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Lewis Lapham: Princeton Poll Ranked Hitler Over Einstein

Darrin M. McMahon
Darrin M. McMahon, author of "Divine Fury." Photographer: Becki Rutta/Basic Books via Bloomberg

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- As Hitler rose to power, he proclaimed himself the genius Germany needed. He was the man to lead the Aryan race -- “from whose shining brow the divine spark of genius has at all times flashed forth” -- to its rightful place in the world.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

One of the great visionaries, Einstein overturned the rules of Newtonian physics, receiving the 1921 Nobel Prize. He was a professor in Berlin when Hitler ascended in 1933.

Calling Einstein a “Jewish criminal,” the Nazis confiscated his property, burned his books and made him an assassination target. Hitler claimed that Jewish scientists had stolen everything from the Germans: “We do not need them.”

That same year, Einstein joined Princeton’s newly-founded Institute of Advanced Study.

In 1939, Princeton University asked its incoming students to list the world’s greatest living people. Einstein came in second.

Hitler came in first.

I spoke with Darrin McMahon, author of “Divine Fury: A History of Genius,” on the following topics:

1. Heroes of the Mind.

2. Ecstasy of Possession.

3. Secular Saints.

4. Dawn of the Idols.

5. Culture of Celebrity.

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg’s NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on film.

To contact the writer on the story: Lewis Lapham in New York at lhl@laphamsquarterly.org.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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