Albert Einstein is probably the most easily recognizable scientist in the entire world. Show anyone a picture of the brilliant physicist and most will likely recognize him as the crazy-haired, playful genius behind that universally recognizable equation E=MC2. However, National Geographic’s new series, the aptly-titled Genius, will probably shake that benign, grandfatherly image people have of the distinguished scientist.
In fact, Genius Episode 1, which was already released last Tuesday, April 25, hints that the Albert Einstein to be portrayed in the series could get down and dirty. The pilot opened with some disturbing violence and sex scenes – a friend of the theoretical physicist was brutally gunned down in broad daylight while, in another location, the professor himself was busy romancing with a much younger woman in his office, a woman who was later revealed to be his secretary.
Genius has a nonlinear narrative showing both a young Albert Einstein when he was still struggling to understand the existing theoretical models of physics at that time as well as an older Einstein who is already a well-known professor in what appears to be pre-World War 2 Germany. As such, two actors were tapped to play the role of the genius. Geoffrey Rush plays the role of an older Einstein while actor Johnny Flynn plays his younger version.
In the pilot episode of Genius, the young Albert Einstein struggled to fit in with some members of the scientific establishment of his time. In particular, he was not a teacher’s pet due to his tendency to question his professors’ lessons and their teaching methods, and he even casts doubt on the theories the lessons were based on. As expected, not everyone was happy with his overly inquisitive mind, earning him the reputation of being a nonconformist.
Albert Einstein’s relationship with his father was starting to show some strain as well. Thinking about the future of his son, Albert’s father wanted him to finish electrical engineering at the Luitpold Gymnasium located in Munich. However, young Albert clashed with the school’s authorities. As far as Einstein was concerned, their particular brand teaching suppressed creative thinking in favor of learning by memorization.
But his father was adamant that Albert should continue his studies with the school and forced his son to apologize for his behavior. It was later revealed that one of the reasons for his father becoming increasingly concerned that the young Einstein finish a degree for a living is that the family’s business is not doing well. In fact, they later sold it and had to migrate to Italy, leaving Albert behind.
Near the end of Genius Episode 1, father and son finally clashed openly. Albert managed to rejoin his family in Italy and already made plans to enroll in Zurich’s Swiss Federal Polytechnic to major in physics and mathematics. However, his pragmatic father saw no future in the field as he hoped his son would employ his knowledge in electronics to help them ran their business.
Meanwhile, the older Albert Einstien, while already established in the scientific community, has an entirely different set of problems of his own. Yes, his current wife eventually discovered his affair with his young secretary but that is actually the least of his worries.
— Nat Geo Genius (@NatGeoGenius) April 26, 2017
A more pressing concern for Einstein is the growing anti-Semitic movement in pre-World War II Germany. In fact, life in Germany is getting more dangerous for German citizens with Jewish ancestry, no matter how distant. The death of Albert’s friend shown at the opening scene was in fact racially motivated.
Despite being a non-observant Ashkenazi Jew and a prominent scientist in his field, Einstein suffered like the rest. His long-time grocer started to refuse to serve him and he ran into some trouble with a rallying Nazi group when someone recognized him as a Jew.
The incident made Albert Einstein realized that his wife is right — it is time to leave Germany. Thankfully, he was invited by an American university, which could mean their ticket out of the country. In the ending scene of the pilot episode of Genius, Albert and his wife were interviewed at the American Embassy for their visa. However, the couple might run into some problems, as the embassy official started to question about their political leanings, a line of questioning that does not sit well with the scientist.
The second episode of Genius Season 1, which will be aired this coming Tuesday, is expected to bring to the small screen more interesting but previously little-known details regarding the life of Albert Einstein. As reported by Space.com, most textbooks today omit details of Albert Einstein’s life such as being a “disgruntled student, an adulterer and a Jewish refugee during World War II.”
The brand new National Geographic series is based on a book by author Walter Isaacson titled Einstein, His Life and Universe.
[Featured Image by Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]