Albert Einstein is known for being one of the world’s best known geniuses, with a number of well-known accolades throughout his life. His development of the Theory of General Relativity was the basis for modern physics and quantum mechanics, but he also had an extreme influence in the philosophy of science as a theoretical physicist. Winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 and his various discoveries in the field have brought on interest in not just his professional life, but also his personal life.
The Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University had been in the university’s possession for many years, but they weren’t made public until 2006. Einstein had a stepdaughter, Margot, who he raised as his own child after the marriage to her mother, Elsa. Margot left a will that stipulated that the letters in the Einstein Archives could not be revealed until 20 years after her death. She died in 1986, and the Hebrew University stuck to the guidelines of the will before releasing the documents to the public.
These documents gave insight into the life of the man behind the E = mc2 phenomena. Personal letters written to his wife and family have given an all-new interest into the personal life and experiences of Albert Einstein. While the public already was aware of his many eccentricities, many of the letters have divulged all new information that even Einstein biographers weren’t aware of. Check out our list of 15 disturbing things you didn’t know about Einstein, and see a more humanistic view of this world famous genius.
15. Einstein Didn’t Believe In The Concept Of God As We Know It
There has been much debate over what Albert Einstein’s stance was on religion and the concept of God. Since one of the most notable findings for his life’s research was Einstein’s theory of general relativity, it seemed difficult for those to think he could simultaneously believe in two seemingly conflicting ideas. While the theory of relativity deals with the laws of physics and the religious idea of a God deals in faith, it can seem like these are two separate and conflicting ideologies. To give a little more insight into his true ideas behind religion, Profiles in History had an auction in 2015, exhibiting over two dozen personal letters written by Albert Einstein. From his own writings, it’s been discovered that Einstein followed more of the Neil deGrasse Tyson approach to religion. So, the distinction is that he does follow a certain approach to faith, but he admitted that he thought the idea of a Christian God who listens to your prayers and watches over your life is a ridiculous notion.
14. Einstein Did Not Consider Himself An Atheist
With Einstein rejecting the common perception of what God’s role is on Earth, many have falsely labeled him as an atheist. Yet he did not think of himself as an atheist. Some of the personal letters written by Einstein were discovered and put on auction in 2015, and there were some that helped others learn more about what his true feelings were on atheists. In one of the letters he wrote, “You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist.” Another letter written by Einstein stated, “The fanatical atheists are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who – in their grudge against the traditional religion as the ‘opium of the masses’ – cannot hear the music of the spheres.” It is actually a bit disturbing to see that he had such harsh comments for atheists, since he had many of their same beliefs regarding God and His role in our daily lives.
13. Einstein Never Wore Socks
It was no secret that Albert Einstein didn’t put that much effort into his outward appearance. Known for his disheveled hair, even his clothes seemed to be put together with haste rather than forethought. Yet, something that not many knew about Einstein, was the fact that he never wore socks. Writing to his cousin and second wife, letters revealed that he actually took great pride in never wearing socks. In one such letter, he stated, “Even on the most solemn occasions, I got away without wearing socks and hid the lack of civilization in high boots.” This brings up an odd thought of Einstein all dressed up and wearing boots, but without any socks to provide some sort of protection inside his shoe. He gave further insight into this strange life decision in another letter stating, “When I was young, I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in a sock. So I stopped wearing socks.” This isn’t exactly an explanation, since the average mind would just resort to buying new socks. Yet, Einstein didn’t have the average mind, and not wearing socks seemed like the best alternative to this problem.
12. Einstein Was Involved In A Hostage Situation
In 1914, millions were heading off to war and proclaiming their willingness to fight, while Einstein remained a pacifist. He and three of his colleagues in Germany actually signed a statement protesting involvement in World War I, which was documented as a reply to the “Manifesto to the Civilized World.” Germany’s invasion of Belgium was a huge source of contention, and during this tumultuous time a group of radical students took the rector at the University of Berlin. Taking the university and a number of professors hostage, people were worried about the outcome of the situation if the police were to get involved. Instead, Einstein and his colleague Max Born were sent as hostage negotiators and they actually diffused the situation. Years later Einstein actually acknowledged the fact that he was put into a ridiculous situation and didn’t think that there was no possibility of him getting hurt. It’s disturbing to think that such a hostile situation would be presented for Einstein to resolve.
11. Einstein Was Slow To Develop As A Child
With the extent of Einstein’s genius, one would expect him to have started out in life as a child prodigy. Yet, he was actually slow to develop as a child, and didn’t speak until late in his childhood. Even after he developed speech as a child, he was reluctant to speak until he was 7-years-old. Some have speculated that he had a form of autism, specifically Asperger’s syndrome. Many people have the misguided conception that individuals with autism don’t have a high intellect, but oftentimes the opposite is true. There are certain aspects of his life that have caused people to think that this could have been a possibility, since he had a single-minded fixation on the subject of physics and he also had specific requests regarding routine guidelines with his wife. Some have even speculated that his musical talent was another aspect of his possible undiagnosed status of being on the autism spectrum.
10. Einstein Proposed A Platonic Relationship With His Wife
Einstein’s first marriage to his wife, Mileva Marić, lasted for 11 years before they ultimately divorced. While Einstein was thought of as a very charismatic man that had a way with the ladies, that didn’t seem to help his relationship with his first wife. Obviously being a ladies’ man isn’t the best attribute in a husband, but his philandering ways weren’t the biggest hurdles in their relationship. In a released document written by Albert Einstein, he proposed a platonic relationship with his wife for the sake of their children. In it, he gave a list of conditions that would ensure a happy union despite the fact that they would no longer be in a romantic relationship. The conditions include a variety of domestic expectations, including cleaning and laundry. Yet, it was the dynamic regarding their personal relationship that was the most disturbing. One of the conditions states, “You will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way.”
9. Einstein Had An Illegitimate Daughter
Einstein met his first wife, Mileva Marić, as college sweethearts, and carried on a romantic relationship prior to their marriage. After a particularly romantic vacation to Italy in 1901, Mileva Marić became pregnant. Einstein didn’t have the income to marry Mileva Marić or provide for their family, so Marić retreated to her family to have their baby girl, named Lieserl. Although the couple ultimately did marry and went on to have more children, their illegitimate daughter seemed to have been lost in history. Even Einstein biographers were left in the dark regarding his first child, and her existence only came to light after personal letters were revealed to the public. There isn’t any definitive answer to what happened to Lieserl, with some accounts saying that she died of scarlet fever and others speculating she was put up for adoption. With Marić and Einstein marrying not too long after Lieserl’s birth, it’s disturbing to think that the shame of an illegitimate child during those times prevented the couple from raising their daughter in the open.
8. Einstein Could Have Solved More Of The World’s Problems
Some of the most innovative inventions in the world have come from tragic occurrences in history. Einstein and his colleague, Leó Szilárd, recognized this when they heard of a family in Berlin that were killed due to leaked toxic fumes from a faulty seal in their refrigerator. To stop this from happening to any other families, Einstein and Szilárd set out to invent a refrigerator that would help solve the problematic issues that came with the previous model of refrigerators. They came up with three different models and were granted 45 patents to this revolutionary design. New technology eventually made these models unnecessary, but it does open up the question as to what other problems of the world could have been solved if Einstein would have put more energy into his inclination towards inventions. Although his Theory of General Relativity gave insight into some of the deeper questions of the universe, there are countless inventions that could have had real world applications to everyday living here on Earth.
7. Einstein Was An Excessive Smoker
For a man that had a mind that seemed to hold the secrets of the universe, it seems strange that Einstein had such disregard for the importance of his health. After receiving an honorary degree from Princeton University, Einstein developed a relationship with the school and the Princeton Township area. He moved there in 1933, and ultimately spent the rest of his life there. As a resident, he was often seen walking to and from his home and his Princeton office surrounded by a cloud of smoke. Although he favored briar pipes, he was on occasion photographed with a cigar or even a cigarette. In 1950, Einstein was quoted as saying, “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” His pipe smoking was so well ingrained into his public persona that one of his pipes is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. For a man that was so smart in so many other aspects of life, it’s disturbing that he would take part in something so detrimental to his health.
6. Einstein’s Youngest Son Was Diagnosed With Schizophrenia
Although Einstein never had children with his second wife, Elsa, he did have children with his fist wife Mileva Marić. Their youngest son, Eduard, seemed to have a budding future in academics when he was accepted for university studies. However, shortly after first attending, he suffered a nervous breakdown and was admitted to a hospital. He was then diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was a source of contention for Einstein. Einstein had difficulty accepting the fact that his son had challenges with mental illness, and expressed some pretty extreme and disheartening views in his personal letters. On more than one occasion he actually stated that Eduard would have been better off if he were never born. It is disturbing to think that someone could say something like that about their own child, but it’s also surprising that there is such an extreme difference in mental status between father and son. Obviously mental health issues can happen to anyone, but it does give more thought towards the notion that there is a thin line between insanity and genius.
5. Einstein Was Asked To Be The President Of Israel
In 1952, David Ben-Gurion sent a letter to Einstein offering him the presidency of Israel. David Goitein was serving as Minister to their Embassy in Washington, and brought the question of Einstein taking on the highly coveted position. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wanted to extend the invitation and get a response back as to whether or not he would accept the position if he received the vote by the Knesset. To further entice him to take on the position, the letter stated, “complete facility and freedom to pursue your great scientific work [which] would be afforded by a government and people who are fully conscious of the supreme significance of your labors.” Einstein ultimately declined the offer, with a letter stating he lacked, “the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people.” It was definitely a wise decision on Einstein’s part to recognize that despite his intellect, he wasn’t exactly qualified to be the next President of Israel. However, it was a bit disturbing that he was even offered such a position without having the inclination or desire to hold that title.
4. Einstein Loved The Ladies
Einstein’s first marriage to Mileva Marić ended in divorce, and many have speculated it was because of his philandering ways. Linked to various women throughout his marriage, the biggest speculation came from his alleged relationship with his cousin Elsa. Einstein and his first wife ultimately divorced in February of 1919, and he married Elsa less than four months later in June 1919. However, the same adulterous ways popped up throughout his marriage with Elsa, despite the fact that the two never divorced. Letters released by the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem show that Elsa was not only aware of all the affairs he had during their marriage, but he would even talk to her about many of the details involved in his extramarital adventures. Elsa wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear about all the sordid details of his philandering, but the letters showed that she was someone he could turn to when dealing with issues in his personal life. It seems disturbing that he would subject his “beloved” wife to that sort of treatment, but equally disturbing that so many women would be fine with carrying on an affair with a married man.
3. Einstein Had Intimate Relations With A Russian Spy
Hebrew University in Jerusalem released a number of letters written by Einstein where he talks about a number of various women, all with whom he had spent time with while he was married. Some of the women were even said to have purchased gifts for Einstein, and many were identified by name. One of the most interesting was Margarita, who Einstein referred to as his “Russian spy lover.” This is disturbing in itself, since Einstein had a big hand in the scientific developments that led to the creation of the atom bomb. In 1905, Einstein’s proposal which led to the infamous expression E = mc 2 was absolutely instrumental in the creation of the fission bomb. Whether the “Russian spy lover” title was just a pet name or something that actually could have been problematic for the U.S. government, there is no proof of Soviet espionage related to Einstein and his relationship with them. Yet it does make people wonder whether or not he was being used for information or his scientific genius by the Soviets.
2. Einstein Married His Cousin
After the divorce from his first wife, Albert Einstein married Elsa Loewenthal. However, that was not her God-given name, since it was the name she had taken from her first husband. Her God-given last name was actually Einstein, since her mother was the sister of Albert Einstein’s mother. Yet, that wasn’t the only way the two were related, since Albert’s father was also cousins with Elsa’s father. The intermingling of blood lines seems like a definite red flag to most people, since it isn’t exactly normal practice to marry your own family member. Yet neither Albert Einstein nor his wife seemed to be bothered in the least by their new union. Ilse and Margot were the two daughters Elsa had with her first husband, and Albert Einstein raised them as if they were his own children. Elsa and Albert never had children of their own, but were together until Elsa’s death in 1936.
1. Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen After His Death
Einstein had expressed his wishes of wanting to be cremated with his ashes scattered upon his death. In 1955, Einstein suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm which resulted in his death. At the time, Thomas Harvey was the pathologist at Princeton Hospital and was the individual to perform the autopsy. Prior to cremating the body, Harvey removed Einstein’s brain without permission to do so. Upon discovery, Harvey was fired from his position and didn’t return the brain until four decades later. Hoping to unlock the secrets of his genius, Harvey spent the next four decades slicing off portions of the brain and sending them off to be researched. After a number of different studies, there was never anything definitive about the research done on Einstein’s brain samples. Yet it took a huge toll on the family, let alone the fact that it was against Einstein’s wishes. Although the brain (or what was left of it) was ultimately returned, the entire situation was a travesty against the man and against science in general.