Of Albert Einstein and Wole Soyinka

Posted by Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth | 19 December 2012 | 4,591 times

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There are some strange developments and coincidences between Germany and Nigeria, particularly as it concerns Albert Einstein and Wole Soyinka one hand and Berlin and Ibadan on the other.

Einstein and Soyinka have both been associated with the unconventional. Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, a Federal Republic and Wole Soyinka was born in Ake, Nigeria, now a Federal Republic. Note that Ulm and Ake are both three letters.

Einstein has been described as the greatest scientist of the 20th century and Wole Soyinka perhaps the world’s greatest living dramatist. Einstein and Soyinka both won the Nobel Prize. They are both associated with social and political causes. Einstein loved sailing and relatedly Soyinka is a self confessed sea dog.

Einstein and Soyinka are both known for composing and playing string instruments. In the case of Einstein it was the violin, whereas Soyinka plays the guitar.

Einstein and Soyinka were at first not successful as married men. They both remarried. Einsten and Soyinka campaigned against lives wasted by the World War I and road accident respectively.

Einstein had a friend, a fellow physicist, Max Planck. Then the recognised head of German science, Planck gave a lift of some sort to Einstein in academic circles. He brought him into the fold of the Berlin Academy. Planck was President of the Kaiser Willem Society (now Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science). Einstein and Planck parted ways.

Soyinka had a friend, the physicist, Muyiwa Awe, first African Professor of Physics on the African continent, first President, Nigerian Institute of Physics, first President of the West African Association of Science and first Secretary General, African Union of Physicists. Awe was a member of the appointment and promotions committee of the University of Ibadan, just before a final decision was to be taken as to the suitability or otherwise of Wole Soyinka for a professorship. Soyinka did not bag the professorship. Awe raised a technical objection to the procedure of the committee. So revealed Awe in the book, Before Our Very Eyes, (Spectrum) a tribute to Wole Soyinka as edited by Dapo Adelugba.


Like Einstein and Planck, Soyinka and Awe parted ways at least spiritually. Soyinka did write in the Guardian newspaper that Awe had a penchant for fouling up relationships.

Planck retired from the University of Berlin and Awe retired from the University of Ibadan. Note that Berlin is the political and cultural capital of Germany and Ibadan is the political capital of the Yoruba Nation, and used to serve as the cultural capital of Nigeria. In Berlin we have the Free University of Berlin, founded in 1948, the University of Ibadan was also founded in 1948.

Einstein went into exile. Similarly, Soyinka went into exile. Einstein slugged it out with the dictator Adolf Hitler and relatedly Soyinka had his battle with the military dictator Sanni Abacha.

There is the Albert Einstein Society, and there is as well the Wole Soyinka Society. Einstein said that imagination is a lot better than knowledge while Soyinka said that imagination is the soul of the spirit. Indeed, what interesting coincidences between these two great men of their generations! 

COINCIDENCES is a weekly column that appears on Wednesdays. The columnist, Augustine Togonu-Bickersteth, is based in England, Britain, but can be reached via e-mail through atogonub@hotmail.co.uk or info@newsexpressngr.com


Source: News Express

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