Saturday, January 07, 2006

If it's not ours, we'll get it...

I get sent a daily quote by a site called Thinkexist.com. Most of these I ignore but something about today's one caught my eye. It wasn't the quote by Albert Einstein ("Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking") so much as the mini biog of Einstein himself.

All it said was "German born American Physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. Nobel Prize for Physics 1921. 1879-1955". What's wrong with that? Well, nothing because it's technically correct but what upsets me is this constant misappropriation by America of well-known history. Eh? Read on...

The heavy hint is that he was an American physicist of renown when the truth is rather more prosaic. He'd done all his major research by the 20s before he emigrated in 1933 at the rise of Nazism. In fact you could argue that it was more or less all over for him after 1905 when he first published his special theory of relativity. He spent the latter part of his life fiddling with the bits of quantum mechanics (something he'd jointly worked on with Neils Bohr) that were at odds with his own beliefs (if I remember correctly, he couldn't come to terms with the idea of God creating something that relied on being random) and trying to develop his unified field theory. In fact, he never did anything of particular note after becoming an American citizen. Read this timeline: Lived in Europe and was busy busy busy; went to America: slept. The nearest parallel we Brits have is when Eric and Ernie left the BBC and went to ITV. They just weren't funny anymore yet ITV still plug them as their own long after they both passed away.

A more accurate biog should have read "Albert Einstein. Nobel prize winning German-born Jewish physicist and author of theories that changed the world while working as a patent officer in Switzerland. Fled to America to escape Nazi oppression and became a celebrity at the expense of his career".


1 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Tennessee Jed said...

You are right about Albert he was absorbed by the great American machine and the credit was also given to the USA. Propaganda spin has a funny way of being cloudy fact.

I like a quote from Alfred Hitchcock it goes something like:
"Man is as barbaric as ever, it is just done with a suit tie and smile now."

1:57 am  

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