Echoes in society

Texts by Dr. Antonio Moreno González

The twenty days Einstein spent in Spain were dutifully covered by the press: El Correo Catalán, La Veu de Catalanuya, La Vanguardia, Diario de Barcelona, Las Noticias, La Publicitat, Las Provincias, in Barcelona: ABC, El Debate, El Sol, El Heraldo de Madrid, El Liberal, El Imparcial, El Noticiero Universal, in Madrid: El Heraldo de Aragón , in Zaragoza. Other papers also reported on the chance that he might extend his visit to other Spanish cities - El Noticiero Bilbaíno and La Voz Valenciana - and many other provincial newspapers also mentioned this illustrious visitor.

The German ambassador in Madrid, reporting to the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote:

"Every day, the papers gave over entire columns to his acts and movements, the scientific correspondents in the most important newspapers wrote long articles on the theory of relativity; in their reports on Einstein's lectures the journalists tried to instruct the lay public on the great problems of physics 'on which Einstein's discoveries have shone new light' in a generally comprehensible fashion; the press photographers take pictures of Einstein and the other participants at the solemn events in his honour in every possible position. The caricaturists reproduce his remarkable features, and even in the popular press, Einstein and the word relative are on everyone's lips"

Most of the news generated by the occasion reflected the reverent welcome Einstein received in Spain. In an extreme example, Royo-Villanova, the rector of the university of Zaragoza, asked Einstein not to clean the blackboard he had used in a lecture in the science school but instead to sign it as a souvenir, "a constant, lasting token of Einstein's visit to the university".

Most of the coverage in the press talked about Einstein's life, customs and tastes and what he did in the different places he visited. They also, of course, included some mention of the content of his lectures, but always with the greatest caution--the press hacks did not find it easy to understand the world of Einsteinian physics. Some scientists seized the occasion to make bold claims: the professor of natural history Odón de Buen, writing in La Voz , echoed the praise and the promises of Minister Salvatella, and proposed that Einstein should stay on a year heading a group of Spanish researchers to investigate general relativity following the solar eclipse due on 10 September 1923, which would be visible in much of Mexico. The professor, was aware of the difficulties of such an undertaking:

There remains one issue, which in Spain is always difficult, always tiresome: that of the staff. No great harmony exists here among men of science, and the interests created around the official scientific institutions are often a hindrance and, worse still, are in danger of bringing us disrepute abroad. This situation must be brought to a radical and swift end. The Government can do much in this delicate issue. But since the question involves working outside Spain, alongside the most prestigious figures in the world, only the best prepared, the most capable and the most enthusiastic should go".


The "El Liberal" takes up Einstein's arrival in Madrid