Einstein was offered post of Travancore varsity Vice-Chancellor

January 03, 2012 01:32 am | Updated July 25, 2016 06:17 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram:

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Decades before India made a name for itself in the field of education, the tiny princely State of Travancore aimed high in higher education and even made an unsuccessful bid to enlist the services of great physicist Albert Einstein as Vice-Chancellor of its fledgling university for a monthly pay of Rs. 6,000.

The Nobel prize winning scientist, considered the founder of modern physics and one who developed the theory of general relativity, politely declined the invitation saying he wanted to join Princeton University in the United States.

Set up in 1937, Travancore University was renamed University of Kerala later, and is planning year-long celebrations to mark its Platinum Jubilee this year.

According to the late historian, Prof. A Sreedhara Menon, who authored a comprehensive history of the university, seeking Einstein's service for the State was the idea of the then Diwan (Prime Minister) of Travancore Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar.

Mr. Aiyar was a shrewd administrator and multi-faceted scholar who kept abreast of contemporary developments, including those concerning modern science.

Citing records of the local people's council, Mr. Menon said Sir C.P. advised the reigning prince, Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, the last Maharaja of Travancore, to invite Einstein to decorate the prestigious academic post.

Sir C.P. thought the prestige and status of the university would get elevated if a great scientist like Einstein agreed to head it. According to writer and historian M.G. Sashibhushan, Sir C.P. had tried to bring not only Einstein but many famous personalities from various academic disciplines as faculty of the university.

“I have heard people talking of Sir C.P.'s public announcement about the proposal first at the Sree Chitra State Council. But as far as I know, unfortunately, the copy of the letter sent to Einstein is yet to be traced,” Mr. Sashibhushan told PTI.

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