Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bruce J. Hillman's "The Man Who Stalked Einstein"

Bruce J. Hillman, MD has distinguished himself as a health services researcher, clinical trialist, and author of both medical articles and short stories published in elite magazines and journals. He is Professor and former Chair of Radiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He has published over 300 medical articles, book chapters, and editorials, including his 2010 book for the lay public, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – How Medical Imaging is Changing Health Care (Oxford University Press). Hillman has served as Editor-in-Chief of three medical journals, including his current position with the Journal of the American College of Radiology. He was Deputy Editor of the online literary and humanities journal, Hospital Drive, and has published eight short stories in such journals as The Connecticut Review, Compass Rose, and Aethlon, the Journal of Sports Literature.

Hillman applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History, and reported the following:
The narrative on page 99 of The Man Who Stalked Einstein is an important aside to the main thread of the book. The page intrudes on the deliberations of ‘the small popes of Uppsala’ – the members of the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics. Between 1910 and 1922, the Committee received letters nominating Albert Einstein every year except 1911. Worldwide, he was the best known and most popular scientist of his era, yet the Committee consistently named lesser lights to receive the Prize.

The bias preventing Einstein from receiving the Nobel Prize reflected a Europe-wide battle between traditional experimental physicists like the ‘small popes’ and theoretical physicists like Einstein. The Man Who Stalked Einstein tracks the battle for the soul of physics between Einstein and the arch-experimentalist and 1905 Nobel laureate, Philipp Lenard. Ultimately, Lenard’s attacks on Einstein progressed from the professional to the personal. The narcissistic Lenard envied Einstein’s popularity with the common man. Following the end of World War I, Lenard progressively became more nationalistic and rabidly anti-Semitic, joining the Nazi party well before it was a political necessity. For more than 15 years, he publicly hounded Einstein, calling him a charlatan and his theory of relativity a fraud. Even after Einstein fled Germany in 1933, Lenard continued to depict Einstein and those who espoused his theories as ‘un-German,’ a Jewish stain upon the purity of superior Aryan physics.

In 1921, two of the ‘small popes’ died and were replaced by a theoretical physicist and mathematician, Carl Wilhelm Oseen. The politically astute Oseen managed to broker a deal for three years worth of Nobel Prizes that satisfied everyone on the Committee: the long-overdue 1921 Prize for Einstein, 1922 for the theoretician, Niels Bohr, and 1923 for the experimentalist, Robert Milliken.

Lenard wrote a long, tedious letter condemning the Committee for its inability to think with ‘Aryan clarity,’ but it was too late. For his part, a resentful Einstein proceeded with a planned lecture tour in Japan and skipped the ceremony. The irony of Einstein’s Prize is that the Nobel Assembly specifically noted that the award was not for Einstein’s theory of relativity but for his Law of the Photoelectric Effect, the groundwork for which had been laid by Lenard in the early 1900s.

Lenard became a leading advisor to Hitler and led the dismissal of Jewish professors from German universities. Many of these scientists immigrated to Germany’s enemies. Few remember Lenard’s name, while Einstein became Time Magazine’s Man of the 20th Century.
Visit Bruce J. Hillman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue