Born in Germany in 1879, Albert Einstein is largely known to be the 20th century’s most influential physicist. Even if you don’t know what it means, you’ve heard of the equation E=mc^2. Even though Einstein was a brainiac, it doesn’t mean he lived a boring life. In fact, those who knew Einstein called him absent-minded, fun-loving, and a little quirky.
Read on to learn all about the secret life that Einstein had outside of the classroom, including his illegitimate children, numerous affairs, and learning disabilities.
Did you now that the FBI spied on Einstein?
Almost The President Of Israel
After the first President of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, died in 1952, the Israeli government officially offered Einstein the position. Even though Einstein was incredibly honored, he quickly declined the offer.
Einstein wrote a letter in response to the offer that said that because he’s always dealt with ‘objective matters” he would “lack both the natural aptitude and the experience” to deal with people. Basically, Einstein knew himself well enough to know he’s not a people person.
He Was Slow To Talk
Despite growing up to be one of the brightest scientists, his family and doctors believed him to be rather slow as a child. Einstein did not even begin to speak until the age of three. Once he did start speaking, he would repeat every sentence to himself under his breath.
Dr. Thomas Sowell used this instance to coin the term “Einstein Syndrome” which is used when exceptionally bright people have delayed speech.
A Strange Contract Kept His Marriage Alive
After Einstein married Mileva, they lived happily until academic success and world travel pulled them apart. Rather than divorce at first, Einstein proposed a contract to keep them living together.
Clauses in the contract included that Mileva had to keep Einstein’s clothes, laundry, bedroom, and study clean. She was also required to renounce all “personal relations” with him and stop talking to him if he “requests it.” In return, he’d treat her like a normal human.
He Married His Cousin
After getting divorced from Mileva, Einstein decided to pursue his cousin Elsa. Actually, before he married her, he tried to marry her daughter Ilse. Ilse was 18 years younger than Einstein and was not attracted to him, so Elsa didn’t allow it.
Instead, Elsa married Einstein in 1919 and became the woman he always wanted Mileva to be. Elsa cared for Einstein and expected little in return. Still, it wouldn’t be enough for Einstein.
Quite A Ladies’ Man
Despite finally having a woman who cared for him without expecting much in return, Einstein quite honestly just couldn’t keep it in his pants. He quickly cheated on Elsa with his secretary, Betty Neumann.
That wasn’t enough though and a new batch of letters showed that Einstein had at least six extramarital affairs. Some of the women described in the letters include Estella, Ethel, Toni, and his “Russian spy lover” Margarita.
Coming up: Einstein’s illegitimate child
His Brain Was Stolen After His Death
After Einstein’s death in 1955, his family intended to have him buried in a traditional way. The Princeton Hospital doctor who performed the autopsy saw it as an opportunity to study Einstein’s brain.
The doctor, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, removed the brain, took it home, and kept it in a jar for years. Various scientists studied the brain over the years and eventually it was reunited with Einstein’s granddaughter in 1998.
His Eyes Are Somewhere In New York City
The same physician who stole Einstein’s brain also took his eyes with him. While the physician kept the brain, he gifted the eyeballs to Einstein’s eye doctor, Henry Abrams.
Abrams must have been a bit squeamish because he didn’t want to test the eyeballs or keep them in his own home. Instead, he locked the eyeballs up immediately into a safe deposit box that is still in a New York City bank today. Every once in a while the eyes are rumored to go up for auction but they never do.
No, He Didn’t Flunk Out Of Math Class
One of the most pertinent rumors about Einstein is that as a child, he failed math class because he didn’t want to pay attention. The truth is, he scored high grades all throughout grade school. In fact, he was constantly at the top of his class.
Einstein’s problem was that he thought the teachers were too “mechanical” for his liking. In reality, Einstein had mastered differential and integral calculus by the time he was 15 and he was entirely self-taught.
He Was A High School Dropout
Even though Einstein was at the top of his class, he was still a high school dropout, but not for the reasons you might think. The future physicist left high school at age 15 in order to immigrate out of Germany. He wanted to avoid the state-mandated military service in order to keep up his studies.
The rest of his family didn’t want to leave Germany, so Einstein moved to Switzerland on his own.
But He Did Fail His University Entrance Exam
Even though Einstein was secretly an incredible student, he still failed his university entrance exam. Einstein was only 16 years old when he applied to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic school. The school focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, so it should have been easy for Einstein to get into.
Still, he failed the general questions on the exam. Thankfully, he passed the sections on physics and math with flying colors.
Einstein Hated His Oldest Son
While Einstein and his eldest son, Hans Albert, got along fine in their early years, it turned sour. Hans blamed Einstein for leaving his mother penniless. That’s enough to tear a family apart in today’s standard, but Einstein also hated Hans’ wife.
Einstein said that Hans’ bride was an “unattractive” and “scheming woman” who was preying on his son. At one point he even begged Hans not to have a child with her so that divorce would be easier in the long-run.
He had another child…
No One Knows What Happened To His Illegitimate Child
Personal letters from Einstein’s collection were discovered in the 1980s and it proved that he had an illegitimate child. In 1902, a year before he married Mileva Marić, she gave birth to a daughter named Lieserl.
From the letters, it shows that Lieserl was put up for adoption after being born. While the letters don’t explain where the child went, it’s believed that she died roughly one year later from illness. Other than that, she’s a mystery.
No Socks, No Service
Einstein was known for his quirky looks with his disheveled hair and silly faces, but many don’t know that he rarely wore socks. To Einstein, socks were a burden because not only were they uncomfortable and itchy, but they would often get holes in them.
Instead, Einstein would usually wear either boat shoes, dress shoes without socks, and his personal favorite, fuzzy slippers. Just imagine walking into his office to see a pair of bright pink fuzzy slippers.
He Had A Terrible Memory
Even though he gave us one of the most memorable scientific equations in history, Einstein had a terrible memory himself. He often struggled to remember names, dates, and phone numbers.
This is one of the reasons why Einstein hired a secretary upon moving to America. Not only did he struggle with the English language, but he figured having someone to do all of the remembering for him would be a better use of his time.
Next: why the FBI spied on him
The FBI Spied On Him For Decades
Even though Einstein was openly anti-Nazi and left Germany to move to America, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI still spied on him for years. Einstein was a known pacifist who supported civil rights and left-wing causes. Even though Hoover didn’t think he was a Nazi spy, they suspected he might have Communist sympathies.
Nothing came of the decades-long investigation but by the time Einstein died, his FBI file was a whopping 1,800 pages.
His Teachers Hated Him
It didn’t matter how successful Einstein was in math or physics in the classroom, his teachers all still hated him. Many of them thought he talked back too much, was rebellious, and was absent-minded. Einstein also frequently skipped class and disrespect his professors.
As a result, none of his teachers recommended him for employment. That’s why it took Einstein nearly nine years to find a job after graduating from university.
A Solar Eclipse Helped Prove His Theory
Einstein published his groundbreaking theory of general relativity in 1915, but it would take more than four years for people to actually believe it. Mind you, there was a world war going on so that ate up some time. Still, in May of 1919, a solar eclipse helped prove Einstein’s point.
His theory argued that mass and gravity could distort the fabric of space and time. After the solar eclipse, people saw how the light curved thanks to the sun’s gravity.
A Secret Love For The Violin
Even though Einstein was always drawn to math, his mother, Pauline, was a lifelong musician. She was an accomplished pianist and wanted her son to love music too, so she enrolled Einstein in violin lessons.
At first, Einstein hated practicing music, but that all change when he was 13 years old and heard Mozart for the first time. He started back up with violin lessons and played until the final years of his life.
Einstein Took “Sink Or Swim” To Heart
One of Einstein’s other passions was sailing. Even though he wasn’t very good at it, he owned multiple boats and would often take them out on the lakes or oceans on Long Island. His neighbors often had to help him with his boat though, because he capsized it so much.
This habit was pretty dangerous because Einstein never actually learned how to swim. Instead, he faithfully wore a lifejacket and always kept someone else close by.
A Compass Was His Greatest Inspiration
Einstein was five years old when his father showed him a small tool that would change his life. He was sick in bed when his father gave him a pocket compass to entertain and pass the time.
Einstein was immediately fascinated by the fact that whichever way he turned the compass, the needle would turn as well. At first, he believed there must be some strange force. After holding the compass, he wanted to learn more about how natural forces work.
He Didn’t Actually Build The Atomic Bomb
One common rumor is that Einstein helped create the atomic bomb. In reality, he didn’t lift a finger, he just urged President Franklin F. Roosevelt to start doing the research. In the late 1930s, Einstein learned that the Germans had begun researching atomic energy and he knew that if the United States were to compete in a war, they would need the bomb first.
He later said that even though he didn’t participate in the Manhattan Project, he had deep regrets about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
A Lifelong, And Very Proud, Smoker
One of Einsteins dirtier habits was his love of tobacco. He smoked a pipe all his life and in 1950, Einstein was even offered a lifetime membership to the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club. He said that smoking gave him “calm and objective judgment.”
Keep in mind, all of this happened long before anyone realized the negative effects of tobacco. Who is to say whether Einstein, with a rational brain like his, would smoke if he was alive today.
He Has Quite A Few Inventions Up His Sleeve
While he might be best known for his theories, Einstein is also credited with coming up with the ideas behind quite a few famous inventions. He is credited as the co-inventor of a type of refrigerator that is powered with compressed gases.
He’s also considered the brains behind many common scientific inventions we know today such as photoelectric cells, fiber optics, lasers, semiconductors and, of course, nuclear power. It seems like he was a pretty busy guy.
A Teaching Style Practically Unheard Of
After years of unemployment in Academia, he finally landed his first teaching job at the age of 30 in 1909. Einstein began teaching at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and wowed his students with his unique teaching style.
Einstein used cards instead of paper to write his notes on and improvised often. He also allowed his students to interrupt him with questions or arguments. This type of teaching style was practically unheard of at the time.
1905 Was His Miracle Year
Many fans of Einstein refer to 1905 as his “miracle year” because of all that he accomplished. In one year, he published four papers that many feel represents his most creative work. The topics of the papers included Quantum theory, Brownian motion (which is basically just the existence of atoms), electrodynamics, and the E=mc^2 equation.
This was his most accomplished year and it didn’t come when he was in academia, but rather when he was a 26-year-old working in a patent office.
There Was A Chance He Could Have Lived Longer
On April 17, 1955, Einstein suffered a burst blood vessel that began to bleed internally. He has previously gotten surgery on the blood vessel but after his second hospitalization, he refused any further surgeries.
At the hospital, Einstein says that he will go on his own terms and that it was “tasteless to prolong life artificially.” No one knows what Einstein’s last words were though, because they were spoken in German and the attending nurse only spoke English.
Time Named Him The Person Of The Century
On December 31, 1999, Time Magazine named Einstein the Person of the Century. While the title is enough of an honor, it’s even more impressive when you compare him to who he was up against.
Other nominees for Person of the Century included Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Mohandas Gandhi. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that Einstein represented how one individual can impact the entire world.
Undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome
Doctors and scientists who have studied Einstein’s biography and personal letters believe that he may have had undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. People who suffer with the syndrome are often very emotionally detached from their peers and have almost no empathy for others.
Considering the fact that Einstein was a self-proclaimed loner who didn’t like interacting or dealing with people (just take a look at his relationships), the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome makes a lot of sense.
The Nobel Prize Wasn’t Even For The Theory Of Relativity
Even though his famous equation E=mc^2 changed science as we know it and was the biggest leap forward in physics since Isaac Newton, Einstein never received a Nobel Prize for it.
Instead, his winnings came from his “services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” That’s because the Theory of Relativity was seen to be just a theory and not a scientific explanation.
He Promised His Nobel Prize Winnings To His Wife
When Einstein was drafting up the divorce papers for his first wife Mileva, he wagered the winnings from a Nobel Prize. While it would be two more years until he won the award, he was confident he would win.
The only problem was that Mileva never saw much of the prize winnings because Einstein stipulated that the money actually went to his sons. Mileva only received interest on the money which was next to nothing at the time.
The Last Place He Saw His Son Was In An Asylum
Einstein had a second son by his first wife Mileva named Eduard. A good student throughout his upbringing, Eduard began studying medicine to become a psychiatrist. However, at 20 years old he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was later institutionalized.
After a serious breakdown, Eduard told his father that he hated him. It was around this time that Einstein moved to the U.S. and never physically saw his son Eduard again.
Einstein Was Born With A Huge Head
Considering how valuable his brain turned out to be, it’s no wonder that Albert Einstein was born with such a large head. In fact, his head was so big when he was born that it was misshapen. At first, Einstein’s mother Pauline thought he was deformed.
Physicians had to convince her that her baby was fine and luckily, Einstein grew into his big head within a couple weeks. He was meant to be brainy from the start.
His Brain Really Was Different Than Most
After his death, researches who had the honor of studying Einstein’s brain discovered that it actually was built differently than the average human’s. They found that Einstein’s parietal lobe was 15 percent larger than the average human’s.
The parietal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for visuospatial cognition, imagery of movement, and mathematical thought. Surprisingly though, his brain was a lot lighter than the average person’s as well.
He’s Hardly Set Foot In A Laboratory
Albert Einstein may be a purveyor of modern physics and the philosophy of science, but he’s hardly ever been in a lab. You would think that a scientist who has achieved his echelon of stature would have spent a significant amount of time in a laboratory conducting experiments, as scientists do.
But of course, Einstein was different. A majority of his genius was either cultivated directly in his head or on paper at his own desk.
He Was Building Things At A Young Age
Growing up, Albert Einstein had obviously shown the people around him his growing intelligence. His sister Maja has reportedly talked about Einstein’s affinity for puzzles and building complex structures out of his toy blocks.
She even claimed that Einstein once erected a tower of playing cards that was 14 stories high! We don’t know about you, but most of us can barely build a house of cards taller than two stories, let alone 14.
Einstein Never Drove
As much as he was a genius, even Einstein could admit when he couldn’t do something. The scientist was never caught driving and allegedly never even bothered to get a license. Instead, Einstein preferred walking or riding a bike if he needed to get somewhere faster.
Many people guess that this refusal to drive was a result of his supposed undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, but back then driving wasn’t as necessary as it is today.
There’s An Element Named In His Honor
Chemistry students all over the world often groan having to memorize the periodic table of elements, but there’s one that shouldn’t be too hard to remember. Einsteinium was discovered shortly after Albert Einstein died in 1955.
With the atomic number 99, Einsteinium is a member of the actinide series and was discovered from the debris of the first hydrogen bomb explosion in 1952. It appears as a soft, silvery, para-magnetic metal.
He Called For An End To Atomic Bombs
Though he had previously written to President Roosevelt urging for atomic weapons in the wake of the rising Nazism, he later went back on those statements after the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Einstein believed that the bombings on Japan were unjustified. He once said, “I did not, in fact, foresee that [atomic energy] would be released in my time. I believed only that it was theoretically possible… through the accidental discovery of chain reaction, and this was not something I could have predicted.”
No, He Is Not A Lefty
People who use their left hand as their dominant hand are often thought to be geniuses, or at least have a higher IQ than the average person. For this reason, Albert Einstein was widely believed to be one of those people when in fact, he wasn’t.
Albert Einstein is often separated from the masses, but one thing he has in common with a lot of us is that he wrote with his right hand.
His Interest In Science Came From A Family Friend
Though Albert Einstein was naturally inquisitive from a young age, it isn’t to say that he was edged along by outside influences in his life. Einstein grew up in a Jewish family. They had a family friend named Max Talmud, who was a medical student at the time.
Talmud would often show an adolescent Einstein all of his science books, including a series called People’s Books on Natural Sciences. Einstein was intrigued by the way they contradicted religious teachings.