As a Dutch translator of Poe’s work and member of the international Poe Studies Association (PSA) I read your articles about the uncertain future Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. In order to strengthen your arguments, I want to bring to your attention certain facts about Poe that are usually unknown or ignored in the USA. Please read the following points:
- There is a rather large difference in the appreciation and admiration for Poe in the USA and in Europe. In the USA the attention goes to his horrific and grotesque stories, while in Europe there has always been much interest for Poe’s more philosophical end scientific work.
- As a ‘philosopher of nature’ Poe was was in complete disagreement with the scientific views of his day, that were based on the celestial laws and mechanics of Newton, the so-called ‘clockwork universe’. In such a mathematically determined and ‘closed’ universe, there is no room for human freedom end responsibility, because we are no more than cogs in the universal machine that runs on time and gravity. It is therefore that pendulum and clock are deadly and fatal symbols in Poe’s work.
- It was only towards the end of his life that Poe was able to solve the riddle of the universe, by designing a completely new and revolutionary view on the universe, based on the ideas that time cannot be absolute, and that gravity cannot be a fundamental force of nature. This new universe was described in Poe’s greatest work ‘Eureka’, and published the year before he died. At that time Poe’s ideas were in total contradiction of all scientific and religious beliefs, so ‘Eureka’ could not be understood by anyone, so as a consequence it was ridiculed and soon forgotten in the USA.
- However, in Europe things went differently. ‘Eureka’ was regarded as a highly visionary piece by a great master, and although nobody could understand Poe’s scientific ideas about the universe, time and gravity, it was translated by Baudelaire into French and published in 1859 in a cultural Swiss magazine ‘Revue Mondial’ that was read all over Europe.
- After the ‘Great War’ had shattered all old beliefs, the world was ripe for a revolution in science as well. During the ‘Roaring Twenties’ all scientific foundations were renewed, quantum physics was born and several European scientists were inspired by Poe’s vision on the universe, like the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann, the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaitre and the American astronomer Edwin Hubble. Together they created the greatest revolution in science ever, the theory of the Big Bang and the dynamic universe, but the origin of that theory goes back to Poe, a fact that cannot be disputed but that is still unknown to most. Please read this article from the New York Times.
- So Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greatest and most important inspirers and founders of modern science, a fact for which he has never received recognition and credits, certainly not in the USA! I hope that these arguments may help you to get more recognition for the absolute importance of the Poe House and Museum! It would be a crime against human history if this house was closed and neglected.
- But it does not end here, because a similar idea that gravity cannot be a fundamental force of nature, is now making headlines in theoretical physics. It seems that modern physics has finally reached a point that was already discovered by Poe 160 years ago!
These are a few facts about the unknown side of Poe, and they are indisputable. If you want, I can provide you with much more material, so I hope that you will pay attention to this in your publications. Also the USA should know how great Poe really was!
René van Slooten
René van Slooten is a leading ‘Poe researcher’, who theorizes that Poe’s final treatise, ‘Eureka’, a response to the philosophical and religious questions of his time, was a forerunner to Einstein’s theory of relativity. He was born in 1944 in The Netherlands. He studied chemical engineering and science history and worked in the food industry in Europe, Africa and Asia.The past years he works in the production of bio-fuels from organic waste materials, especially in developing countries. His interest in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Eureka’ started in 1982, when he found an antiquarian edition and read the scientific and philosophical ideas that were unheard of in 1848. He became a member of the international ‘Edgar Allan Poe Studies Association’ and his first article about ‘Eureka’ appeared in 1986 in a major Dutch magazine. Since then he published numerous articles, essays and letters on Poe and ‘Eureka’ in Dutch magazines and newspapers, but also in the international magazines ‘Nature’, ‘NewScientist’ and TIME. He published the first Dutch ‘Eureka’ translation (2003) and presented two papers on ‘Eureka’ at the international Poe conferences in Baltimore (2002) and Philadelphia (2010). His main interest in ‘Eureka’ is its history and acceptance in Europe and its influence on philosophy and science during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.