1 0 8 G E R M A N A N T I - R E L AT I V I S T S
acknowledged that he had reacted caustically in the face of serious provocations. In a letter
to Max Born, he joked that “everyone has to offer his sacrifice on the altar of stupidity from
time to time, for the amusement of God and man. And I did a thorough job of it with my
Planck and Sommerfeld were both deeply concerned that Weyland’s anti-relativity cam-
paign might drive Einstein out of
They also knew that the very survival of the
Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft was at stake, and it took all of their diplomatic talents
at Bad Nauheim to keep the organization from breaking up into two warring
After learning of reports that Einstein planned to leave Berlin, Sommerfeld pleaded with
him not to “flee the flag” and offered reassurances that his fellow physicists supported him
In the meantime, Planck and Sommerfeld prevailed upon Friedrich von
Müller (1858–1941), Professor of Medicine at the University of Munich, to include a state-
ment in his opening address as presiding officer of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Naturfor-
scher und Ärzte in Bad Nauheim, which declared that the session on the theory of relativity
“will be treated in an entirely different spirit than that of the tumultuous gatherings in Ber-
lin. Scientific questions of such difficulty and great significance as the theory of relativity
cannot be brought to a vote in popular assemblies with demagogic slogans, nor can they be
decided by personal attacks in the political press. They will here receive the objective ap-
preciation that their brilliant creator deserves.” Planck later recalled that this passage had
been greeted with loud
[44]“Jeder muss am Altar der Dummheit von Zeit zu Zeit sein Opfer darbringen, der Gottheit und
den Menschen zur Lust. Und ich that es gründlich mit meinem Artikel.” Einstein to Max and Hedi
Born, 9 September 1920.
[45]Numerous newspapers reported Einstein’s intention to leave Berlin: Berliner Zeitung am Mit-
tag, 27 August 1920; Freiheit, 27 August 1920; Der Tag, 28 August 1920; Vossische Zeitung, 29 Au-
gust 1920.
[46]On the turmoil within the German physics community following the Bad Nauheim meeting, see
Beyerchen 1977, pp. 85–94, 106–112. On earlier prewar discussions aimed at reforming the Deutsche
Physikalische Gesellschaft, see the exchange of letters between Einstein and Wilhelm Wien (Vol. 8,
Docs. 14 and 15).
[47]Arnold Sommerfeld to Einstein, 3 September 1920. Einstein replied that he had indeed thought
earnestly of “desertion” (“Fahnenflucht”) for two days, but had then decided to stay in Berlin (Ein-
stein to Arnold Sommerfeld, 6 September 1920). Arnold Sommerfeld (1868–1952), Professor of The-
oretical Physics at the University of Munich, subsequently wrote to Lenard, but when this accom-
plished nothing he pleaded with Einstein to write Lenard with an apology for having associated him
with the Berlin tumult (Arnold Sommerfeld to Einstein, 11 September 1920).
[48]“Diese wird hier in einem ganz anderen Geiste zur Verhandlung kommen, als in jenen tumul-
tuarischen Versammlungen in Berlin. Wissenschaftliche Fragen von solcher Schwierigkeit und solch
hoher Bedeutung wie die Relativitätstheorie, lassen sich nicht in Volksversammlungen mit demago-
gischen Schlagwörtern und in der politischen Presse mit persönlichen Angriffen nicht zur Abstim-
mung bringen, Sie werden hier die sachliche Würdigung finden, die ihr genialer Schöpfer verdient.”
Berliner Tageblatt, 20 September 1920, Evening Edition, p. [4]. For Planck’s recollection, see Max
Planck to Einstein, 22 October 1921.
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