When you don’t know what you’re talking about…

Another funny Albert Einstein story


I recently attended the Centenary Zelman Cowen Lecture presented by Prof. Richard Susskind at Victoria University, here in Melbourne. He began his presentation by relating a story about the great Albert Einstein and the trouble you may get into when you talk about subjects you know little about.

Einstein had published his history-making theories and was on a lecture tour of England. They had arranged a car and chauffeur to take him to each of his lectures.

One day the chauffeur said to him:

“I have listened to your lecture so many times, I believe I could deliver it in your place.”

The idea intrigued Einstein, partly because he was partial to a practical joke and partly because he was growing tired of saying the same thing, day in day out. So one evening when he wasn’t lecturing he asked the chauffeur to deliver the lecture to him in the privacy of his lounge room. To his credit, the chauffeur was quite accurate and after a few more sessions together, he was word perfect.

They decided that the following week they would “switch” places.

While Einstein’ s fame was growing throughout Europe, very few people knew what he actually looked like. The chauffeur feigned a German accent and was immediately accepted by the excited hosts.

The chauffeur delivered the “perfect” presentation and when he concluded, graciously accepted the applause from the audience.

And then came question time.

The first question came from an elderly academic who was not convinced by these “new age” theories. His question while technical, was carefully structured and sought to “”trip up” the German scientist.

In response the chauffeur hesitated at first, but then said:

“Thank you for your question. It is a good question and I am glad you asked it. While the issues you raise appear complex, on closer examination they are pretty straightforward. In fact, the question is so simple and easy that I will invite my chauffeur to answer it.”

And then he pointed to Einstein, who was sitting amused at the back of the auditorium.