A BIO HISTORY OF RENÉ ALBERT
(THE WORLD'S ONLY SURREALIST SCIENTIST)
daniel hudon

1891 February 19
            René-Albert Beauregard is born in Montpelier, France, five years to the day before fellow surrealist Andre Breton (before Breton later changed his birthdate to February 18, for personal and astrological reasons). His father, Philippe, is a train engineer and his mother, Celeste, a cabaret singer.

1895 – 1907 Attends school in Montpelier. Attracts attention in arithmetic for advocating a search for the true meaning of “x”, rather than simply its value for the problem in question.  Begins studying physics because, as he later put it, “it’s good for the beauty of my soul.” Writes The Radiation of Desire, the first surrealist-scientific poem on blackboard in honor of Marie Curie’s winning of the Nobel Prize in 1903.

1907 – 1911 Moves to Paris to study physics more seriously.

1911 Death of mother due to drowning.

1912 Meets André Breton at a Parisian café and begins lifelong friendship.

1917 Completes paper, On walking through brick walls and submits it to the Annalen der Physik, the prestigious German research journal, where he argues that one can simply stand in front of the wall and wait for the atoms to move out of the way, bearing in mind that one may have to wait longer than the (unknown) age of the universe for this to occur. The editor of the journal returns the paper with the words “Interesting but inconsequential,” scrawled across the top. R.-A.B. pins the paper to his refrigerator with a heart-shaped magnet and adopts “Interesting but inconsequential” as his personal motto.

1921 In March, does his part to popularize Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by composing a score to be performed by cello, trumpet, children’s choir and bowling ball. In September, drops hyphen and surname in honor of “the father of relativity, curved spacetime and other sensations.”

1923 Travels to Vienna for the 3rd Solvay Conference of Theoretical Physics but he presents no paper, shakes no hands, speaks to no one and opts out of the group photo.

1925 Follows up De Broglie’s idea that matter can behave as waves by proposing that colours behave as sounds, but makes no concrete predictions.

1925 A year after the publication of Breton’s first Manifesto of Surrealism, and with an obvious nod to Isaac Newton, R.A. writes monograph, The Nature and Philosophy of the Mathematical Principles of Surrealistic Mechanics, with its three primary laws:
            1. Virgins in motion carry the secrets of love.
            2. Daggers of blood drip ominously.
            3. Half-awakened thoughts at twilight are the most sublime.

1926 Acknowledges Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in a footnote of an otherwise punctuationless 77-page paper titled, Spacetime and the Enigma of the Absolute.

1928 Two years after Neils Bohr and Heisenberg consolidate the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics in the Copenhagen Interpretation, R.A. describes the death of determinism as “an abstract murder whose blood is common sense,” and holds a funeral for it. (Attendance unknown.)

1929 Publishes This is Not a Particle, Nor is it a Wave, and it’s Not a Worn-Out Pair of Boots Either.

1930 Commissions The Particle-Wave Duality, a portrait by Man Ray, featuring Einstein’s hair and Erwin Schrodinger’s glasses.

1931 At Au Chat Noir in the Quartier Latin, applauds Wolfgang Pauli’s prediction of the neutrino (thought to have little mass and no charge, and therefore to interact sparingly with matter, if at all) with an impromptu recitation, later dubbed The Physics of Reluctance.

1932 Meets André Breton at Au Chat Noir, where they draft The Anti-Facts about Anti-Matter.

1933 Flies to London six years before the invention of the jet engine. The Brits refuse to acknowledge his feat because he was not cleared for landing.

1933 Withdraws The Quantum and its Discontents, to be presented at the annual meeting of the Royal Society in London and during his allotted time juggles two coffee mugs and a saucer instead. In lieu of questions, receives stunned silence.

1933 Passes Einstein on the street in Berlin and doesn’t stop to say hello. Einstein leaves Germany for good a month later.

1934 Invents a mirror that allows one to see the back of one’s head.

1935 Experiments with collapsing his own wave function to resolve the possibility of being many places at once.

1935 While no one is looking, R.A. opens the box and feeds Schrodinger’s cat.

1936 In response to Einstein’s latest sally against quantum theory, in which Einstein and collaborators Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen argue that the Copenhagen Interpretation eliminates objective reality and must therefore be considered incomplete, R.A. publishes The Relativity of Reality, a ten-page poem in iambic pentameter. In “The R of R” (as it came to be known), R.A. advocates interpreting quantum mechanics macroscopically and upsets the entire population of Romania by asserting that because he’s never observed the country or its people, neither exist.

1936 After meeting René Magritte, writes On the Thermodynamics of Burning Rocks and the Anti-Gravity of Floating Boulders.

1937 – 1939 Experiments with darkness.

1939 Contributes Sex lives, dreams and quiet anxieties of virtual particle-antiparticle pairs in empty space to Cahiers d’Espace, edited by Marcel Zeno, whose wife Yvonne will become an intimate and resourceful friend.

1939 Flees the war and moves to New York City, USA.

1946 Writes Quantum Manifests of Truth, where he argues that truth is diffracted through the lens of the senses where it interferes with itself to create an interference pattern of fringe possibilities. He concludes, “The whole truth is a superposition of possibilities.”

1948 Publishes The Eternal Dreams of Partial Differential Equations, illustrated by Alberto Giacometti.

1950 Acknowledges the act of renormalization of quantum electrodynamics, developed independently by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Shinchiro Tomonaga, that claims to “remove unwanted infinities” from the equations. Pledges to recycle the infinities.

1952 Moves back to Paris. Begins not-so-clandestine meetings with Yvonne Zeno.

1955 Death of Einstein in Princeton, NJ.

1956 With an umbrella, R.A. goes for a long walk into the Parisian night and fails to return.

1959 Discovery of the neutrino.

1962 Yvonne Zeno publishes notes from R.A.’s final notebook in which he correctly predicts that the true mysteries of quantum mechanics will soon be unfolding.

1982 Alain Aspect in France performs experiments that show measurements performed in one location of a system instantaneously affects the state of the system in other locations, no matter the distance, possibly contradicting Einstein’s theory of special relativity. From her deathbed, Yvonne Zeno sends him a copy of R.A.’s “The R of R”.



Daniel Hudon, originally from Canada, teaches natural science at Boston University. He is a big fan of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino and René Magritte as well as the universe on its largest scales. He has had recent work appear in The Wilderness House Literary Review, The Cream City Review, Clarion and The Antigonish Review. A new chapbook of his prose and poetry, Evidence for Rainfall, was just published by Pen and Anvil Press and a nonfiction book, The Bluffer’s Guide to the Cosmos, was published in 2009 by Oval Books (UK). He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. His writing links can be found at people.bu.edu/hudon.