G E R M A N A N T I - R E L AT I V I S T S 1 0 5
ing the train’s motion as absolute, when the same effects might be produced by a suitable
change in the state of motion of the surrounding frame of reference. Lenard found this typ-
ically Einsteinian admixture of everyday experience and abstract reasoning far-fetched. He
argued that the second possibility could be ruled out as counterintuitive, a violation of
“healthy common sense.”
Einstein had ignored Gehrcke’s attacks. Lenard, however, whom he knew and respected
as an experimental physicist, had written nothing to distance himself from the charges
Gehrcke had leveled against Einstein’s person. In Einstein 1918k (Doc. 13) he answered
both critics at once by addressing the clock paradox, Lenard’s train crash, as well as the sta-
tus of the ether, that “sick man of theoretical physics” (“kranke Mann der theoretischen
who had earlier been pronounced dead. Einstein explained that the ether is
alive and well, since the gravitational field might be thought of as an ether within the con-
text of the general theory of relativity. He emphasized, however, that this conception
differed from the earlier idea of a space-filling ether that had served as the foundation for
Einstein had begun to rethink his earlier rejection of an ether-based
physics: about a year later he wrote that his position in 1905 had been “too radical” (Doc.
31, p. 260). In his inaugural lecture delivered in 1920 in Leyden, perhaps in partial defer-
ence to Lorentz, he set forth a new conception of an ether field which serves as an important
constituent of the general theory of relativity (Einstein 1920j [Doc. 38]).
None of this, however, appeased Gehrcke, who regarded Einstein as simply a charlatan.
After years of prodding, he had, with Lenard’s help, finally drawn Einstein into a debate
over controversial “scientific issues.” However, these matters quickly gave way to nonsci-
entific concerns, including categories such as “sound reason” (“gesunder Menschenver-
stand”) that would soon take on sinister
By 1920, the attacks of Gehrcke and Lenard attracted the attention of Paul Weyland (1888–
1972), a right-wing journalist and
Weyland seized on Gehrcke’s theme of
“Massensuggestion” to wage a “countercampaign” against Einstein and his allies. He set
himself up as head of an organization called the “Working Association of German Natural
Scientists for the Preservation of Pure Science” (“Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Naturfor-
scher zur Erhaltung reiner Wissenschaft e.
After stirring up attention with provoc-
Weyland launched a series of anti-relativity lectures in the main
auditorium of the Berlin Philharmonic Hall. The first of these took place on 24 August
Einstein 1918k (Doc. 13), p. 701.
As Einstein later expressed this, “it is not permitted to ascribe a state of motion to each point of
this medium in analogy with ponderable matter” (Doc. 31, p. 260).
Appeals to common sense in critiques of relativity played a large role outside Germany as well
(see Hentschel 1990, pp. 74–91).
For more on Weyland, see Kleinert 1993.
No such organization appears in the Berlin registration records, an indication that Weyland
probably took no steps to establish it as an “e[ingetragener] V[erein]”; see Kleinert 1993, p. 204.
Weyland 1920a and 1920c.