In the dark hours before morning, at the crossing of the Yabbok, flowing into the Jordan, Jacob struggled with a man whom he did not know; and the stranger, upon seeing the sky beginning to redden in the east, asked Jacob:

“Let me go, for the day breaketh.” Jacob, however, replied:
“I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

The title of this book is taken from this story in Genesis (32:24-27). The reader will find out at which juncture of our relations I exchanged this ancient dialogue with Albert Einstein.

For long months we carried on a struggle by written and spoken word; the subject of the struggle dealt with invisible but real forces, whether they do or do not take part in the movements of the silent mechanism that carries worlds on their paths. My claim of the participation of electromagnetic fields and their interrelations in the structure of the universe was opposed by him almost to the last, and this was the issue of the dispute. The Morning Star was also a subject of our contention.

The main story starts in August 1952, though there were some exchanges also earlier. We defined our positions, he in brief, I at length. Then, after an interruption of over a year, we came to closer grips. In letters (testimonials to the stands we took) in his marginal notes to manuscripts of mine, and in discussions that went sometimes nearly till midnight, we were not sparing of each other.

Before the debate started there certainly was in my opponent a preconceived stand which he shared with so many men of science who could not see in my published work any vrai- semblance of scientific truth. Yet as soon as the contact became personal it grew in warmth, and a reciprocal affection developed between us, unyielding as we were.

I believe it was not until our two long discussions accompanying the reading of my paper “On the Four Plans of the Universe” less than seven weeks before his death that my opponent fully comprehended my stand. By that time he had also read Worlds in Collision for another time, with a decidedly different reaction. At the end I felt as if he wished me to be proven right.

Our debate ended on Friday, April 8, 1955, only nine days before Einstein’s death. I think I was the last person with whom he discussed a scientific problem. On that day I brought him the published news that Jupiter sends out radio noises; ten months earlier, in a letter to him, I had offered to stake our dispute on this my claim of an as yet undiscovered phenomenon — and at that time he let me have his reply in a marginal note to my letter. It happened repeatedly that he wrote his arguments in the form of notes, sometimes copious, on the margins of my letters, returning my originals to me; with notes he also supplied some of my manuscripts that he read: Earth in Upheaval, published half a year after his death, and Stargazers and Gravediggers, memoirs on the origin and reception of my work.

Over twenty years have passed since the figure that dominates this narrative left the abode of men. With the passing years many phenomena have come to light, and today it is sometimes difficult for a scientist to reconstruct his own and his colleagues’ attitude of 1950 or 1955. And it is even more difficult for the young generation to envisage the stand of science in those years, almost a generation ago. Since then, many discoveries of the Space Age have completely changed our understanding of the structure of the solar system, and radioastronomy has brought home a new and exciting picture of cosmic spaces and of the forces that act in them. It is easy to be misled into thinking that this knowledge was already common in the early fifties; thus whom better to quote than Einstein as a spokesman for the prevalent scientific view of that time?

This short book is intended also as a personal tribute to a man who was simple to the extreme, strong in convictions, humble in fame, curious for human destiny, and very solitary.

If the years that have passed have not substantiated Einstein’s stand in the arguments we exchanged, his very attitude in this exchange that much occupied his mind to the end of his life, and his effort to uphold the human dignity of a heretic ostracized by the entire scientific community, remains for me an unforgettable experience. I have tried to communicate to my readers this glow that lives in me undiminished since the dawn broke for me.

Many of the following pages were written when Einstein was still alive, and now, in a number of instances, I have had to change the present tense to the past tense. Other pages were written soon after his death, and some I add while preparing the story for print. Being now several years older than Einstein when he died, I think that I should not delay, but put together and leave a record of our relations and of the issue that divided us and bound us. I did not know intimately the man with whom I struggled before the dawn, but I sensed something angelic. Before the Day Breaks is a record and a tribute.

Princeton, 1976