Friday, March 09, 2007
Einstein on John Calvin- A funny story out of his correspondence
"One day I received in the Patent Office in Bern a large envelope out of which there came a sheet of distinguished paper. On it, in picturesque type (I even believe it was Latin) was printed something that seemed to me impersonal and of little interest. So right away it went into the official wastepaper basket. Later, I learned that it was an invitation to the Calvin festivities and was also an announcement that I was to receive an honorary doctorate from the Geneva University. Evidently the people at the university interpreted my silence correctly and turned to my friend and student Lucien Chavan, who came from Geneva but was living in Bern. He persuaded me to go to Geneva because it was practically unavoidable—but he did not elaborate further.
So I traveled there on the appointed day and, in the evening in the restaurant of the inn where we were staying, met some Zurich professors. … Each of them now told in what capacity he was there. As I remained silent I was asked that question and had to confess that I had not the slightest idea. However, the others knew all about it and let me in on the secret. The next day I was supposed to march in the academic procession. But I had with me only my straw hat and my everyday suit. My proposal that I stay away was categorically rejected, and the festivities turned out to be quite funny so far as my participation was concerned.
The celebration ended with the most opulent banquet that I have ever attended in all my life. So I said to a Genevan patrician who sat next to me, "Do you know what Calvin would have done if he were still here?" When he said no and asked what I thought, I said, "He would have erected a large pyre and had us all burned because of sinful gluttony." The man uttered not another word, and with this ends my recollection of that memorable celebration".