A young Einstein at work in a Swiss patent office. A young Einstein at work in a Swiss patent office. A young Einstein at work in a Swiss patent office. (Photo: Dusan Matincek / National Geographic)

'Genius: Chapter Four' episode recap – Scientists discover Einstein

Did you miss the fourth episode of the NatGeo series about Albert Einstein? Catch up here with this 'Genius' instant recap.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

'Genius: Chapter Four' / National Geographic Channel
Original airdate: 5.16.17 / Written by Noah Pink / Directed by Kevin Hooks

Episode grade: 4 out of 5 stars

NatGeo just aired the fourth episode of their "Genius" series produced by Academy Award winners Ron Howard and Brian Grazer about the life of Albert Einstein. (If you're just catching up now, read our recap of the first episode, the second episode and the third episode for all the details.)

This week's episode begins where last week's ended, with Einstein toiling away at the patent office in Bern, Switzerland. The year is 1905.

Instead of simply approving or rejecting patents as he's supposed to do, Einstein takes it upon himself to test the science of each patent request, often spending weeks reviewing just one application. It's a habit his time-sensitive manager is quick to quash. "Your job is not to make it better," his manager tells him. "You also have a wife and a new baby at home, yes? If I were you, I wouldn't be so cavalier about the position that pays to support them."

In what little spare time he has, Einstein works on a paper about light waves, but nobody in the scientific community is taking him seriously. He's distraught and depressed. "I want my ideas to be heard, to be acknowledged, to be recognized. But who would publish the work of a third-class patent clerk?"

Samantha Colley portrays Mileva Maric and Johnny Flynn plays Albert Einstein the series.Samantha Colley portrays Mileva Maric and Johnny Flynn plays Albert Einstein in the series. (Photo: Dusan Matincek/National Geographic)

His wife, Mileva, tries to talk him off the ledge. "You can either wait for those dinosaurs to give you permission to engage in the scientific world or you can show them that your ideas cannot be snuffed out by those with a lack of imagination."

Mileva, herself a student of physics, offers to help her husband with the research and to proofread his papers. They work through the night, burning the midnight oil. Sleep deprived, they pour a cup of coffee. And then it hits them: "The more sugar I add, the thicker the coffee becomes," Albert tells Mileva. In theory, he surmises, this could prove the existence of molecules.


Once again, the scientific community ignores Einstein's findings. "I've been toiling in obscurity for 10 hours a day, six days a week, for the past two years. I want to wake up in the morning to pursue my passions, instead of being confronted with the constant sense of dread that I'm wasting my life."

Albert convinces the patent office to hire his close friend Michele Besso as a second mechanical engineer to work under him. That will, in turn, free up some of Einstein's time so he can pursue his own research.

Albert Einstein (right) welcomes the help of his friend Michele Besso (left).Albert Einstein (right) welcomes the help of his friend Michele Besso (left). (Photo: Dusan Matincek/National Geographic)

On the home front, Einstein's mother moves in to help Albert and Mileva with their new baby, Hans. Not surprisingly, there's conflict between Einstein's mom and his wife. Mileva spends her days helping Albert do research, while his mother thinks Mileva's time would be better spent attending to household chores.

"MIleva, darling, if there's one thing my Albert doesn't need help with, it's his science," she says. "But with the rest of his life, he's quite hopeless. Lucky for him, he has a wife."

The mother even pays Einstein a visit at the patent office to address her concerns. "Your wife abandons her boy for hours on end. She refuses to be taught how to cook and she leaves all the cleaning to me. Now, is that fair?"

Einstein is torn between these two relationships. "When my mother and Mileva are not lunging at each other's throats, they take turns at mine," he tells his friend Besso. He delves deeper into his research, but still without the recognition he so desires. "Here I am with three published papers, and nothing to show for it."

One night, while playing with a toy train with his son , Einstein experiences an aha moment. "I completely solved the problem." He runs into work the next day to explain his findings to Besso.

"Close your eyes," Einstein tells him. "Pretend you're overlooking a train track. Imagine a train, racing past, faster than any train you've ever seen. Now I want you to imagine as the train is flying past, two lightning bolts crashing beyond the tracks at the same time, 100 meters apart. Now imagine that you're standing in the middle of the train during the exact same scenario: would the lightning bolts be simultaneous? Not if light moves at one speed."

For the scene showing Einstein and Besso in front of a speeding train, the producers used a green screen.For the scene showing Einstein and Besso in front of a speeding train, the producers used a green screen as a backdrop. (Photo: Dusan Matincek/National Geographic)

He tells Besso that the lightning bolts don't seem simultaneous because he was moving from one bolt towards the other. "Time is not absolute! The faster we move through space, the slower we move through time. It's a redefinition of the universe." The episode truly comes alive when we see Einstein in these moments of scientific discovery, as opposed to the soap opera love triangle that has mired previous episodes.

Einstein explains his new theory of relativity to Mileva – and then asks her to proofread it. When the paper is published, Einstein thanks Besso in the acknowledgements. Mileva, who helped with much of the research, is not mentioned at all. She's heartbroken.

Einstein (left) thanks Besso (right), while ignoring Maric.Einstein (left) thanks Besso (right), while ignoring Maric. (Photo: Dusan Matincek/National Geographic)

This is in stark contrast to the working relationship between Pierre and Marie Curie. Throughout this episode, the action flashes over to their laboratory in Paris where the husband-and-wife duo are discovering radium and radioactivity. In 1903, Pierre is offered the Nobel Prize for their work. "Will my wife be given the prize as well?" he asks. "Madame Curie and I are partners." He insists on not accepting the honor unless it's also given to his wife. His stance works. Marie would become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

Back to Einstein, in the episode's final scene, an agent from the prestigious Prussian Academy in Berlin comes to visit Einstein in the patent office. He's been reading all the research Einstein's been working on. "You've accomplished more in one year, than most scientists do in a lifetime. We would like to help you further your career."

He asks Einstein if he's working on anything new. Einstein hands him a piece of paper with the equation "E=MC2" on it. "Herr Einstein," he says, "this is genius."

In the episode's final scene, Einstein shows his soon-to-be famous equation to an interested scientist.In the episode's final scene, Einstein shows his soon-to-be-famous equation to an interested scientist. (Photo: Dusan Matincek/National Geographic)

Episode's best cameo: We see Einstein smoking his iconic pipe for the first time.

Want more Einstein? Check out our treasure trove of stories related to the beloved genius.


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Related Topics: Albert Einstein, 'Genius' episode recap, TV

'Genius: Chapter Four' episode recap – Scientists discover Einstein
Catch up on the fourth episode of NatGeo's Genius and find out what happened when Einstein finally gets noticed. Here's your weekly recap.