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A theory of Einstein the irrational plagiarist
Christopher Jon Bjerknes.
Thursday, 19 September 2002

THE name "Einstein" evokes images of a good-humoured genius, who revolutionised our concepts of space, time, energy, mass and motion. Time named Albert Einstein "person of the century". The language itself has incorporated "Einstein" into our common vocabulary as a synonym for extraordinary brilliance. Many consider Einstein to have been the finest mind in recorded human history.

That is the popular image, fostered by textbooks, the media, and hero worshiping physicists and historians. However, when one reads the scientific literature written by Einstein's contemporaries, a quite different picture emerges: one of an irrational plagiarist, who manipulated credit for their work.

Einstein is perhaps most famous for the special theory of relativity, published in 1905 in the German physics journal, Annalen der Physik. The paper was devoid of references, a fact that Einstein's friend and Nobel prize winner for physics, Max Born, found troubling.

"The striking point is that it contains not a single reference to previous literature," Born stated in 1955, before the International Relativity Conference in Bern. "It gives you the impression of quite a new venture. But that is, of course, as I have tried to explain, not true."

Though Einstein's 1905 article contained no references, it was so strikingly similar to a paper written by Hendrik Lorentz the previous year, that Walter Kaufmann and Max Planck felt a need to publicly point out that Einstein had merely provided a metaphysical reinterpretation and generalisation of Lorentz' scientific theory, a metaphysical reinterpretation and generalisation Henri Poincare had already published.

As Charles Nordmann, astronomer to the Paris Observatory, pointed out: "It is really to Henri Poincare, the great Frenchman whose death has left a void that will never be filled, that we must accord the merit of having first proved, with the greatest lucidity and the most prudent audacity, that time and space, as we know them, can only be relative. A few quotations from his works will not be out of place. They will show that the credit for most of the things which are currently attributed to Einstein is, in reality, due to Poincare."

Einstein acknowledged the fact, but justified his plagiarism in a cavalier fashion in Annalen der Physik in 1907. "It appears to me that it is the nature of the business that what follows has already been partly solved by other authors. Despite that fact, since the issues of concern are here addressed from a new point of view, I believe I am entitled to leave out a thoroughly pedantic survey of the literature, all the more so because it is hoped that these gaps will yet be filled by other authors, as has already happened with my first work on the principle of relativity through the commendable efforts of Mr. Planck and Mr. Kaufmann."

The completed field equations of the general theory of relativity were first deduced by David Hilbert, a fact Einstein was forced to acknowledge in 1916, after he had plagiarised them from Hilbert in late 1915. Paul Gerber solved the problem of the perihelion of Mercury in 1898. Physicist Ernst Gehrcke gave a lecture on the theory of relativity in the Berlin Philharmonic on August 24, 1920, and publicly confronted Einstein, who was in attendance, with Einstein's plagiarism of Lorentz' mathematical formalisms of the special theory of relativity, Palagyi's space-time concepts, Varicak's non-Euclidean geometry and of the plagiarism of the mathematical solution of the problem of the perihelion of Mercury first arrived at by Gerber. Gehrcke addressed Einstein to his face and told the crowd that the emperor had no clothes.

This was Einstein's response published in the Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung on August 27, 1920, translated into English in the book Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity edited by Gerald E. Tauber: ". . . Gerber, who has given the correct formula for the perihelion motion of Mercury before I did. The experts are not only in agreement that Gerber's derivation is wrong through and through, but the formula cannot be obtained as a consequence of the main assumption made by Gerber. Mr Gerber's work is therefore completely useless, an unsuccessful and erroneous theoretical attempt.

"I maintain that the theory of general relativity has provided the first real explanation of the perihelion motion of mercury. I have not mentioned the work by Gerber originally, because I did not know it when I wrote my work on the perihelion motion of Mercury; even if I had been aware of it, I would not have had any reason to mention it."

The fact that Einstein was a plagiarist is common knowledge in the physics community. What isn't so well-known is that the sources Einstein parroted were also largely unoriginal. In 1919, writing in the Philosophical Magazine Harry Bateman, a British mathematician and physicist who had emigrated to the United States, unsuccessfully sought acknowledgment of his work.

"The appearance of Dr Silberstein's recent article on General Relativity without the Equivalence Hypothesis encourages me to restate my own views on the subject," Bateman wrote.

"I am perhaps entitled to do this as my work on the subject of general relativity was published before that of Einstein and Kottler, and appears to have been overlooked by recent writers."

My book is a documentation of Einstein's plagiarism of the theory of relativity. It discloses his method for manipulating credit for the work of his contemporaries, reprints the prior works he parroted, and demonstrates that he could not have drawn his conclusions without prior knowledge of the works he copied but failed to reference.

Numerous republished quotations from Einstein's contemporaries prove that they were aware of his plagiarism. Side-by-side comparisons of Einstein's words juxtaposed to those of his predecessors prove the almost verbatim repetition. There is even substantial evidence presented in the book that Einstein plagiarised the work of his first wife, Mileva Maric, who had plagiarised others.

Mr Bjerknes, an American historian of science, has authored six books on Einstein and the theory of relativity. Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist (ISBN 0971962987) is available at

Excerpts at:

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