Leiden University
Einstein's poem
It is well known that Einstein's religious credo was inspired by that of Spinoza. In his book on "Einstein and Religion", Max Jammer writes:
The philosopher whom Einstein admired most was Baruch (later, Benedictus) Spinoza, the seventeenth-century Jewish philosopher, who was excommunicated by the Amsterdam synagogue and declined the Heidelberg professorship in order to live as a lens grinder, leading an independent life dedicated to philosophical reflections.... Einstein was most influenced by Spinoza's thesis of an unrestricted determinism and the belief in the existence of a superior intelligence that reveals itself in the harmony and beauty of nature.
The earliest recorded reference of Einstein to Spinoza is a poem from 1920. We are not used to think of Einstein as a poet, and one may wonder what triggered his poetic expression in that year. Here I offer a speculation, based on an unexpected discovery made during a recent visit to a little house in the village of Rijnsburg, just outside Leiden.

Carlo Beenakker
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House in Rijnsburg, near Leiden.

Spinoza lived here from 1660-1663.

Spinoza's library.

Inspection of the book of visitors.

Einstein signed on 2 November 1920.

Was this when Einstein fell in love with Spinoza?

The photographs of the Spinoza house were made by Dick van der Kroef from NWO, on the occasion of a visit by the recipients of the NWO/Spinoza award.

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