I REALLY WOULD NOT
HAVE THOUGHT EINSTEIN
CAPABLE OF THAT!
After a dinner at the house of Émile Borel, Paul Valéry asked [Einstein]: when an idea comes to you, how do you make arrangements to remember it? A notebook, a scrap of paper ... Einstein responded: Oh! An idea, it is so rare!
—Émile Borel, 1922
Imagine that you are a university science graduate who found it impossible to obtain an academic position and so went into a civil service post. Yet you persist in your research and succeed in formulating a bold new theory of space and time. Others, however, interpret it as merely giving a firmer foundation to an already existing theory whose emphasis lies elsewhere. Even so, your name has become linked with one of the great scientists of the day. You are elated and even dare to dream of a university position. Then an experiment disconfirms the dual-named theory. Everything collapses.
This was precisely what Einstein faced in 1906, when his theory of space and time was interpreted as providing an underpinning to the esteemed