Reading Matters

The man who hated Albert Einstein

You don’t think of anyone going up against the brilliant, wild-haired scientist Albert Einstein.

But another Nobel laureate, the narcissitic Philipp Lenard did, and he changed the course of history.

At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, author Bruce Hillman of Wake Forest will be at Park Road Books to talk about “The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History,” his new book that highlights a little known story about the antagonistic relationship between Einstein and Lenard.

According to Hillman, Lenard was consumed by his envy of Einstein’s fame and by his hatred of Jews. In fact, Lenard’s emotions led him to sacrifice the integrity of his science and his own reputation on the altar of his personal prejudices.

Hillman writes that Lenard believed Einstein a charlatan whose theories lacked substance. To expose the “fraud” and attack Einstein’s popularity, Lenard set into motion a series of actions designed to topple Einstein.

One of the results was for Einstein to leave Germany for America. Before he left, Einstein told his wife, “Look at the house very closely. You will never see it again.” Einstein’s apartment was raided and his country home ransacked. He knew his life was in danger. He accepted an invitation to study at Princeton, shifting the world’s balance of scientific intellect from Germany to its enemies in America.

Hillman is former chair of radiology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The event is free and open to the public.