Albert Einstein’s contribution to science and society is huge. A revolutionary genius. A stuck in the mud holding paradigm shifting science back. A political meddler. His influence continues today and in one area it repulses me. He has become the archetype mad scientist. Crazy hair, thick glasses, foreign accent and lab coat – even though two of those are untrue. If you get a kid to draw a picture of a scientist they will mostly likely draw a mad scientist. I’ve lost track of how many schools I’ve visited having a science day were kids and staff alike are dressed as mad scientists or characters from TV’s The Big Bang Theory. I’m the only normal looking person in the room.
But we’re not like this. The mad scientist stereotype is harmful to the profession. Scientists become both a social joke and elite superhumans at the same time. So why are we propagating this when we want to enthuse the pupils in the subject?