The publication of a new book, Einstein: His Life
and Universe (Walter Isaacson; Simon & Schuster),
brings to mind a brief flirtation that Johns Hopkins had
with two internationally acclaimed physicists 80 years ago.
They were professors Albert Einstein, who was doing
research in Berlin, and E. Schrodinger, who was in
Word was circulating in the spring and summer of 1927
that both men might be interested in coming to the United
States as visiting professors.
Newton D. Baker, distinguished alumnus (1882),
trustee, Cleveland attorney and former secretary of war,
was especially interested in Einstein. He urged board chair
Daniel Willard to persuade university President Frank
Goodnow to pursue Einstein.
Goodnow told Baker that he was about to offer an
appointment to Schrodinger, and in early June 1927, he
urged Schrodinger to accept the Professorship of
Theoretical Physics at a salary of $10,000 a year.
Schrodinger's reply was friendly but cautious. He had many
questions. Among them: "What would be the extent of my
duties, how many lectures a week?" And, he asked, what kind
of a pension would be provided?
While this was happening, Goodnow traveled to Berlin,
where he met Einstein, urging him, too, to come to
Hopkins. Following the meeting, Goodnow cabled Provost
Joseph Ames, then acting president in Goodnow's absence.
"Einstein coming possible, but uncertain. Offer five
thousand for semester. Come for year. Answer."
Ames, a distinguished physicist himself, replied,
"Greatly prefer Schrodinger. Do not think Einstein for a
year worth $10,000. Money needed elsewhere, badly. Ames"
Nevertheless, upon his return to Homewood in July
1927, Goodnow wrote to Einstein, formally inviting him to
Two months later, Einstein replied, thanking Goodnow
for his "friendly visit" and "generous magnanimous
"Health reasons," he wrote, would prevent him from
accepting the invitation. "Also," he added, "the scientific
results which I have achieved are too well known to the
professional people so that I could not offer enough to
justify, it seems to me, such a great financial offer." (He
had won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.)
Five years later, as the Nazis were beginning to gain
power in Germany, Einstein wanted to leave Berlin and
accepted an appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study
in Princeton, N.J. He soon renounced his German citizenship
and in 1940 became a U.S. citizen. He died in Princeton in
If Professor Schrodinger formally declined Johns
Hopkins' invitation, there is no record of it in the
Hamburger Archives at Homewood. Perhaps he had learned, and
was miffed, that while Hopkins was making him an offer, it
also was pursuing Einstein. He lectured at Princeton in
1934, the year after he shared the Nobel Prize in physics,
but did not accept a permanent appointment. He helped found
the Institute for Advanced Study in Dublin in 1940 and
spent most of the remainder of his career there. He died in
Vienna in 1961.
Ross Jones is vice president and secretary emeritus of
the university. A 1953 graduate of Johns Hopkins, he
returned in 1961 as assistant to president Milton S.
Eisenhower and was a close aide to six of the university's