically that any explanation, even if it is grossly incorrect, is
considered better than none at all. This is not to imply that the
mathematicians, philosophers, theoreticians, and physicists who
developed modern physical theories were consciously engaged in
perpetrating hoaxes. They were not, for each in his own field sincerely
believed that he was completely justified in his basic assumptions, and
accurate in his reasoning and mathematical calculations.
The reasons "Why We Don't Disbelieve" and "Incentives to Believe" are
clear-cut discussions of the underlying pattern of mass acceptance of
the things which appear on the printed page, be they truth, half-truth,
or complete falsehood. The following list of "Incentives to Believe"
explains in one or more important instances the motivation which caused
many to embrace, champion, and popularize the Theory of Relativity
during its all-important formative period, 1905-30; also to continue as
a quasi-religious dogma to 1975:
The means whereby
health, wealth, and happiness may be obtained;
evidence that one's church, political party, race, city, state and
nation is superior,
The fragments of
knowledge to establish a scientific, literary, artistic, historical or
incidents to give sanctions to prejudices, attitudes and opinions;
The heroes to
worship and the vicarious thrills by which to escape an otherwise dull
and routine existence.
The fourth volume in this group, Caplow and Reece's The Academic
Marketplace, is a report of a sociological study of ten of the
larger universities of the United States, giving the results of an
investigation of the personnel practices, basic problems, and
motivations of the faculties of these eminent centers of learning.(8)
The findings were a revelation, for in the areas of study which are
discussed here, mathematics and physics, the following statements stand
out: "Today, a scholar's orientation to his institution is apt to
disorient him to his discipline and to affect his professional prestige
unfavorably. Conversely, an orientation to his discipline will
disorient him to his institution, which he will regard as a temporary
shelter where he can pursue his career as a member of the discipline
.... Several respondents referred to the 'guild aspect' of certain
disciplines -especially mathematics and physics. Their comments seem to
assert that, in these fields at least, for the successful professor the
institutional orientation has entirely disappeared."
Thus it would seem that indeed these two
disciplines form two guilds, which owe their first loyalty to the other
members of the craft, not to the school where they are, for the time
being, doing their work. This well may explain why criticism and
questioning of modern physical theories based on mathematical constructs
are so often received in stony silence as ranks close.
In the four volumes cited above appears to be the answer to the
puzzle posed by Professor Bridgeman in 1936: ". . . but it seems to me
that the arguments which have led up to the theory (Relativity), and the
whole state of mind of most physicists with regard to it, may some day
become one of the puzzles of history. "I And so we see how men of
science can be influenced in their thinking and in their judgment by
suasions and pressures, often self-imposed, but in recent years, through
indoctrination during their formative undergraduate days.
The scientist who has received his training during the past 40 years
has received scant introduction to other alternative hypotheses, for in
all present-day general physics and nuclear texts, classical physics is
limited to the material world of direct observation. In these texts the
"laws" that govern the microcosm, together with the results of the
Michelson-Morley experiments (1887), show clearly that there can be no
"ether"-that matter and energy in small packages are governed by special
rules not applicable to the observable world. Three centuries of
laboratory data are summarized in a relatively few paragraphs.
Two rather recent reports by distinguished contemporaries of Einstein
give a most illuminating overview of the events which resulted in his
being catapulted to fame, or more correctly, notoriety. For such was
the result of a public relations campaign comparable to that generated
for a budding movie star.
The first of these reports was by Nobelist P.A.M. Dirac who, when in
his acceptance speech for the Oppenheimer Award (1969), made the
following statement regarding his own work:
This work was done
in the 1920's when the whole idea of relativity was still quite young.
It did not make a splash in the scientific world until after the end of
the first world war and then it made a very big splash. Everyone was
talking about relativity, not only the scientists, but the philosophers
and the writers of columns in the newspapers. I do not think there has
been any other occasion in the history of science when an idea has so
much caught the public interest as relativity did in those early days,
starting from the relaxation which occurred with the ending of a very
The second of the recent reports came to this writer's attention in
June 1975, and did in fact provide the missing pieces in the puzzle as
to why a young, essentially unknown scientist should be so quickly
smothered in honors. This report, in the form of an article(11) by
Professor S. Chandrasekhar, makes such stimulating and enlightening
reading that this writer highly recommends it to every student of the
sciences at all levels of training. It is in these paragraphs that the
turned to Eddington and said, "You are responsible for Einstein's fame."
And more seriously he continued:
The war had just
ended; and the complacency of the Victorian and the Edwardian times had
been shattered. The people felt that all their values and all their
ideals had lost their bearings. Now, suddenly, they learnt that an
astronomical prediction by a German scientist had been confirmed by
expeditions to Brazil and West Africa and, indeed, prepared for already
during the war, by British astronomers. Astronomy had always appealed
to public imagination; and an astronomical discovery, transcending
worldly strife, struck a responsive cord. The meeting of the Royal
Society, at which the results of the British expeditions were reported,
was headlined in all the British papers; and the typhoon of publicity
crossed the Atlantic. From that point on, the American press played
Einstein to the maximum.
Dr. Chandrasekhar continues:
Let me go back a
little to tell you about the circumstances which gave rise to the
planning of the British expeditions (of 1919). 1 learned of the
circumstances from Eddington (in 1935) when I expressed to him my
admiration of his scientific sensibility in planning the expeditions
during the 'darkest days of the war.' To my surprise, Eddington
disclaimed any credit on that account—indeed he said that, left to
himself, he would not have planned the expeditions since he was fully
convinced of the truth of the general theory of relativity!—In any
event, Eddington clearly realized the importance of verifying Einstein's
prediction with regard to the deflection of the light from the distant
stars as it grazed the solar disc during an eclipse.
Examine carefully the above paragraphs
for in these will be found certain key phrases:
Rutherford to Arthur
"You are responsible
for Einstein's fame."
"Eddington . . . indeed said that left to himself he would not have
planned the expedition, since he was fully convinced of the truth of the
general theory of Relativity."
Here can be seen the underlying reason why Professor Poor in 1922,
and Professor Freundlich in 1931, both professional astronomers,
reported that the astronomic data obtained by the Eddington expeditions
had been culled and selected in order to uphold preconceived
At the peak of the campaign to popularize Einstein and his works,
there occurred a most surprising and important development. At a
meeting of the most eminent physicists and theoreticians (Solvay
Congress) in 1927, Niels Bohr adroitly furthered his own brand of
theory, since known as Bohr-Heisenberg Quantum Mechanics of the
"Copenhagen School." At this meeting Bohr in effect ridiculed
Einstein's basic assumption of causality, which requires that Event A be
preceded by some prior event. Bohr, on the other hand, espoused the
concept of "acausality" which assumes that Event A may arise
spontaneously, requiring no initiating event. At this Congress the
young theoretician Louis deBroglie, who two years later was to receive
the Nobel Prize, was won over to the Copenhagen School which he
supported until the mid-1950's.
Although Einstein's popular image was untarnished, younger
scientists followed Bohr, and Einstein was effectively isolated from the
main stream of theoretical physics for the remainder of his life.
It is indeed ironic that in the teaching of physics for more than 40
years, there have been courses which have stressed Relativity, while in
the next classroom the theories of Bohr are given overriding priority.
However, at no time is it pointed out to students that the basic
philosophies which underlie these two systems are mutually exclusive.
If Bohr is correct, then Einstein cannot be correct; and vice versa.
Interestingly, both systems require the absence of an "ether" or
"subquantic medium." For if such a medium or substrate does exist, both
systems of theory are untenable.
Following the failure of his efforts after 1931 to modify the General
Theory of Relativity in order to take into account magnetic and
electrostatic forces, coupled with his decreasing stature in the rapidly
developing theoretical areas, Einstein received another very personal
blow. This was as the result of his famous letter of 1939 written to
President Franklin Roosevelt in which he recommended that research be
initiated on nuclear explosives.
Einstein was a gentle man, a true internationalist, and above all a
pacifist. The use of two fission bombs against Japan in 1945 was for
him a personal tragedy, as it was for many of the other scientists who
were actively engaged in the Manhattan Project. In the press Einstein
was then lauded as the Father of the Bomb, a title which he most
certainly detested. And as fusion devices became realities before he
died, we can only speculate as to his inner feelings.
The personal tragedy of Albert Einstein was that he was beguiled by
the fame and notoriety generated as the result of a most improbable
sequence of events. Thus he, scientists and the general public were led
to overlook the good, solid work based on experimental results, which
won for him the Nobel Prize in 1921.
Philosophically, looking back on his life at age 70, Einstein gave a
clear evaluation of what he believed were his accomplishments. This was
in a letter made public many years after his passing:
Personal Letter to Professor Solovine, dated 28 March 1949-
You can imagine that
I look back on my life's work with calm satisfaction. But from nearby
it looks quite different. There is not a single concept of which I am
convinced that it will stand firm, and I feel uncertain whether I am in
general on the right track.(12)
The tragedy of Einstein, translated to the entire scientific
community, is that of the failure of the open, self-corrective long-term
processes which are normal to all science, or at least should be. In
Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, the Medical Sciences, Geology, and
Engineering in all branches, there have since 1930 been many and varied
competing alternative hypotheses and theories. These rose, were
modified and often fell before the evidence of new data and innovative
In nuclear science and theory, however, the assumptions which
developed pre-1930 have taken on the aura of self-evident truths, in the
nature of a quasi-religious dogma which cannot, must not, be
questioned. In fact since about 1940, those who did cast doubts were
looked upon as clearly lacking in common sense.
In 1959, a letter to the writer from a scientist then employed at the
Oak Ridge Laboratories stated:
Most of us who share your general
viewpoint tend to be 'gun shy' (or job shy, or what have you) in such
matters because we are aware of our minority position and the ridicule
normally to be expected from highly respected and firmly entrenched
Professor Herbert Dingle (University of
London) 13 in 1972 questioned the morality of continued unquestioned
acceptance of the basic postulates of Relativity. This produced
published insulting ridicule.
The crux of the problem which is being
discussed here is the scientific morality of those who insist that there
shall be no alternative hypotheses permitted in nuclear science which
question present dogma. Just why is physical theory so sacrosanct, when
all other areas of science are subject to the very healthy stimulation
and discipline of competing viewpoints and alternative hypotheses?
L. Poor, Gravity Versus Relativity (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons,
Lynch, Science: Leading and Misleading (London: John Murray,
The Case Against Einstein (London:
Phillip Allan, 1932; New York: Dodd-Mead, 1933).
Callahan, Euclid or Einstein? (New York: Devin-Adair Co., 1931).
4. George de
Bothezat, Back to Newton (New York: G.E. Stechert & Company,
Packard, The Hidden Persuaders (New York: David McKay, 1957).
Stander, Science Is a Sacred Cow (New York: E.P. Dutton, Everyman
MacDougall, Hoaxes (Rev. ed . ; New York: Dover Books, 1958).
Caplow and R.J. Reece, The Academic Marketplace (New York: Basic
Bridgeman, Nature of Physical Theory (1936).
Dirac, Development of Quantum Theory (N.Y.: Gordon and Breach,
Chandrasekhar, "Verifying the Theory of Relativity," The Bulletin of
The Atomic Scientists (June, 1975).
Letter. Quoted in B. Hoffman, Albert Einstein-Creator and Rebel
(N.Y.: Viking Press, 1972).
Dingle, Science at the Crossroads (London: Martin Brian O'Keefe,