3 2 0 D O C U M E N T 2 1 7 D E C E M B E R 1 9 2 0
217. From Arnold Berliner
Berlin W 9, 23/24 Link St., 1 December 1920
Dear Mr. Einstein,
Your letter, in which you wish to come to the aid of Mr. Harry Schmidt, who has
been so roughly handled by
would, if I were willing to publish it—
I am not going to do so, as I would like to mention at the very outset, because I con-
sider it uncalled for—force me onto a path that would lead to unforeseeable conse-
quences and even to grotesque consequences. A short while ago I had to publish
the review of a zoological dictionary that I also might describe as bilious, as you
did Reichenbach’s review, but because the reviewer was known to me as a knowl-
edgeable and reliable man, I obviously did not make the least objection to it, and
likewise with many, many other reviews that I had to publish during the course of
the eight years of the existence of our journal. I would have to allow a defender to
put in his word for every one of these reviews if I did so even in a single case. Crit-
icism is not merely a matter of judgment but also a matter of taste. Upon careful
inspection of the book reviews in the Naturwissenschaften, you will find that no un-
authorized reviewer is granted a say. And that is what is decisive. But criticism is
additionally also a matter of taste. Now—it is generally known that there is no ar-
guing about taste. It is possible that Reichenbach hit upon a slightly inappropriate
tone, but after a short while this review is forgotten and I do not believe that it will
cause Mr. Schmidt any mentionable harm, and the status quo ante will, in my view,
then be only imperceptibly changed by it. It is entirely different, however, when Mr.
Einstein now comes forward for injured Harry Schmidt in the Naturwissen-
schaften, as “avenger of his honor.” Everyone would regard Einstein’s advocacy of
a book about the theory of relativity as an advertisement of enormous weight and
this letter would have a temporal and spatial effect of unimagined extent, and this
for the glory of one of many popularizing expositions of the theory of relativity,
which distinguish themselves little from one another and are announced, one and
all, in the Buchhändler-Börsenblatt with some favorable, more or less veiled allu-
sion to Mr. Einstein’s praise. This time In this case, though, just by your book
dealer! Such recommendations in the Buchhändler-Börsenblatt are not objection-
able, since they become known only to publishers and very occasional readers of
this paper. And then such praises originate only indirectly from the founder of the
theory of relativity, hence can only be exploited very incompletely as publicity be-
fore the public at large. It is entirely different, however, when the founder of the
theory of relativity puts in his personal word for an exposition of the theory of rel-
ativity in a journal that has already acquired a certain reputation. I don’t want to
carry my point to the end and would just like to indicate that guilt and atonement,
Previous Page Next Page