Einstein on the beach

Are you off to the beach this August? Lucky you – I’m stuck at work (hey, but life’s always a beach here at the Science Museum). If you’re planning a holiday in the UK, you could tread the sands at Cromer, and follow in the footsteps of Albert Einstein.

A poster promoting rail travel to Cromer, 1923-47 (National Railway Museum / Science & Society)

Einstein’s trip to Norfolk in 1933 wasn’t a holiday. As a famous German Jew, he had been subject to Nazi threats. He was invited to stay in Cromer by the MP and antifascist campaigner Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson.  

Einstein’s visit has (very loosely in some cases!) inspired several works, including Mark Burgess’s radio play Einstein in Cromer, Philip Glass’s opera Einstein on the Beach, and a song of the same name by Counting Crows.

Einstein with Locker-Lampson, 1933 (NMPFT/Syndication International/Science & Society)

More directly inspired by Einstein’s Cromer sojourn was a bust by Jacob Epstein. The famous scientist sat for the famous sculptor in a hut at nearby Roughton Heath. You can see our copy in the Inside the Atom display on the second floor.

Epstein's bust of Einstein (Science Museum).

It has been suggested that Epstein, who was also Jewish, was instrumental in persuading his sitter to speak out publicly against Nazi persecution. At a meeting in London’s Royal Albert Hall, carefully stage-managed by Commander Locker-Lampson and attended by thousands of people, Einstein spoke in faltering English about the responsibility of all citizens to guard Europe against another disastrous war. On 7 October 1933, he set sail from Southampton, leaving Europe behind for a new life in the United States.

2 thoughts on “Einstein on the beach

  1. Steve

    Fascinating. Does any one know if the hut is still standing? Would be a wonderful place to visit if it is.

    Reply
  2. Kim

    My understanding from my father, who died a few years ago, was that Einstein in fact stayed in Roughton, about 3 miles inland from Cromer. My father used to see him regularly walking around the village and there’s now a plaque on a wall outside the New Inn, the village pub, commemorating his stay. My father always used to say he stayed in a wooden building next door to the house in Roughton where I was born and brought up. That building is very different to the one in the picture above, it’s possible that he was referring to the site rather than the building itself.

    Reply

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