3 7 0 D O C U M E N T 2 7 1 J A N U A R Y 1 9 2 0
The facts (which are confidential) are that three names were proposed for the
Medal. You were selected by an overwhelming majority in December. Meanwhile
the “irreconcilables” took alarm, mustered up their full forces in January, and man-
aged to defeat the confirmation of the award in
So for the first time for
about 30 years no Gold Medal will be awarded this year! I confess I was very much
surprised when the motion was proposed and carried originally (it was proposed by
two men who during the war have been violently
but until a day or
two before the January meeting we all regarded the confirmation as a matter of
I did not write before as I was doubtful if Ludlam would see you. I am sure that
your disappointment will not be in any way personal; and that you will share with
me the regret that this promising opening of a better international spirit has had a
rebuff from reaction. Nevertheless I am sure the better spirit is making progress.
Mr Ludlam mentioned the possibility that you might come over about
We should be delighted to have you and your wife to stay with us at the Observa-
tory: and you would get a most cordial welcome in Cambridge, and especially at
my own college, Trinity (the college of Newton). You will see that there would be
some awkwardness in visiting the Royal Astr. Society after what has happened; al-
though many astronomers would be delighted to meet you.
If you should be unable to come on to England, I would make every effort to
meet you in Holland.
I am sorry that I sent the message to you and troubled you prematurely; but Mr
Ludlam’s visit seemed such an excellent opportunity.
Yours very sincerely
A. S. Eddington
ALS. [9 264].
Ernest B. Ludlam (1879–1958), former head of the Chemical Department of Clifton College,
Bristol, Great Britain, was working on his B.A. thesis at Cambridge University. Ludlam, a Quaker
like Eddington, volunteered for relief work in Germany and participated in food distribution for stu-
dents (see Marwick 1960).
In Doc. 279, Ludlam gives 23 January as the day he called on Eddington, as he had arrived from
Germany on 22 January.
Einstein was nominated at the 14 November meeting of the Council of the Royal Astronomical
Society; he was chosen for the award with the required simple majority of votes at the 12 December
meeting, but this decision was not confirmed at the 9 January 1920 meeting because it did not get the
necessary three-quarters majority (see Tayler 1987, pp. 20–21, and Stanley 2003).
In a German newspaper’s version of these events, Einstein was approached by the society and
asked whether he was of Swiss or Dutch nationality, whereupon he declared that he was a German
citizen. On the grounds that the medal should not be given to a German citizen, the earlier decision to
award it to Einstein was not confirmed (see entry of 13 February in Calendar).
The proposal was made by Herbert H. Turner, foreign secretary of the Royal Astronomical Soci-
ety, and James H. Jeans, honorary secretary of the Royal Society. For a discussion of the wartime
exchange between Eddington and Turner in the pages of The Observatory concerning the exclusion