June 5, 2015, by Charlotte Anscombe
Remembering when…Albert Einstein visited the University – and was late!
Eighty-five years ago tomorrow (6 June) the most famous physicist, mathematician and philosopher of all time, Albert Einstein, paid a visit to The University of Nottingham.
Einstein’s visit was arranged by the then Head of Physics, Professor Henry Brose. Professor Brose was an authority on the Theory of Relativity and had translated many of Einstein’s books and scientific papers into English.
Einstein and Brose met in an internment camp during the First World War and it was then that Brose became interested in the Theory of relativity. He invited him to lecture in Nottingham in 1928.
True to his word on 6 June 1930, Einstein arranged to give a lecture at Nottingham University College (as it was then known). Due to arrive at 4pm, ready to begin his lecture at 7pm, large crowds gathered anticipating his arrival – but he didn’t arrive for an hour and a half!
The reason why Einstein was so late was that he had stopped on the way from Cambridge at Grantham, to visit Isaac Newton’s house and birthplace at Woolsthorpe. Einstein didn’t arrive until 6.30pm, only half an hour before the lecture, so really cutting it fine.
The lecture theater was packed to capacity when Einstein entered the room to expound his theories of relativity which would become the foundations of modern science.
Professor Granger, then Professor of Philosophy and Deputy Principle and organiser of Einstein’s visit, recalled the moment he met Einstein when writing for The Daily Telegraph:
“Einstein was a remarkable serene and august person, with a halo of slightly greying hair. He stood and looked around himself, with a slightly lost air of benevolence and bewilderment, mixed. He had a benign and remote calm. I thought he looked with this wonderful hair, like a mixture between an amiable lion and one of those calm looking pandas that we see in zoos.”
A section of blackboard he used to show his calculations is preserved in the university’s archives.
During the ceremony press cuttings reporting the great man’s visit were on display together with other prized items including part of the blackboard showing some of Einstein calculations and even the chalk he used on the occasion.
That chalk was “‘borrowed” by a student many years ago, but later returned to the university.