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Einstein in Berlin – Part XIV: Sex in the city
On the 43-day tour in Japan it was Ishiwara Jun who guided and worked as Einstein’s interpreter, a task for which he was well equipped. For many years he rated as a leading theoretical physicist in Japan. He was also a poet.
In 1921, however Ishiwara lost his academic standing and now focused his energies on the popularization of science. The reason was that he was forced to leave his professorship at Tôhoku Imperial University due to an affair with a beautiful poetess Hara Asao.
Madly in love with her, Ishiwara left his wife and children. When this and his relation with Hara became public knowledge it was picked up by the press and turned into a well-publicized scandal.
The academic system was losing face. Pompous professors at ostentatious “imperial” universities had for many years also been irritated by this younger ambitious and internationally well connected physicist’s barbs directed at them because they lagged behind the new developments in their field.
Although he never recovered an academic position, Ishiwara however regained some official recognition in 1931 when he became the editor-in-chief of Kagaku (Science), one of the major scientific journals.
Publicity around the Ishiwara-scandal also had cultural repercussions that extended into Tokyo’s and Kyoto’s famous Geisha districts where you could hear love songs about ”making relativity theory” (Einstein Aitai-sei Bushi).
One of the reasons of course was that Einstein and relativity theory in the popular mind was associated with Ishiwara’s ”modern” lifestyle. However, this only compounded another problem with the principle of relativity, a problem of meanings lost in translation.
Originally the translation of the term relativity was ”Sotai-sei”. When pronounced or written in a particular way this came out as ”Aitai-sei” since the Chinese sign used to write ”So” in ”Sotai-sei” might also be pronounced ”Ai”.
Amongst the younger generation ”Aitai sei”-walk could mean a love-walk, and so practicing Aitai-sei theory could mean being in love, or by a stretch of the imagination perhaps even having sex.
Thus relativity theory was easily conflated with loose behaviour and extramarital relations. No wonder then that Einstein sometimes was met with polite smiles when he lectured and Ishiwara Jun interpreted for students.
In the end, to avoid misunderstanding the term ”relativity principle” was changed to simply Sotai-principle, taking away the ”sei”.
It is not known if Dr Ishiwara Jun discussed his popularity problems with Professor Einstein who wasn’t exactly a role model of morality either when it came to married life. Both men were also roughly the same age.
Coming up next – Einstein in Berlin Part XV: Entangled in love affairs
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Einstein in Berlin – Part XIV: ‘Sex in the city’ – by ‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog’ Science contributor Aant Elzinga from OTA Berlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany License. If you use this article or parts of it, please refer to http://www.ota-berlin.de.