The National Academy of Sciences, which last April raised a statue here to Albert Einstein, is taking what a spokesman calls "a million dollar bath" for its efforts.
The slouching and much-criticized statue of the scientist was unusally expensive. It cost $1.66 million, of which more than $1 million went to the sculptor, Long Island's Robert Berks.
A national campaign, begun almost a year ago and designed to raise money from scientists, businessmen and other fans of Einstein, has not even come close to its goal. So the Academy has been stuck with the cost of the loan for the three-times-life-size bronze that sits on its front lawn.
"I think that we may have to eat it," said Academy President Dr. Philip Handler of the sum that his institution has so far failed to collect.
Though he will continue to solicit contributions, Handler has acknowledged that he is "not optimistic."
He said that many corporations have turned down his requests because of press reports questioning the value of the monument.
When Berks' project was announced last November it met with mixed reactions. Two Washington museums, at least one local gallery and the Washington Project for the Arts wrote Handler that they thought Berks' ponderous," "pitifully misconceived" or "a monstrosity." Berks subsequently told Science magazine that he blamed the wave of criticism on The Washington Post's unfavorable articles. A Post review called the statue "gross as well as trite."
Berks is well known here for both his "bubble gum style" and his local public monuments to both John and Robert Kennedy and to Mary McLeod Bethune.
Berks, 57, met Einstein only once in 1953. The Academy's huge statue -- if Einstein were to stand he would be 21 feet tall -- is based on a small model made at that one sitting. Berks' million-dollar bill included $667,760 for staff, equipment, and materials; he also received a $350,000 fee.
Sculptor Berks already has been paid. "My fee was due on delivery," he said yesterday. "We had an agreement, and they lived up to every bit of it." Blaming the failure of the Academy's campaign on "adverse publicity," he said that "the press frightened off contributors. But people can still donate. The public loves the sculpture. It has turned out to be one of the great things in Washington."
When the project was announced, the Academy formed a committee of "noted public figures" to help raise funds. Some 150,000 letters were sent out seeking contributions.
Though chartered by the government, the Academy is a private institution with an endowment of approximately $20 million. Before the statue was erected the Academy borrowed about $1 million from a local bank for the project. An Academy spokesman said yesterday, "We'll dip into the endowment when that loan must be repaid."
The bronze Albert Einstein is seated on a bench, a book upon his knee, at 22nd Street and Constitution Avenue, beside the Mall. The statue was dedicated in April on the 100th anniversary of the scientist's birth.