The University of Alabama

UA Philosophy Lecturer to Discuss Einstein’s Contributions, Jewish Perspectives

Steven Gimbel

Steven Gimbel

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Elements of Jewish intellectual thought may have influenced Einstein’s development of the theory of relativity and Nazi attempts to discredit it.

Dr. Steven Gimbel, chair of the philosophy department at Gettsyburg College, will discuss the topic and his new book, “Einstein’s Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion,” as part of the 2012-2013 Philosophy Today Lecture Series.

Gimbel’s lecture will be held Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in room 205 of Smith Hall on The University of Alabama campus.

In Gimbel’s book, he discusses how the Nazis tried to denigrate Einstein’s theory of relativity by labeling it “Jewish physics.”  Now, with Einstein’s theories as the cornerstone of much of modern science, Gimbel explores the Nazi assertion in a new light.

As George Johnson said in his New York Times book review, “In his original new book, [Gimbel] considers the possibility that the Nazis were on to something. If you can look past the anti-Semitism, he proposes, ‘maybe relativity is ‘Jewish science’ after all.’  What he means is that there might have been elements of Jewish thinking that gave rise to what is now recognized as one of the deepest insights of all time.”

Gimbel is the Edwin T. and Cynthia Shearer Johnson Chair for Distinguished Teaching in the Humanities at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. He earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a doctorate in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University.

Gimbel’s work focuses on the foundations and ramifications of relativity and on methodology and evidence in science. In addition to his work on the environmental ethic of the American Nazi party, he has published on the notion of sportsmanship in the Kasparov/Deep Blue chess match, the foundations of mind in the writings of Maria Montessori, and the notion of moral doubt in the television show “The Colbert Report.”

While on campus, Gimbel will also give a departmental talk, “Invariance: A Story of Intellectual Migration,” on Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. in room 347 of ten Hoor Hall. His talk will discuss how Arthur Cayley’s concepts of covariance and invariance came from work in algebra, but, in time, found their way into geometry, physics, philosophy and psychology. Using this example, he will discuss the ways in which intellectual communities and institutions often grow from one another.

Lectures in the Philosophy Today series are geared toward a general audience and are of interest to those in any profession or academic discipline. Sponsored by UA’s College of Arts and Sciences department of philosophy, a grant from Louis W. Perry and other alumni, and friends of the department, the presentations are free and open to the public.

UA’s department of philosophy is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kelli Wright, communications specialist, College of Arts and Sciences, 205/348-8539, khwright@as.ua.edu