A conversation about Finlay Freundlich

These notes were made by EFR following conversations with Lilo Leyendecker.


Freundlich's brother advertised in Biebrich for a housekeeper to help look after Freundlich's home in St Andrews, Scotland. Lilo got the job and came to the Britain in 1953. She was met by an organisation which arranged for young au pair girls to get to their employers safely. She was put on a train in London which was going to Leuchars, and she was met there by Freundlich. He took her to his St Andrews house in Lawhead Road, just a little further out of the town than the University Observatory where he worked. By that time Freundlich's two children were married and had left home. Renate was living in Glasgow and by this time she had children of her own. Hans was living in Hull, and had one child.

Mrs Freundlich was a very fussy person. She complained a lot in the shops that things were not to her satisfaction. This meant that she was disliked around the town. The only shop that seemed to please her was the butcher's shop where she said that the owner was nice to her because, although he had money, he wanted to improve his social status and he saw being friendly to a professor's wife as a step in the right direction.

Freundlich loved children. Both he and his wife regretted that they had none of their own. He would be very happy when friends or colleagues brought their children to his house. He made a fuss of small children, bouncing them on his knee. He always tried to explain to them the wonders of the world around them, and he tried to convey his own love of Nature to children.

Werner Heisenberg was a frequent visitor to the house during 1953-54. He gave lectures at the university when he visited St Andrews. Sometimes he came to Freundlich's house for lunch, sometimes for dinner. He was a very good conversationalist and told entertaining stories. One story involved the time when he was interned in Britain after World War II. When he arrived at the internment camp the commander of the camp mistook him for a German general which amused Heisenberg greatly.

Freundlich often spoke of his friend Einstein, but by 1953 he had lost touch with him, something which he rather regretted. Einstein used to visit Freundlich's house in Potsdam in Germany. After they had eaten dinner one evening Einstein and Freundlich used the table cloth to write mathematics on. This greatly annoyed Mrs Freundlich who was cross that her best table cloth was ruined. Freundlich was a cellist and when in Potsdam he would often play music with Einstein who played the violin. He brought his cello to St Andrews and he would play it with friends during his early years in the town, but by 1953 he didn't really play anymore although his cello still stood in the house.

After Freundlich came to St Andrews he sometimes went to London to act as an interpreter for Einstein, who did not speak English very well at that time, when he came to meetings. On one occasion Einstein, after listening to a speaker at a meeting, said, "That man is someone who can speak English well - I can understand what he says". The man in question spoke English with a very heavy German accent!

Renate and Hans, the children of his wife's sister who they adopted after her death, were brought up to be bilingual. Even after they left home, Freundlich and his wife would write to them in German and they would write letters back in English.

One of Freundlich's students became a White Father, a Roman Catholic missionary priest. He told Lilo what a superb lecturer Freundlich was, always lecturing without notes, so this student had the impression that he knew absolutely everything. However Freundlich said that although he lectured without notes, he always worked on each of his lectures before he gave it, carefully working out exactly what he would say before each lecture.

Freundlich's brother was an architect and designed the house in Wiesbaden for Freundlich and his wife to live in after he retired. Even in 1954 when Lilo was in St Andrews, Freundlich was planning the building of the house in Wiesbaden for his retirement. He did live in it for a few years before his death and during this time he worked at the University of Mainz. After he died he was cremated and his ashes were brought back to Glasgow by Renate and scattered in the Jewish cemetery there.


JOC/EFR August 2003

The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/Freundlich.html