Memorials to Gandhi, Einstein share a surprising common bond

Einstein memorial

Einstein memorial. Photo: Menachem Wecker

With January temperatures predicted to be considerably colder than the District’s relatively warm December, two residents are clinging unabashedly to summer footwear. Outside the National Academy of Sciences on Constitution Avenue between 21st and 23rd streets, Robert Berks’s sculpture depicts Albert Einstein seated and sandal-clad, holding a book. A mile and a half up 21st Street, in the park circumscribed by Massachusetts Avenue and Q Street, Gautam Pal’s Mahatma Gandhi statue — a gift from India’s government installed beside its embassy — wears the same footgear as he strides forward with a walking stick.

Gandhi’s sandals, which along with his eyeglasses and staff were among the few possessions the man famous for living the simple life left behind after his assassination in 1948, are to be expected in the statue memorializing him, which was dedicated in 2000. Although Gandhi wore “proper Anglicized footwear” as a teenager, he opted, after his South African civil disobedience campaign, for “customary Indian dress.” That included sandals or meant walking barefoot, notes Dennis Dalton, Barnard College professor emeritus and author of “Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action.” Gandhi’s “extraordinary effectiveness came from a determination to achieve consistency between personal and political realms in all aspects of his behavior,” Dalton says.

Einstein’s clothing is considerably less iconic — and political — than Gandhi’s…

Read more of my Washington Post article “Memorials to Gandhi, Einstein share a surprising common bond.”

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