A Famous German Scientist and His British Fans

 

Albert Einstein was one of the twentieth century’s great men, vying with Winston Churchill for the title of “Man of the Century.” In addition to relativity, he was an accomplished musician and a noted pacifist. He was an Anglophile. He was also an assassin’s target in the 1930s.

“Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World’s Greatest Scientist,” by Andrew Robinson tells two tales. It explores the admiration Einstein and Great Britain mutually shared. It shows how the British offered Einstein sanctuary at the scientist’s moment of greatest peril.

The book is also a biography of Einstein, but it is a focused biography. It recounts his life in the context of his relation with Britain. It shows how British physicists, most notably Sir Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell, shaped Einstein’s scientific studies, and fostered an admiration for British scientists.

Robinson also shows the role British scientists played in both verifying and publicizing Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity. He reveals the relationship between Arthur Eddington and Einstein, both pacifists during World War I. Eddington’s 1919 eclipse observation led to Einstein’s first invitation to tour British Universities,

The book shows how the rise of Hitler led to Einstein’s becoming a pariah in his native land, due to Einstein’s Jewishness, his pacifism, and his opposition to National Socialism. That Einstein was the world’s most famous and favorably thought-off German increased the Nazi’s dislike of him.

The inevitable happened in 1933. While Einstein was visiting Belgium, the Nazi government seized all his assets, leaving Einstein an impoverished exile. Einstein’s support of the Brown Book, whose publication revealed Nazi excesses, led extremists in Nazi circles to plot Einstein’s assassination.

Belgium was too close to Germany for safety. Then England offered him refuge.

Robinson examines the most unlikely man who orchestrated Einstein’s rescue, Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson. In the 1920s Lampson had been an admirer of Hitler and founder of a quasi-fascist Blueshirt movement in Britain. Yet his English sense of fair play reversed this and Lampson initiated sanctuary efforts.

Einstein would later resettle at Princeton in the United States, yet his 1933 stop in Britain was a catalyst. He abandoned pacifism against the Nazis, to join the antinuclear proliferation movement after World War II. (Robinson reveals he was also anti-Communist, refusing to visit Soviet Russia.)

“Einstein on the Run” is an intriguing book, well worth a read. It offers a look at rarely-examined aspects of Einstein’s life.

“Einstein on the Run: How Britain Saved the World’s Greatest Scientist,” by Andrew Robinson, Yale University Press, 2021, 376 pages, $25.00 (Hardcover), $16.00 (Paperback), $16.00 (ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

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  1. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Sounds like an excellent book, I had no idea that any of this had happened. I thought he had fled Nazi Germany on his own volition. Could you imagine how history would be different, if he had been home when the Nazis seized his assets and he had ended up in one of the camps? Tragic.

    This would make an excellent movie.

    • #1
  2. Gary Robbins Reagan
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    This sounds great!  I ordered the book.  Thanks.

    • #2
  3. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Sounds like an excellent book, I had no idea that any of this had happened. I thought he had fled Nazi Germany on his own volition.

    Technically, he did. The Nazis waited until he was out of Germany on a short trip to seize his assets. He could have returned home, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out that would be a bad idea. Being Einstein, he knew better than to return.

    • #3
  4. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    A biography of Einstein by Andrew “Mr Garak” Robinson?

    Probably not.

    Great idea, though!

     

    • #4
  5. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Sounds like an excellent book, I had no idea that any of this had happened. I thought he had fled Nazi Germany on his own volition.

    Technically, he did. The Nazis waited until he was out of Germany on a short trip to seize his assets. He could have returned home, but you don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out that would be a bad idea. Being Einstein, he knew better than to return.

    No, I thought he saw the writing on the wall and fled before things got too bad for him personally.

    • #5
  6. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Forgive me, O @seawriter, I am unable to resist.

    Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass

    Einstein on the Fritz by PDQ Bach

     

    • #6
  7. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Forgive me, O @ seawriter, I am unable to resist.

    Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass

    Einstein on the Fritz by PDQ Bach

     

    Doug, that’s too funny.  There’s so little to say about Glass’ music, but Schickele manages to say it all in 6 minutes.

    • #7
  8. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    Forgive me, O @ seawriter, I am unable to resist.

    Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass

    Einstein on the Fritz by PDQ Bach

     

    Doug, that’s too funny. There’s so little to say about Glass’ music, but Schickele manages to say it all in 6 minutes.

    The nifty thing is that Glass and Schickele are friends. When The Professor premiered Einstein on the Fritz  he called Glass to let him know and left a phone message. Glass called back a day later and said, “Et tu, Brute?”

    • #8