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    Einstein comments on Princeton's practice of not appointing Jewish professors to its faculty

    Albert Einstein Typed Letter Signed "A. Einstein." One page on his personal blind embossed letterhead, 8.5" x 11"; Princeton, New Jersey; May 2, 1936. Einstein writes, in German, to Hans Reichenbach, concerning Princeton's practice of not hiring Jews to faculty positions and Reichenbach's continuing work on his theory of probability. An English translation of the letter is presented in full:

    Dear Reichenbach:

    Carnap told me recently that Princeton had no intention to offer any position to a Jew. Even here, not everything that glitters is gold, and who knows what tomorrow shall bring. Perhaps the savages are yet the more humane humans.

    I was very impressed by your theory of probabilities. I believe it will greatly contribute to solving those fundamental issues. The longer I ponder the question, I am getting increasingly convinced that quantum theoretical methods will never be compatible with relativity.

    With cordial greetings,

    Your A. Einstein

    At the time Einstein sent this letter, Reichenbach was teaching at the University of Istanbul, while Einstein was working at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, having fled Germany three years earlier due to the rise of Hitler. Einstein and others had arranged a faculty appointment at New York University for Reichenbach, but the latter had to decline due to a five-year contract in Istanbul.

    In his letter, Einstein refers to Rudolph Carnap (1891-1970), a German-born philosopher who was a close friend of Reichenbach and at the time was on the faculty at the University of Chicago, and Carnap's claim concerning Princeton and Jews. Einstein's comment on Princeton's practice of not appointing Jews to its faculty clearly reflects his own experience with the school. Einstein's appointment at the Institute of Advanced Study was not a Princeton faculty appointment as some might have thought. Princeton, as well as several other Ivy League schools, did not appoint Jews to faculty positions until the late 1940s. Einstein ends his letter with praise of Reichenbach's continuing studies on the theory of probability, which posed that a proposition is meaningful only if it is possible to determine the probability for it.

    Condition: Usual mail folds, light toning along bottom edge, with two file holes along left margin.


    More Information: Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953), born in Hamburg, Germany, to a half-Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, studied civil engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, and then studied physics, philosophy, and mathematics in Berlin, Munich and Göttingen. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on The Concept of Probability in the Mathematical Representation of Reality,which was completed in 1915.

    After serving in the German army from 1915 to 1917, Reichenbach returned to Berlin, where he attended Albert Einstein's lectures on relativity and statistical mechanics. He was greatly influenced by Einstein and became a life-long friend of the Nobel Laureate. He wrote several popular articles defending Einstein, especially in the context of the observations of the solar eclipse of 1919 confirming the predictions of the general theory of relativity. In the early 1920s Reichenbach served on the faculty at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart.



    In 1920, he published The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge, which demonstrated the influence of Einstein's work. Reichenbach taught natural philosophy at the University of Berlin from 1926 to 1933, when he was forced to flee Germany under the Hitler regime. He subsequently taught in Istanbul, Turkey, and at UCLA in the U.S. Reichenbach obtained his American citizenship in 1943.



    Considered to be the greatest empiricist of the 20th Century, Reichenbach's work provided the backbone of empiricist philosophy. Inspired by what he perceived as a conflict between (neo-) Kantian a priorism and Einstein's relativity of space and time, Reichenbach developed a philosophy influenced by both science and an uncompromisingly empiricist epistemology.




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    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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