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Audio guide: Bust of Albert Einstein

Audio guide stop: 101

Crowdsourced transcription of the audio file

A bust of Albert Einstein by Jacob Epstein
A bust of Albert Einstein by Jacob Epstein
Creative Commons Licence

This bronze head, with its rough unfinished appearance, is as affably informal as the great physicist Albert Einstein himself is reputed to have been. With his drooping eyelids and unkempt moustache, genius has been humanised.

In his autobiography, the sculptor Jacob Epstein recalled his impressions of Einstein as he posed for him in September 1933.

'His glance contained a mixture of humane, the humorous, and the profound, a combination which delighted me. He resembled the ageing Rembrandt.'

The good humour that Epstein detected in Einstein’s expression was in the face of enormous tension. Hitler had come to power in January 1933. The Nazis has dismissed Einstein’s work as Jewish physics, and the scientist had been forced to flee his home and job in Berlin, a bounty of a thousand guineas on his head.

He eventually ended up with a professorship in Princeton, but before leaving Europe for America he spent time in England .at the invitation of the MP Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson, a close political ally of Winston Churchill. At Rowton Heath, Norfolk, on the North Sea coast, in a beach hut containing a grand piano, Einstein smoked his pipe, scraped away on an old violin and chatted as Epstein modelled his head in clay.

As Epstein recalled his sittings with Einstein:

'I worked for two hours every morning, and at the first sitting the professor was so surrounded with tobacco smoke from his pipe that I saw nothing. At the second sitting I asked him to smoke in the interval. Einstein's manner was full of charm and bonhomie. He enjoyed a joke and had many a jibe at the Nazi professors, 100 of whom in a book had condemned his theory.

"Were I wrong" he said, "one professor would have been quite enough."

Also when speaking of the Nazis, he once said:

"I thought I was a physicist. I didn't bother about being a Jew until Hitler made me conscious of it."'

It has been suggested that it was his conversations with Epstein that eventually persuaded Einstein to speak out publicly against Adolf Hitler and the rise of Nazism.

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The transcription of the audio file for this stop was enabled by the AHRC funded crowd-sourcing platform MicroPasts. The below generously gave their time to transcribe the file.

Michael Adams, Hannah Smith, Mariah Ashbacher and 2 Anonymous contributors

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