, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 126-177,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 May 2012

Mistaken Identity and Mirror Images: Albert and Carl Einstein, Leiden and Berlin, Relativity and Revolution


Albert Einstein accepted a “special” visiting professorship at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands in February 1920. Although his appointment should have been a mere formality, it took until October of that year before Einstein could occupy his special chair. Why the delay? The explanation involves a case of mistaken identity with Carl Einstein, Dadaist art, and a particular Dutch fear of revolutions. But what revolutions was one afraid of? The story of Einstein’s Leiden chair throws new light on the reception of relativity and its creator in the Netherlands and in Germany.

Jeroen van Dongen is University Docent at Utrecht University and Editor and Visiting Associate with the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.