Only a fool would dispute Albert Einstein’s genius, but has the cult of celebrity which has surrounded Einstein since his death made it nigh on impossible to suggest that just maybe Albert the great wasn’t in fact the greatest?
Science is a strange thing. Its irreversible truths and universal facts are as changeable as the weather, and many of its disciples are as dogmatic and narrow-minded as some of the religions they profess to loathe. Take the man revered as the 20th century’s greatest scientist for instance – Albert Einstein.
Such is the holy aura surrounding Einstein that our man Albert has become just as iconic as many other religious figures such as Jesus Christ, Buddha, Gandhi, and of course, Elvis Presley. The irony of Albert Einstein turning scientific minds sycophantic is indeed, quite quantum.
No man is an island, but Albert Einstein is hailed as the nutty professor who single-handedly turned physics on its head and deeply enriched our understanding of the universe and the nature of light and energy. Which is all well and good, but the idealized version of Einstein as some sort of solitary scientific superman doesn’t leave much room for the brilliant and often similar work carried out by other contributors in Einstein’s era, scientists such as the French mathematician and Nobel laureate, Henri Poincare, the pioneering Dutch physicist and Nobel laureate, Hendrik A. Lorentz, and Scottish physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell.
Yet as Einstein’s reputation increases to that of demi-god status with each passing year, the reputations of Albert’s contemporaries are largely forgotten. Why is that? Is it because Einstein had great hair and a hipster image or was it because Einstein was genuinely towering head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of scientific understanding?
The few and scattered critics of Einstein have suggested there’s a much more sinister reason for Einstein’s fame, and that reason is — gasp! — plagiarism!
In his book, How Einstein Ruined Physics, Roger Schlafly suggests that Einstein was perfectly placed as a young man who was alive during the boom period of theoretical physics, but his job as a physicist in a Swiss patent office afforded young Albert unique access to the latest scientific discoveries. Schlafly goes on to claim that during this time Einstein became keenly aware of what constitutes intellectual property rights and began to purloin ideas.
Not just any ideas though. Einstein’s famous E=MC2, had, according to Schlafly, apparently been published by Olin to de Pretto in an obscure Italian journal two years before Einstein claimed to have thought up the equation independently. Einstein also apparently ‘borrowed ideas’ about special relativity and the postulate that the speed of light is constant, and then, deep breath, claimed them as his own.
More damaging still, it appears that Einstein may have gotten it wrong when it comes to quantum entanglement. Dear god!
Now, while Schlafly may have some bee in his bonnet or curious agenda of his own when it comes to hating on Albert, it’s true that no scientist in the history of the world, not even Newton, gets the same treatment as Einstein.
As such, you can equate Einstein with the Beatles. Both are well-loved instutions, who were extremely talented, innovative and groundbreaking.
Yet both Einstein and the Beatles are often worshipped and credited with a little too much at the expense of others.