A troll by any other name

Einstein’s advice for dealing with ‘reptiles’ over a century ago.

A letter to Marie Curie, found among a newly published collection of Albert Einstein’s papers, was written at a time when she was facing vilification by the press.

It begins:

“Do not laugh at me for for writing to you without having anything sensible to say. But I am so enraged by the base manner in which the public is presently daring to concern itself with you that I absolutely must give vent to this feeling.’

The letter continues:

“If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.”

Reptile – a person regarded with loathing and contempt.  Good term.

Mme Curie was then a candidate for election to the French Academy of Sciences, a wholly male preserve. She had already won her first Nobel Prize and become the first woman to be a professor at the University of Paris, but French society tended to be xenophobic. According to Wikipedia, the French press often portrayed her as an unworthy foreigner when she was nominated for a French honour, but would portray her as a French hero when she received a foreign one (a second Nobel Prize, in 1911).

Her detractors had ‘dug up’ supposed evidence that she was Jewish (untrue) and was having an affair with a married man (true). The French Academy instead elected a man by a small margin.  Awareness of the scandal even in Sweden led members of the Swedish Academy of Sciences to try to dissuade her from coming to Stockholm to accept her 1911 Nobel Prize.

And just think this was long before the immediacy of the internet, even the use of broadcast radio.

“Only two things are infinite,’ as Einstein once said, ‘The universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

Reported originally  in Daily Dot and now in the Daily Mail.

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