Sixty-two years after his death, Albert Einstein continues to occupy an extraordinary position of prestige. His discoveries and contributions to science are taught at every level of education. The equation e=mc2 is simple enough to fit on a T-shirt, but the four papers Einstein published in 1905 were so groundbreaking, they’re collectively known as the Annus Mirabilis (“Extraordinary year”) papers. Now, a new television series from National Geographic will examine his personal and professional life through its 10-episode first season. The show, “Genius,” will explore other great minds in additional seasons, but Nat Geo isn’t disclosing who the second season will focus on just yet.
The new show is based on Walter Isaacson’s book Einstein: His Life and Universe, which flashes back and forth in time throughout Einstein’s life to capture key moments or stories that shaped his career. According to the The New York Times, the story opens in 1922, when Einstein was living in Berlin, with flashbacks to the 1890s when Einstein was a student and just beginning to flesh out his theories. USA Today notes that the TV show focuses on issues in Einstein’s life that aren’t as well-known as his famous research, including that he was a serial womanizer who failed his university entrance exams. (This last bit may be responsible for the urban legend that Einstein was a practically a half-witted moron while in primary school. His grade performance was erratic, but his intellect was not in question.)
The older Einstein is played by Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, Pirates of the Caribbean) while the younger is played by Johnny Flynn. Mr. Flynn is, and I swear to God I’m not making this up, best known for a British TV series originally known as Scrotal Recall, later renamed to Lovesick for some strange reason.
Early review of the series have been positive, with the Times noting that it shows us two distinctly different Einsteins, struggling at very different points in their career, with an overall presentation that catches the viewer’s eye and makes them “want to travel along.”
Einstein’s theories, of course, continue to guide our research into physics decades after the scientist’s death. It’s only been in the last few years that we’ve managed to confirm the existence of gravitational waves — a prediction Einstein made over a century ago. Exploring the life of one of the most extraordinary physicists who ever lived seems a fitting way to acknowledge his contributions to history, now that we’ve confirmed one of his major theoretical predictions.
For more, read PCMag’s Fast Forward: Ron Howard on Einstein’s Genius, the Future of Filmmaking