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Einstein's Gift A Reading and Discussion of Scientific Ethics

Einstein's Gift A Reading and Discussion of Scientific Ethics

Monday, September 19, 2005

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By


Speakers: Epic Theatre actors, with discussants Frank von Hippel, Daniel Ragussis, Ron Russell, and Peter Steinberg.

Science & the City joins with the Epic Theatre Center to host a special reading and discussion of Einstein's Gift, the new Vern Thiessen play that explores the tragically paradoxical legacies of two brilliant scientists, Fritz Haber and Albert Einstein.

Haber, a German chemist, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1918 for the synthesis of ammonia from its elements, a discovery that was applied to the development of synthetic fertilizers. Haber also put his genius to work for the German military at the beginning of World War I and became known as the father of modern chemical warfare. Likewise, Einstein, a pacifist, inadvertently contributed to the development of the atomic bomb by discussing his fears with Roosevelt that an enemy might develop such a weapon.

Following a staged reading of several of the play's crucial scenes, with Shawn Elliott as Einstein and Aasif Mandvi as Haber, a panel discussion will address the themes of scientific ownership, ethics, and social responsibility.


Frank von Hippel is codirector of the Science & Global Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson School for International Affairs at Princeton University. His areas of policy research include nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, energy, and checks and balances in policy making for technology. Dr. von Hippel worked for 10 years in the field of elementary-particle theoretical physics and has written extensively on the technical basis for nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament initiatives, the future of nuclear energy, and improved automobile fuel economy. From 1993–1994, he served as assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Ron Russell is the founding artistic director of Epic Theatre Centre and director of Einstein's Gift. He holds a BA in neuroscience and an MFA in directing. From 1996–2001, Mr. Russell administered one of the nation's most in-depth programs for introducing New York City public school students to Shakespeare, serving over 25,000 students during his tenure. His classroom experience includes over 50 educational sites, and his work as an educator and education administrator in NYC has been recognized by citations from the Municipal Arts Society and Mayor Bloomberg.

Daniel Ragussis, a filmmaker and recent graduate of the Columbia University MFA program, is writer/director of HABER, a new film about the life and career of Fritz Haber to be screened in the spring of 2006.

Peter Steinberg is a physicist in the chemistry department at Brookhaven National Labortory. He is project manager of the PHOBOS experiement at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and has gained renown as a Quantum Diaries blogger celebrating the World Year of Physics.