What race was Einstein


Milena Wazeck

To person

Dipl.-Pol., Born 1977; research assistant at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG). MPIWG, Wilhelmstrasse 44, 10117 Berlin.
Email: [email protected]

The Einstein opponents allied in their fight against the theory of relativity. In 1921 the Academy of Nations was founded in the USA - an academy of Einstein's opponents.


After the prediction of the general theory of relativity was confirmed in 1919, according to which a beam of light is deflected by the gravitational field of the sun, Albert Einstein rose to become the star of the mass media in the following years. "At the moment, every coachman and waiter is debating whether the theory of relativity is correct. The conviction here is determined by membership of a political party," he wrote to his friend Marcel Grossmann on September 12, 1920.

But the theory of relativity was not only celebrated, it was also subject to severe criticism from the start. Scientific objections based on classical physics were raised early on. The experimental physicist Ernst Gehrcke (1878-1960), for example, published various objections to Einstein since 1911: He stuck to the concept of ether as a necessary medium for the propagation of electromagnetic waves and considered Einstein's relativization of the concept of time to be inadmissible for epistemological reasons.

The debate was given a new quality and a previously unprecedented broad public impact through a series of public lectures against the theory of relativity, which began on August 24, 1920 in the Berlin Philharmonic. The event was organized by the anti-Semitic agitator Paul Weyland and his "Working Group of German Natural Scientists for the Preservation of Pure Science", "in all probability a one-man company". [1] In his lecture, Weyland denigrated the theory of relativity as "scientific Dadaism". The second speaker of the evening was Gehrcke, who remained matter-of-fact, but merely spread the arguments that had been unsuccessful for years. This was followed on August 27, 1920 in the "Berliner Tageblatt" with a sharp reply from Einstein to the "antirelativity-theoretical GmbH". He did not even want to deal with Weyland's "clumsy rudeness", and he led Gehrcke's objections to absurdity with clear words. In September 1920, Nobel laureate Philipp Lenard, an opponent of the general theory of relativity, and Einstein discussed at the meeting of natural scientists in Bad Nauheim, but their fundamental differences persisted.

How are Einstein's opponents to be classified? Were they stubborn experimental physicists who were left behind from the development of theoretical physics and who now sought revenge from a marginal position louder and louder and by all means? Were they scattered critics with questionable seriousness like Weyland? Documents from Gehrcke's estate show that the circle of people against Einstein's opponents was much broader and that the criticism of the theory of relativity cannot be characterized unilaterally as an expression of incomprehension. [2] In addition to the well-known opponents of Einstein such as the Nobel Prize winners Johannes Stark and Lenard, Gehrcke had contact with many less well-known opponents of the theory of relativity - physicists and philosophers, but also engineers, doctors and lawyers who tried to refute the theory of relativity in their spare time.

In order to get closer to the mass phenomenon of the critique of the theory of relativity, I examined specific contexts and networks of different groups of Einstein opponents, regardless of the question of the scientific appropriateness of the critique. In the following I would like to introduce a strange alliance of Einstein opponents.