Science Gets Political, Einstein Gets Fired in Nat Geo's 'Genius'

NatGeo's Genius
Albert Einstein's friends and classmates Marcel Grossmann (played by Jon Fletcher) and Michele Besso (Seth Gabel) take young Einstein (Johnny Flynn) for a ride in Episode 3 of National Geographic's "Genius." (Image credit: Dusan Martincek/National Geographic)

Albert Einstein isn't the only scientist fighting for professional recognition in the latest episode of Nat Geo's "Genius." 

In Episode 3 of the scripted drama series, which airs tonight (May 9) at 9 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel, two German physicists squabble over who should receive credit for inventing the X-ray. [Photos: The 'Genius' of Albert Einstein on Nat Geo]

History widely credits the German-Dutch engineer Wilhelm Röntgen with the invention of the X-ray. But he made the Nobel Prize-winning discovery using a cathode ray tube invented by the Hungarian physicist (and Nazi sympathizer) Philipp Lenard, who hopes to reclaim the rights to the discovery in Episode 3. 

Thus begins the first of many disputes Lenard would initiate over other scientists stepping too close to his toes. (Several years later, Lenard would attack Einstein for his "Jewish physics," igniting a whole campaign against Einstein's theory of relativity.)

Michael McElhatton plays Dr. Philipp Lenard and Silvina Buchbauer plays his wife, Katharina Lenard, in National Geographic's "Genius." (Image credit: Dusan Martincek/National Geographic)

While Lenard gets territorial over X-rays, young Einstein attempts to prove himself worthy of a job shortly after earning his diploma. In an unexpected act of sabotage, Einstein's physics professor and mentor, Heinrich Weber, hands out "unfavorable" letters of recommendation to potential employers. 

Poor Einstein just can't seem to catch a break as his pregnant, long-distance girlfriend Mileva Marić grows increasingly impatient with his lack of income. That he still hasn't "put a ring on it" certainly isn't helping the situation, either.  

Making every effort to earn some cash for his new family, Einstein starts tutoring students. But when he strays from a simple algebra lesson to indulge his young students with lessons on the ether, "hypothetical" atoms, quanta of light and other mysteries of the universe, he gets fired from his very first tutoring gig. 

How will Einstein get himself out of this mess? You'll have to stay tuned to find out. (Or, if you're dying to find out and can't wait to watch the whole series, you can pick up a copy of the book "Einstein: His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson, on which the show is based.)

Email Hanneke Weitering at or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.