10 Things Everyone Should Know About the Amazing Albert Einstein
When hearing the word “genius,” one name that may automatically come to mind is that of the late and great Albert Einstein. The German-born theoretical physicist offered the world the theory of general relativity, which continues to reign as one of the most monumental landmarks in science. General relativity was only one of Einstein’s many esteemed accomplishments, and the physicist’s history is rich with pivotal moments, surprising idiosyncrasies, and a plethora of stories that aren’t oft discussed in history and science classes. Let’s take a look at 10 things you absolutely need to know about the amazing Albert Einstein.
He Was Slow To Speech, But Excelled In School
A wide-held belief that has given hope to those who hold a subpar GPA is that Einstein did terribly in school. Unfortunately for those who have gleaned inspiration from this, Einstein’s failing grades are actually a myth. According to The New York Times, uncovered records prove that the iconic physicist, “…was a child prodigy, conversant in college physics before he was 11 years old, a ‘brilliant’ violin player who got high marks in Latin and Greek. But his inability to master French was the bane of his school days, and may have been chiefly responsible for his failing college entrance examinations.” At least those who are receiving poor marks in their French classes still have a good argument. Despite his scholastic success, Einstein’s parents worried about his development during his early years. According to Time, language didn’t come quickly to Einstein. In fact, he was so slow to speech that a doctor was consulted to ensure there were no developmental issues. It wasn’t until later that it was realized his staggered development toward verbal speech was actually part of what may have inspired his genius. “His slow verbal development made him curious about ordinary things — such as space and time — that most adults take for granted. His father gave him a compass at age five, and he puzzled over the nature of a magnetic field for the rest of his life. And he tended to think in pictures rather than words.” It’s always the quiet ones…
He Didn’t Keep Any Of His Nobel Prize Money
In 1896, Einstein bonded with fellow student, Mileva Maric, while attending Zurich Polytechnic school. Although it was an all-boys school, Maric’s scientific acumen allowed her enrollment. She and Einstein bonded over their love for science and became friends. While studying abroad in Germany, Maric and Einstein kept in touch and he urged her to return, suggesting that distance truly was successful in making the heart grow fonder. Their platonic relationship turned romantic when she returned, which proved to be distracting to Maric’s studies. While Einstein’s college career took off and led to his graduation, Maric began failing courses and became unexpectedly pregnant with Einstein’s child. There is little known about the child’s fate, but it is believed that she died from scarlet fever.
Einstein and Maric went on to marry in Bern, Switzerland, in 1903. They had two sons: Hans Albert in 1904, and Eduard in 1910. During their marriage, Einstein embedded himself in work and studies, and it is believed that Maric assisted him with some of his most notable works, although the specifics remain unclear. Their marriage became strained and eventually completely dismantled, leading to Maric taking leaving with her children and Einstein subsequently asking for a divorce in 1916. Among the reasons for their divorce were Einstein’s infidelity (more on that in a bit), as well as some peculiar ground rules that were set during their marriage. According to Huffington Post, Einstein “…gave her a set of rules to follow. Included on the list was that she had to serve three meals day, to stop talking if he asked her to, and to expect no intimacy from him.”
One stipulation of their divorce was that Maric receive any monetary reward should Einstein receive a Nobel Prize. Lo and behold, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. The perplexing part of this story is not only the stipulation that Einstein relinquish his Nobel Prize winnings to Maric, but that “He left the money to Maric in 1919 (in a notarized document, no less),” which may indicate that Maric did, in fact, have a part in the documents that garnered Einstein the award.
He Married His Cousin
It wasn’t long after Einstein’s divorce to Maric that he became romantically involved with Elsa Einstein. Yes, “Einstein” was her maiden name and it wasn’t a coincidence. The two were distant cousins who knew each other growing up. They had also become “romantically involved” before Einstein’s divorce and eventually married in 1919 (I guess the heart wants what it wants? Or something?). Whereas Einstein’s love affair with his work may have been part of what fractured his relationship with Maric, Elsa “was an invaluable aide and trusted companion to her famous physicist husband.” She was at Einstein’s side when he fell ill in 1917, and her caregiving kept his illness from ending his life. Elsa stayed with Einstein until her death in 1936, when she fell ill from heart and liver problems.
Although the aforementioned may seem the quintessential fairytale romance — minus the love affair’s extramarital roots and the whole being related thing — Einstein’s penchant for other women offers an unseemly underbelly to this couple’s history. In fact, Elsa wasn’t Einstein’s first choice as a second bride. Elsa had two daughters from a previous marriage: Ilse and Margot. Einstein originally considered courting Ilse, who was 18 years his junior. Fortunately, Ilse wasn’t attracted to her uncle. She “…loved him as a father, and she had the good sense not to get involved. But it was Albert’s Woody Allen moment.” Although Einstein and Elsa never divorced, the physicist cheated on his second wife frequently. He had an affair with his secretary, Betty Neuman, and there are a series of uncovered letters where Einstein recalled several other women he had been involved with during his second marriage. One letter was sent to his stepdaughter, Margot, and he described a couple of the women who had been part of his philandering. “It is true that M. followed me (to England) and her chasing after me is getting out of control,” he wrote. “Out of all the dames, I am in fact attached only to Mrs. L., who is absolutely harmless and decent.”
The Face of Yoda From Star Wars Was Modeled After Einstein’s Face
I officially am giving you a free point if you take this quiz on How-To Geek. The iconic little Jedi Master known as Yoda from Star Wars was not modeled after Eleanor Roosevelt, Steven Spielberg, Sr., or Pat Morita. The makeup artists behind Yoda’s creation apparently felt “the force” would be strongest if Luke Skywalker’s galactic trainer contained some of Einstein’s aesthetic. “When famed makeup artist Stuart Freeborn sat down to build Yoda he used his own face as the base of the mask but stylized Yoda based off the face of Albert Einstein–Freeborn would later explain in interviews that the thing about Einstein that most influenced the design of Yoda’s face was Einstein’s sad and thoughtful eyes.” If you’re failing to see the physical similarities, check out the Pinterest board dedicated entirely to Einstein and Yoda, and you’ll see that the resemblance is uncanny.
He Didn’t Wear Socks…Ever
This is interesting. As mentioned, Einstein was a big fan of the ladies, so it may have been of benefit to them to have one extra drawer to vacate with their feminine belongings and whatnots. The drawer I’m talking about is a sock drawer. Apparently Einstein never wore socks, regardless of the occasion or temperature. Did his feet ever get cold? There’s not much evidence to say whether or not this lack of sock led to any discomfort, but apparently Einstein was more than content to leave his sock drawer completely vacant — he even refused to wear socks to a formal White House dinner. Then again, judging by the famed physicist’s notoriously disheveled appearance, others’ opinions on his attire and accessories — or lack thereof — was of little concern. Einstein’s distaste for socks was spurred by his feeling that they “were a pain because they would often get holes in them.” Fair enough.
Einstein described his hatred of socks in a letter to Margot, which was one of 1400 he donated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (remember the other letter where he told Margot about cheating on Elsa? Yup, that was in there too). He wrote, “Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots.” Along with confirmation of his vitriol toward socks, the letters also dispelled some rumors that Einstein was an unloving father who neglected his children. “People perceive Einstein as an irresponsible, even cruel father,” stated university physicist, Hanoch Gutfreund. “But letters from his sons and to Elsa show him in a more compassionate light. He describes his sons with great warmth and pride, and is concerned for their financial well-being.”
He Never Won A Nobel Prize For His Theory Of General Relativity
Of all Einstein’s monumental achievement, one that is currently regarded with the most acclaim is his theory of general relativity, which was published in 1916. In a nutshell, the theory of general relativity “…explains that what we perceive as the force of gravity in fact arises from the curvature of space and time.” Einstein worked arduously for years on his theory. He received countless nominations from the Nobel Institute, but each time he was met with criticism which led to his being passed over for the award time and time again. When his marriage to Maric dissolved, the stipulation in their divorce settlement that demanded monetary gain from the Nobel Institute be given to Maric for support of her and their sons made Einstein’s win all the more critical. Still, he was never awarded a Nobel Prize for his theory of general relativity. Why was this?
According to The Guardian, many of the snubs Einstein received may have had to do with fallout from World War I. “Antisemitism was on the rise in Germany; Jews were being scapegoated for the country’s defeat in the war. As both Jew and pacifist, Einstein was an obvious target. The complexity of relativity did not help either. Opponents such as Ernst Gehrcke and Philipp Lenard found it easy to cast doubt upon its labyrinthine mathematics.” Debates raged within the Nobel Committee up until 1921, when Carl Wilhelm Oseen decided the group could compromise to award the genius with a much-deserved Nobel Prize. The caveat, here, was that Einstein would not receive the award for his theory on relativity. “He would be given it for his explanation of the photoelectric effect, a phenomenon in which electrons are emitted from a metal sheet only under certain illuminations. The work had been published back in 1905.”
He Had A Terrible Memory
If you feel like you have a bad memory or suffer the occasional bout of brain fog, take solace in the fact that one of the greatest genius’s in history was also known for his terrible ability to remember things. According to Facts ’n’ Myths, Einstein’s memory was so bad, “he could not remember dates and phone numbers, in fact he even didn’t knew what his own phone number was.” However, his memory was not to blame for Einstein failing his first college entrance exam at the age of 16. The reason for that failure was more due to a lack of studying and a common teenage need to challenge authority. According to Dyslexia Online, Einstein’s father was encouraging him to enter college with pursuits in a technological occupation, which Einstein was not interested in. He almost purposefully failed the exam as a way to avoid going into a field that he had no passion for. Another myth that has been quashed is that Einstein suffered from dyslexia. His bad memory had nothing to do with the learning disability, as biographers have disproven any claims that Einstein was dyslexic.
E = mc2 May Have Been Inspired By Another Scientist
E = mc2 was the pivotal equation laid out in Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It means that, “…energy is equal to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.” The equation is practically synonymous with the name Einstein, but the origins of the landmark equation may be inspired by Austrian physicist Fritz Hasenohrl, who sadly perished in the First World War before Einstein’s theory of relativity found acclaim. In 1904, Hasenohrl wrote down the equation E = 3/8mc2, which may have been a prerequisite to Einstein’s equation. According to Stephen Bough of Haverford College in Pennsylvania, during his heyday as a physicist, “Hasenöhrl…and others suggested that there must be an inertial mass associated with electromagnetic energy, even though they may have disagreed on the constant of proportionality…Hasenöhrl approached the problem by asking whether a black body emitting radiation changes in mass when it is moving relative to the observer. He calculated that the motion adds a mass of 3/8c2 times the radiant energy. The following year he corrected this to 3/4c2.”
There were flaws in Hasenohrl’s calculation, but his work still arguably paved the way for the pivotal success that was the theory of general relativity. Had Hasenohrl’s life not been cut short, there’s no telling what kind of headway he would have made in the world of physics. The question remains: was Einstein aware of Hasenohrl’s work? And, if so, did he use it as a starting block for his theory of general relativity. According to Tony Rothmans of Princeton University, “I can’t prove it, but I am reasonably certain that Einstein must have done, and just decided to do it better.”
He Was A Civil Rights Activist
A staunch anti-war activist, Einstein was also famously opposed to the segregation that took place in America in 1946, and he spent the last 20 years of his life as an influential civil rights activist. According to LiveScience, “Einstein was keenly aware of the similarities between American segregation and the treatment of Jews in Germany” after moving to the United States. Even before moving to America, Einstein supported in 1931, “…to defend the Scottboro Boys, nine Alabama teenagers who were falsely accused of rape.” Another notable achievement included Einstein’s 1946 speech at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he called racism “a disease of white people.” He also worked with American singer and actor, Paul Robeson, in 1951 for an anit-lynching campaign and was a staunch supporter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1946, Einstein published a polarizing essay titled “The Negro Question” for Pageant magazine. One excerpt from the essay reads:
“There is, however, a somber point in the social outlook of Americans. Their sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins. Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious; but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the “Whites” toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out…
Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.”
Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen By The Pathologist Who Performed His Autopsy
When Einstein passed away in Princeton Hospital on April 18, 1955, pathologist Thomas Harvey was called to perform his autopsy. Apparently Harvey was the worst possible choice for this task, as he took a sort of “mad scientist” turn by stealing Einstein’s brain. Other than this act being decidedly morbid, pathological (no pun intended), and just all out creepy, it also completely denounced the wishes of Einstein and his family, which were to “…cremate [his remains], and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters.” Proving himself to be quite the idolater, Harvey made off with the brain and fled to Philadelphia after discovery of his pilfering led to his termination at Princeton Hospital. This is where things get really weird. In his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum, author Brian Burrell described Harvey’s maniacal obsession with the brain, along with dissections and attempted research:
“After [Harvey’s] wife threatened to dispose of the brain, he returned to retrieve it and took it with him to the Midwest. For a time he worked as a medical supervisor in a biological testing lab in Wichita, Kansas, keeping the brain in a cider box stashed under a beer cooler. He moved again, to Weston, Missouri, and practiced medicine while trying to study the brain in his spare time, only to lose his medical license in 1988 after failing a three-day competency exam. He then relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, took an assembly-line job in a plastic-extrusion factory, moved into a second-floor apartment next to a gas station, and befriended a neighbor, the beat poet William Burroughs. The two men routinely met for drinks on Burroughs’s front porch. Harvey would tell stories about the brain, about cutting off chunks to send to researchers around the world. Burroughs, in turn, would boast to visitors that he could have a piece of Einstein any time he wanted.”
Being that Einstein’s son gave permission to Harvey to keep the brain with the “…stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science,” Harvey did end up publishing several studies on Einstein’s brain. Unfortunately, the results of the studies were as bunk as Harvey himself.