March 14, 1879 -- April 18, 1955


April 17, 1991|By SOL GOODMAN

The great stone faced

Bushy haired man

Lay rumpled upon his death bed in a Princeton, N.J., hospital.

He had just finished writing his statement marking the anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.

(Yet another statement)

But this was different

The establishment of a Jewish homeland had become an obsession to him

Ever since those dark days of the Thirties

When the Nazis had confiscated his property

And obliterated his name

He felt his words inadequate

His deeds, insufficient.

Yet one did what little one could

For the wandering pariahs of the earth.

Now in his seventy-seventh year

Awaiting death in the antiseptic, cheerless room

He was listening to a muted Beethoven violin concerto.

He regretted not having played his own violin lately.

Oh, he was an accomplished enough musician,

But a musical genius, never.

Or any other kind of genius for that matter.

Genius, indeed!

Until the age of fifteen, he had proved himself to be a poor student.

His grades in history, geography and the languages were close to failing.

If it had not been for Uncle Jakob,

That dear man who had cajoled and urged him to pursue a career in the sciences and mathematics

He would have left no mark on the world.

Thus upon such happenstance

Was an indifferent scholar transformed into a renowned savant,

Long burdened with the certain knowledge

That without this special status

He would have perished years ago

Obscure and unlamented in a Nazi crematorium.

Had fifty years really passed since he had published the four papers on his Special Theory of Relativity?


The acclaimed formula

That accursed formula

Unloosing upon the world

The dark side of man.

The rising


Poisoned mushroom.

These are thoughts of a doddering old man

Random and disjointed.

He had become a living fossil in his own lifetime.

His Nobel Prize

Which did not once mention the world ''Relativity''

Was by now a half forgotten relic.

He had not published an important paper sinced 1929

And that had not been widely accepted!

He had become a curiosity to Max Burn and those other young Turks

Who had been humoring him.

Oh, yes, humoring him.

Constantly urging him to accept their Quantum Theory.

How could he accept a world based on unpredictability?

Surely there should be as much harmony in nature

As in a Beethoven sonata.

Had he not told Burn that he could ''accept a subtle God

But not a malicious one.''

Yet he had to admit that his own efforts to equate matter and energy into a single formula Had met with repeated failure.

what point in his life

Had he turned from the physical to the metaphysical?

He was now more known for causes than science.

He had become a pamphleteer

A signer of petitions

A writer of statements

A victim of indifference

A target for derision

An object of controversy.

His espousal of a world government had been universally rejected.

His belief in pacifism shaken by Freud's assertion that, ''war was biologically sound.''

The recent death of his wife

And the mental breakdown of his beloved son

Had taken too much out of him.

And now he quietly awaited death

In a cheerless, antiseptic hospital room in Princeton, N.J.

And slowly closed his eyes.


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.