In Einstein’s Study

On May 20, 1954 I went to see Einstein. This time I asked to see him. I wished to ask him to read a part of my Earth in Upheaval in manuscript. There was also another subject that I thought I ought to discuss with him. A few days before a correspondent in California drew my attention to an article in Astounding Science Fiction in which I was accused of inventing my sources. I realized the damage done by the Harvard group had spread into pulp magazines read by common people. I had not complained to Einstein before about the campaign of suppression and vilification carried on by some groups of scientists against my theory and myself.

He received us this time in his study on the second floor, which has a large window overlooking the garden in the backyard. It was about the time before sunset. He asked:

“Would you like our conversation between four eyes or between eight?”

“Between eight,” I replied, my wife and Miss Dukas being admitted.

“The women will listen but not participate,” he said, expecting something important to discuss with me.

“Like in a synagogue,” I remarked. But then I corrected myself. “No, I feel myself here as Solomon Molcho must have felt in the palace of Pope Clement VII.” I explained that this marrano, i.e, a Jew from a family that had been forcibly converted to Christianity, was sentenced to die for reverting to Judaism and was burned as a heretic in Rome by the Inquisition; but the next day he was alive in the inner chambers of the Vatican discussing philosophical problems with the Pope. The Pope had let another heretic be burned and hid Solomon Molcho. If only the Holy Inquisition knew where he was! This was my way of referring to what my opponents and detractors among the scientists might think and feel were they to know where I was spending that evening.

“Is he a gentleman who permanently turns his pockets out to show that he did not steal?” I quoted Vladimir Jabotinsky. I could not spend all my time proving that I have not misquoted or otherwise misused my sources. But silence on the part of the accused is understood as admission of guilt. Einstein agreed with me. And thinking of injustice to a man, he mentioned Oppenheimer, whose removal from the advisory committee to the Atomic Energy Commission caused at that time great agitation.

“But you do not do better,” I said. Einstein’s face expressed surprise. “I do not think of you personally, but of your colleagues, the scientists.” He wished to know more. I went down and brought from the car a file with some of the letters exchanged between Harlow Shapley and the Macmillan Publishers. He read them with great interest. But we did not proceed far enough; we had not come to read the letter of Whipple to Blackiston Publishers in Philadelphia, or the statement of Shapley in the Harvard Crimson.1

Einstein was obviously impressed and did not spare harsh words in characterizing some of the actors in the campaign of suppression.

Einstein advised me to make the material public. I should, he said, find somebody with a talent for dramatic writing and entrust him with the task of presenting the case. He was obviously impressed and indignant. “This is worse than Oppenheimer’s case.”

I mentioned that in Germany the church also opposed me, and in fact suppressed Worlds in Collision at the hands of its publisher (Kohlhammer of Stuttgart). As in America the book had a great success, and went through five printings in less than a year when the lid fell down.

“But what should the church people have against the book?” asked Einstein, and turned his face to me (as often during our conversations, he was sitting to my left). The opposition of the churches to a work that provoked furor among the scientists must have appeared to him incongruous. All this must have been thought, not said, for my answer followed immediately:

“The church opposed my interpretation of miracles as natural phenomena.” Einstein laughed with his loud, hearty laugh. He wished to read more in the file. But now I was interested in taking up the problem that really occupied my mind—my theories.

Already at one of our earlier meetings, Einstein said to me: “I know how to explain the great global catastrophes that occurred in the past.” He spoke then of vestiges of an ice cover that were observed in the tropics and referred to an unpublished theory of Charles Hapgood, who thought that growing ice caps can cause a slippage of the terrestrial crust relative to the interior, thus displacing the poles. This evening Einstein returned to the same idea and said that terrestrial causes could have been responsible for the catastrophes. I told him that the problem of the displacement of the terrestrial pole was already much discussed in the last century by astronomers and geologists. “By whom and where?” he asked. “Here,” I said, about to leave, and showed him the second (of three) files of the manuscript of Earth in Upheaval, “Here you may find the arguments of that old discussion.” First he was reluctant to take another manuscript for reading. The daily mail alone takes so much of his time, he said, and standing at the top of the staircase, while I was a few steps down, showed with his hands how thick was the bundle of his daily mail. But, hearing that the physical problem of the terrestrial crust moving over the core is discussed in that file, he took my manuscript.

The next day I wrote two letters:

May 21, 1954

Dear Professor Einstein:

It may be that I said more than I was aright to say when yesterday evening I expressed myself that Einstein is humanly obliged not to be indifferent to the wrong that was and is still done by an organized group of scientists. But because of your position of a recognized leader among scientists and fighter for human rights, I feel obligated to you not to keep you uninformed.

These are two problems, entirely independent: Am I right in my theory? I am striving to prove it. Have I the right to express in writing the conclusions to which I came in an honest endeavor? Though the answer is elementary, this right was so mistreated that, following an attack this month, after some hesitation, I decided to ask more than just a few minutes of your most precious time.

With sincere regard,

Immanuel Velikovsky

May 21, 1954

Dear Miss Dukas:

Yesterday evening Professor Einstein wondered to hear that in my book the role of Venus in the catastrophe is deduced from direct references in the folklore of many peoples. I am sending to you, Miss Dukas, a copy of the German edition of Worlds in Collision; between the pages 170 (where Venus is for the first time mentioned in my book) and 220 I have marked with pencil such references. Please, show them to Professor, if he likes to see them.

Professor wished also to see the passage concerning the solar eclipses before -687, especially one seen in China, with reference to Venus in the source. I have marked the passage in my reply to Stewart in Harper’s. . . .

I enclose a few lines for Professor. I hope I have not tired him yesterday too much.

Cordially yours,

Immanuel Velikovsky

Two days after our meeting Einstein wrote me a long handwritten letter—which was rather unusual, since most of his letters were dictated and typed. He also returned my file and supplied some of the sections with numerous marginal notes.


Dear Mr. Velikovsky!

Remarks on the part of your manuscript “poles displaced.”

The first impression is that the generations of scholars have a “bad memory.” Scientists generally have little historical sense, so that each single generation knows little of the struggles and inner difficulties of the former generation. Thus it happens that many ideas at different times are repeatedly conceived anew, without the initiator knowing that these subjects had been considered already before. In this sense I find your patience in examining the literature quite enlightening and valuable; it deserves the attentive consideration of researchers who according to their natural mentality live so much in the present that they are inclined to think of every idea that occurs to them, or their group, as new. The idea of a possible displacement of the poles as an explanation of the change of climate in any one point of the earth’s crust is a beautiful example. Even the idea of the possibility of a sliding of the rigid crust in relation to the plastic, or fluid deeper strata of the earth, was already considered by Lord Kelvin (and was in fact rejected).

The interpretation of the vote mentioned on pp. 159-1602 as an attempt at a dogmatic fixation of the “truth” is not obvious to me. It is simply interesting for the participants of a congress to see how opinions concerning an interesting question are divided among those present. I don’t think that the underlying idea was that the outcome of the voting would somehow insure the objective correctness of the outcome of the vote.

From p. 182 on starts a wild robbers’ story (up to p. 189) which seems to rely more on a strong temperament than on organized considerations. Referring to p. 191: Blacket’s idea is untenable from a theoretical point of view. The remark about the strength of magnetization seems to be unjustified (p. 192); it could for example depend essentially upon the speed of cooling as well as on particle shape and size. The direction of the magnetic field during solidification must however quite certainly determine the direction of magnetization. Bottom 192 etc.: wild fantasy! from here on marginal remarks with pencil in the manuscript.

The proof of “sudden” changes (p. 223 to the end) is quite convincing and meritorious. If you had done nothing else but to gather and present in a clear way this mass of evidence, you would have already a considerable merit. Unfortunately, this valuable accomplishment is impaired by the addition of a physical-astronomical theory to which every expert will react with a smile or with anger—according to his temperament; he notices that you know these things only from hearsay—and do not understand them in the real sense, also things that are elementary to him. He can easily come to the opinion that you yourself don’t believe it, and that you want only to mislead the public. I myself had originally thought that it could be so. This can explain Shapley’s behavior, but in no case excuse it. This is the intolerance and arrogance together with brutality which one often finds in successful people, but especially in successful Americans. The offence against truthfulness, to which you rightly called my attention, is generally human, and in my eyes, less important. One must however give him credit that in the political arena he conducted himself courageously and independently, and just about carried his hide to the marketplace.

Therefore it is more or less justified if we spread the mantle of Jewish neighborly love over him, difficult as it may be.

To the point, I can say in short: catastrophes yes, Venus no. Now I ask you: what do you mean when you request of me to do my duty in this case? It is not clear to me. Be quite frank and open towards me, this can only be good in every respect.

With cordial greetings to both of you,


A. Einstein.

It took me seven weeks before I replied to him. With my first drafts I was dissatisfied. So many problems were raised that I could not possibly compress them into a letter of reasonable length. I decided on the strategy of challenging Einstein’s contention that terrestrial, not extraterrestrial (astronomical) agents caused the global catastrophes.

I decided not to answer in a direct way his questioning my competence to handle physical problems and, instead, by presenting my arguments, intended to confront him with the measure with which I can handle these problems. I omitted to meet his challenge “Venus no"—in our debate this was premature; he agreed that there were global catastrophes, some in the memory of mankind; so next I had to show that only extraterrestrial agents could have been the cause, without identifying the agent.

June 16, 1954

Dear Professor Einstein:

During the three weeks since I received your kind letter, I have composed in my mind many answers to you, and made a few drafts. I realized soon that I would be unable to compress all the problems into one letter and I decided to try to achieve with this writing only one step - to bring you closer to the insight that the global catastrophes of the past were caused not by a terrestrial but by an extra-terrestrial cause. Before discussing this, I would like to say that I am very conscious of the fact that you give me of the most precious in your possession - your time; and I would not have asked to pay attention to these matters if I did not believe that my material may, perchance, serve you too, whatever your conclusions should be. My delay in replying you is certainly not an act of lack of attention; just the opposite - not a quick reply, but a well thought through is a real courtesy.

You agree that (1) there were global catastrophes, and (2) that at least one of them occurred in the not too remote past. These conclusions will make you, too, to a heretic in the eyes of geologists and evolutionists.

Eight years ago, in 1946, under the impression of those chapters of Worlds in Collision that you have read then in manuscript, you have acceded in a letter that “in der Tat Katastrophen stattgefunden haben, die auf extra-terrestrale Ursachen zuruckgefuehrt werden mussen."3

Now, without re-examining the material that made you think so, you would like to retreat from this position. On the other hand, in 1946 you have brought two arguments against my theory, namely:

(1) “Dass diese Katastrophen nichts zu tun haben mit dem Planeten Venus."4

(2) “Dass auch die Rotationstichtung der Erde gegenuber der Ecliptic keine erhebliche Aenderung hat erfahren konnen, ohne dass die ganze Erdkruste vollig vernichtet worden ware."5

It appears to me that today you keep no longer the second objection in that definite form; you presently assume that the terrestrial crust, rather catastrophically, moved over the interior of the earth; the experiences that the human kind must have had in such a plunge, would satisfactorily explain the phenomenon of the retreating sun (the cause of a great wrath in the days of Joshua and of Velikovsky as well), the change of cardinal points, of latitudes, of seasons and climate, and the inability of the ancient water- and sun-clocks to show correctly the time of today. It would, however, not explain the change in the number of days in the year, of which all ancient calendars (Maya, Inca, Hindu, China, Persia, Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Palestine, Greece, Rome) concur ("Worlds in Collision,” pp. 312-359: these pages would certainly impress you).

Against a terrestrial cause of
global catastrophes:

The surmise that an asymmetrical growth of polar ice caused in the past a sudden shifting of the terrestrial crust

(1) disregards all references in the folklore to the celestial phenomena accompanying the catastrophe: meteorites and “bursting of the sky,” also darkness.

(2) disregards the geological find of unusual concentration of meteoric iron and nickel in the ocean bed (I attach a section of my new manuscript, “The floor of the seas,” with a description of the work of M. Pettersson of Goeteborg Oceanic Institute).

(3) disregards the magnitude of the force necessary to move the terrestrial crust over the equatorial bulge. Ice covers of the polar regions are placed in the least favorable position to disrupt the balance. The seasonal migration of ice and snow from one hemisphere to the other never induced the slightest displacement of the poles. And finally, the most important counter-argument concerns the mass and the form of the terrestrial crust:

(4) “The data secured from observations . . . of the transmission of seismic waves indicate that the earth is either solid thoughout with the rigidity of steel, or that it is solid to a distance approximately 2000 miles below sea-level, with the solid portions having a rigidity greater than that of steel . . . This seems to indicate a contradiction between isostasy and geophysical data.” (W. Bowie, “Isostasy,” in Physics of the Earth, II, 104).

The theory of isostasy was conceived in 1851 when J. H. Pratt found that the Himalayas do not deflect the plumb line as expected considering the mass of the mountains. It was assumed that the crust is thin and lighter than the magma and that every mountain has a mirror image protuberance immersed into the magma, thus the excess of the mass of the mountains is counterbalanced by a defect in the mass (difference between the lighter granite of the crust and the heavier magma). This, however, would signify that in order to move the crust over the very dense magma (twice the weight of granite) the isostatic protuberances (besides the equatorial bulge) will present obstacles that cannot be overcome by an asymmetric position of polar ice. If, moreover, the crust is 2000 miles thick, its mass represents a very substantial part of the globe.

What are the arguments against an extraterrestrial cause of the global catastrophes?

Arguments against extra-terrestrial agents are:

1. Ancient solar eclipses would not have taken place in appropriate times. Answer: As shown in my answer to Stewart, there is not a single case known where they actually did. By the way: the same argument, if true, would be good against the motion of the terrestrial crust in historical times.

2. Earth’s axis of rotation would wobble: It does.

3. Things would have flown away if unattached: This depends on the time element.

4. Waves of translation and hurricanes would be generated: they were. A section from the first file of my geological work is attached, and explains, partly, the “wilde Raubergeschichte,”6 in the (second) file you just read.

Argument against a massive comet: The observed comets are of small mass. In answer:

1. Even Jupiter, as all other planets, was once in the category of comets, according to the planetismal and tidal theories.

2. The origin of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) from the large planets (to explain the difference in the specific weights) is an old legitimate story.

Arguments against the mechanism of disturbance: A gravitational pull by a passing body could not disturb the rotational velocity of the earth or the inclination of its axis. Answer: In Worlds in Collision I brought historical material leaving astronomers to choose:

1. Either the earth was disturbed in rotation,

2. or the axis of rotation changed its inclination to the plane of the ecliptic.

Once more, I left for astronomers to choose: The earth was disturbed by entering

1. into a thick cloud of dust,

2. or into a magnet field.

In Worlds in Collision I left open the problem which of these mechanisms was in action (p. 386). You are indignant at the idea that magnetic fields had anything to do with the disturbances. You oppose such explanation

1. because magnetic actions are excluded from the celestial mechanics. Answer: At usual distances. But at close approaches the magnetic fields could be felt.

2. because in a cloud of iron particles there is no reason for all of them to have the same magnetic orientation. Answer: The same question is asked concerning the polarized light of fixed stars that supposedly passes through clouds of gases or dust particles. Also: would the earth, which is a magnet, and possibly has an iron core, moving through a large charged cloud of dust preserve the direction of its axis or not?

The real cause of indignation against my theory of global catastrophes is the implication that celestial bodies may be charged. It was argued that only an astronomer can imagine the degree of coincidence between the calculations based on the gravitational theory and the observed planetary motions. But this very degree of coincidence is disturbing in the face of many facts known about the sun (behavior of protuberances), the planets (influence of radio-transmission), the comets (self-illuminating; behavior of tails), the fixed stars (strong magnets), the meteorites (magnets). Even for the cases of observed anomalies magnetic or electric charges were not considered, as if they were a tabu in celestial mechanics. Of the many unexplained phenomena presented in my address before the Forum of the Graduate College, you have explained only the apparent spherical form of the sun (and was it correct to disregard the very low atmospheric pressure on the sun in calculating its expected shape?), but not why the sun rotates quicker on the equator, nor many other similar violations of mechanical laws.

Of course, I am a heretic, for I question the neutral state of celestial bodies. There are various tests that could be made. For instance, does Jupiter send radio-noises or not? This can easily be found, if you should wish.

If planets are charged, gravitation is a short range force, a terrible statement to make. Cavendish experiment with varying distances between the attracting bodies would easily disprove such notion. But if I am not wrong, the Cavendish experiment is not performed in a Faraday cage. It should be easy to find out the constant in a cage. But not easy for me. Especially since Shapley in a relentless effort made me “out of bounds” for scientists.

You, too, would not have had any suspicion about my motives in my book on folklore and ancient literature, were it not for the campaign initiated by Shapley. The few pages on astronomy in my book were edited by Lloyd Motz, professor of astronomy at Columbia University. Too early you have thrown the mantle of Jewish compassion over Shapley: you have seen only the beginning of the file of the documents concerning the “Stargazers and Gravediggers” and their leader. His being a liberal is not an excuse but an aggravating cirumstance. My appeal to you to investigate this material was prompted by a new attack, a few days before I last saw you. Then I immersed myself in my work and calmed down.


Immanuel Velikovsky

My answer was written three weeks after I received his letter, but for an additional four weeks I postponed sending it to him. Then when my wife brought it (she went to see the new sculpture work of Margot), Einstein came in, and apparently was relieved of a thought that he had perchance hurt my feelings by some of his remarks. He read my letter immediately, and returned it and asked to see my Worlds in Collision, to which some references were made in my letter. Next we had a call and invitation to come and discuss the problems raised by my letter.


  1. See Stargazers and Gravediggers, pp. 158-161.

  2. pp. 117-118 of the book

  3. “that in fact catastrophes have taken place which must attributed to extraterrestrial causes.”

  4. “That these catastrophes can have nothing to do with the planet Venus.”

  5. “That also the direction of the inclination of the terrestrial crust towards the ecliptic could not have undergone a considerable change without the total destruction of the entire earth’s crust.”

  6. “wild robbers’ story”