clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Einstein's advice to Marie Curie on dealing with trolls: "Don't read that hogwash"

Trolls are not a new problem.

Way back in 1911, in fact, Albert Einstein was giving Marie Curie advice on how to deal with them, as astrobiologist David Grinspoon recently discovered in a huge trove of new Einstein letters put online this week.

einstein letter

(The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein)

At the time, Curie was putting up with a lot of ridiculous criticism. Despite winning a Nobel Prize for her pioneering work on radioactivity, in January 1911, her bid for a seat in the French Academy of Sciences had been rejected, likely in part because she was a woman and atheist, and perhaps also due to rumors that she was Jewish — a problem in an anti-Semitic, Dreyfuss affair-era France.

And what Einstein's referring to in this letter is that soon after that, news came out that Curie, a widow, was having an affair with a physicist named Paul Langevin. He was married, but estranged from his wife — but critics said that Curie had tarnished the name of her deceased husband Pierre Curie.

In response to all this, Einstein praised Curie's work, and offered some time-tested advice for dealing with trolls. He preferred the evocative term "reptiles," but his succinct advice from a century ago still holds true today: "don't read that hogwash."

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.