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Astronomical Tales

Why didn't Einstein receive the Nobel Prize for the Theory of Relativity?

Einstein's relativity theory, the theory that overturned the Newtonian universe, was most probably not recognized because of politics.

In 1920 Einstein's lectures in Berlin were disrupted by demonstrations which, although officially denied, were almost certainly anti-Jewish. Einstein had to publicly defend his theories and wrote that if he had been a member of the Nazi Party instead of a Jew with liberal international convictions, he and his work would have been well-received.

Thus in 1921, Einstein received the Nobel Prize not for relativity but rather for his 1905 work on the photoelectric effect. In fact, he was not present in December 1922 to receive the prize, having been on a voyage to Japan.

What does the head of the Nazi Atom Bomb Project and the Father of Quantum Physics have in common?
the answer

The fact that Einstein was a victim of such overt anti-semitism had a strange positive twist regarding the course of history. If Einstein had remained in Germany, he might have been co-opted into assisting Werner Heisenberg on the Nazi atomic bomb project. Perhaps with Einstein on the team their efforts would have been more successful! Once the Nazis came to power, Einstein never returned to Germany, accepting instead a post at Princeton University in the US, which he held until his death.

So strong was Einstein's support of Judaism, that the Israeli government offered him the post of Second President. Einstein replied that he was a scientist and had no aspirations for public office, but it was a testimony to his life-long pacifist ways and his ardent desire for worldwide peace and tolerance among all nations.

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