Monday, February 28, 2011

San Pedro Real Estate Agent Claims Albert Einstein Stole His Theory; Sues in Federal Court

In February 1931, San Pedro real estate agent Ira D. Edwards sued renowned physicist Albert Einstein in United States District Court. Edwards charged that Einstein pilfered the complex "Unified Field Theory" from Edwards' booklet entitled "The Why and Wherefore of Things" published and copyrighted in November 1929.

Albert Einstein speaking, ca. 1940
Library of Congress photo

Edwards asked the court to grant an injunction forbidding Einstein from using the unified field theory. He also wanted Einstein subpoenaed to answer the charges, and "such further relief as the court may see fit and full costs of the action."

Einstein's research associate Dr. Walther Mayer swiftly ridiculed the suit as "simply one of those annoying things that people are subjected to at times."

Professor Einstein was lecturing on the unified field theory at the Mt. Wilson Laboratories at this time, and was in fact residing at his bungalow in Pasadena when first told of Edwards' lawsuit. Einstein  remarked that "I never heard the name before," and in his formal reponse to the suit noted while his lectures were based on mathematics, Edwards' work was not. 

Stories about this lawsuit appeared in newspapers around the country.  Even Time magazine mentioned it.

Ira D. Edwards was well-known in the San Pedro business and real estate community.  As World War I was drawing to a close in 1918, Edwards, as president of the Community Association of San Pedro, worked to promote the development of the local harbor areas of his hometown, Wilmington, and Long Beach.  He was particularly interested in developing new housing for shipyard workers.

Edwards' San Pedro friends said that while they knew Edwards as a resourceful real estate dealer who had "been heard to expound ideas about the universe which they were not able to grasp," they had not read his book.

Unfortunately for San Pedro's real estate guru and would-be theoretical physicist, however, Federal judge William Cosgrave agreed with Einstein and quickly dismissed Edwards' lawsuit for copyright infringement in March 1931.

More on the unified field theory here:

Sources: Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, Billings Gazette (Montana), Bakersfield Californian, New Castle News (Pennsylvania), Nevada State Journal, Zanesville Signal (Ohio)

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