Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Richard C. Tolman and Einstein...Caltech, 1932

Jan. 8, 1932: Dr. Richard C. Tolman, left, and professor Albert Einstein stand in front of a blackboard at Caltech. Tolman led a seminar at Caltech for more than 50 scientists.

"Dr. Tolman and professor Einstein"   


Scott Harrison

July 25th, 2012

Los Angeles Times

Under the headline “Expanding Universe Theory Subject of Lecture,” a Los Angeles Times article reported the next morning:

PASADENA, Jan. 8. (Exclusive) — Exposed to the scorching rays of higher mathematics, the new-born expanding and contracting “lung” universe theory proved himself a Spartan brain child today.

Although the 200-inch telescope, now under construction may prove the theory untenable by revealing that the fraction of the universe now observable is not a fair sample, present data favors the belief that creation will not die, but keep on alternately swelling and shrinking forever.

Dr. Richard C. Tolman, professor of mathematical physics, brought these facts to light this evening when he addressed more than fifty distinguished scientists, including Dr. Albert Einstein, at the California Institute of Technology.

The seminar leader exhibited several mathematically correct models of self-perpetuating universes in the form of blackboard equations.

Dr. Einstein accepted Dr. Tolman’s invitation to interrupt the discussion at any time. After the “father of relativity” had commented in German for more than ten minutes, Dr. E. C. Watson suggested that Dr. Tolman interpret Einstein’s comments. “Oh, I think everyone here understood Dr. Einstein,” retorted Dr. Tolman as he glanced apprehensively about the lecture hall. A gale of laughter convulsed the audience.

The lecture was marked by Dr. Tolman’s most recent report of more than a year of effort on his part to subject the laws of thermodynamics to the relativity theories.

Dr. Tolman remained at Caltech until his death in 1948. During World War II, he served as chief science advisor to Gen. Leslie Groves on the Manhattan Project – the development of the atomic bomb.

A different photo of Tolman and Einstein, facing the blackboard, accompanied the quoted Jan. 9, 1932, Times article.

Einstein was a visiting professor at Caltech from 1931 to 1933. Since 2000, the Einstein Papers Project has been at Caltech. Additional photos are in this previous From the Archive post: Einsteins greets the media in 1931.

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