CORVALLIS - Albert Einstein was admired as a genius and hailed as a cultural icon, yet he also was the subject of a prolonged FBI investigation and the target of hatred by self-proclaimed patriots.
This "political Einstein" is the subject of a lecture by a German scholar named David Rowe on Monday, April 12, at Oregon State University. His talk, "Einstein as a Cultural Icon - and His Role in the Relativity Revolution," begins at 4 p.m. in Weniger Hall Room 153. It is free and open to the public.
Rowe is a professor of the history of mathematics and natural sciences at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He has written more than 50 scholarly articles and edited six books on the history of math and science, and is writing a book on Einstein with fellow scholar Robert Schulmann.
Rowe says Einstein was always puzzled by the public's fascination with the theory of relativity, following its confirmation in 1919. When that announcement came, photos and caricatures of Einstein appeared all over the world - often in conjunction with reports on the Versailles Treaty and claims by German Field Marshal Hindenburg that the German Army "had been stabbed in the back by traitors."
As a result, Rowe claims, Einstein's wartime support for pacifism, internationalism and Zionism strongly colored the reception of relativity and led many to regard he and his theory as anti-German.
Domestically, Rowe argues, this led to published tirades against Einstein. An organization of self-proclaimed patriotic women even sought to deny him an entry visa. And later, the FBI carried out a full-scale investigation of Einstein.
Rowe's appearance is sponsored by the OSU History Department and the university's Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Endowment in the Humanities.