cover image THE EINSTEIN FILE: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist

THE EINSTEIN FILE: J. Edgar Hoover's Secret War Against the World's Most Famous Scientist

Fred Jerome, . . St. Martin's, $27.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-28856-3

Not only did J. Edgar Hoover keep a well-guarded (and sometimes comically erroneous) secret file on Albert Einstein, reveals Jerome, a journalist and consultant to Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Communications, he actively sought to have the physicist deported. Though Einstein was far too popular to be brought down by Hoover's normal smear tactics (even when covertly laundered through congressional committees), his file was filled with 1,800 pages of raw materials. But the lists of organizations he supported (antifascist, pacifist and antiracist) and "unsavory" people he knew, such as Paul Robeson, lacked bite, since Einstein (unlike his biographers) happily publicized these associations. Accusations of subversive activity ranged from the surreal (mind control and death rays) to carelessly recycled Nazi propaganda. Hoover's only hope lay in exposing Einstein as a Soviet spy, a task he fruitlessly pursued from 1950 to 1955 (when Einstein died). Einstein—revealed as anything but politically naïve—fought back against this chilling rerun of his experience in Germany 20 years earlier by calling for civil disobedience in resisting McCarthy and the House un-American Activities Committee, the most radical statement by any major figure at the time. Jerome suggests that popular history has been twisted by this encounter. If Hoover utterly failed to limit Einstein's political influence in his lifetime, Jerome argues, he helped depoliticize Einstein's image, reducing his impact on future generations, a process this book should help reverse. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (May)