July 18, 1955
Dear Professor Cohen:
In your published interview with the late Einstein you refer to the great passion with which he spoke of my book. The reader may conclude that with great passion he opposed my work.
In the last eighteen months of his life, Einstein spent not a few long evenings with me discussing my work, exchanged long handwritten letters with me, read repeatedly my book and also several, some of them extensive, manuscripts, supplied them with marginal notes, in short, showed great interest in my ideas and gave me very much of his time. On a manuscript containing the history of my first book, he wrote what he exactly thinks of Worlds in Collision—he wrote it in the very week you have seen him; it is in great disagreement with what I read in your interview. In a letter of March 17, 1955 he made very clear what he thought of my adversaries and their methods of combating my book; and on margins of the pages containing copies of letters confidentially written by some scientists to my publishers with expressions similar to those you ascribe to him, he marked: miserable.
I assume that with great passion he spoke against my opponents and their campaign. This does not mean that he agreedwith my theories on all points: after many gradual agreements, there remained between us a large area of disagreement, but our debate, orally and in writing, was carried on in the spirit of mutual respect and friendliness. Our last long conversation took place on April 8th, five days after your interview, and nine days before his death. He was rereading my Worlds in Collision and he said some encouraging sentences—demonstrating the evolution of his opinion in the space of 18 months.
I assume that the expressions that you mention were not used by Einstein in the meaning you have unintentionally given to them. I think that upon searching your memory you will find that the predominant feature of his in speaking of my book was positive and not negative, sympathetic and not hostile. Would you like to write down a more complete version of that part of your conversation? I believe you would like to have a chance to rectify yourself.
Einstein appears from the portion of your interview dealing with me as unkind and cynical—and these features were very far from him. And certainly he was not two-faced. It appears to me that the scene you describe is in a final count more damaging to Einsteins memory than to me.
Is not an historian of science, even more than any other scientist, kept under scrutiny by future members of his guild? There can be no greater mishap to an historian of science as when he unwittingly becomes the cause of a distortion of history at its source.
If I understand right, you have not yet made up your mind conclusively as to my position in science as it will find its evaluation by a future generation (see also the advance abstract of your lecture before the Amer. Philos. Soc., April 1952). So why not to learn about a dissident from close? When in Princeton, you are welcome to visit me and read the letters Einstein exchanged with me, his notes on my manuscripts, or any other material that may interest you. You are really welcome.