Even from a young age, almost everyone learns about the genius Albert Einstein and his contributions to modern science. What they *don’t* teach you in Einstein 101 is what he was like as a person, what happened in his private life, and how this eccentric scientist grew into the cultural icon that he is today. Here, we’ve compiled 20 of the lesser-known facts about Einstein, most of which have nothing to do with his career or professional contributions – **some of these will definitely surprise you.**Which is befitting of a man who probably had the brainpower of at least ten people.
Einstein rarely spoke as a child, and when he did, he spoke very slowly. This went on until he was nine years old. It was only then that his parents, who were convinced he had some kind of disability, could breathe a sigh of relief.
In a series of letters released by Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Einstein wrote about six women with whom he spent time and from whom he received gifts while being married to his wife. Some of the women identified by name, such as Estella and Toni. Others are only referred to with initials like “M” and “L.” Perhaps most interesting is Margarita, who Einstein refers to as his “Russian spy lover.”
Despite a lifetime spent devoted to science, Einstein believed in a power larger than himself. In fact, he once declared the following: “A spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort.”
Here’s how the story goes: When little Albert was just five years old, his father gave him a compass. Einstein couldn’t believe his eyes, and demanded to know how the compass worked. The question stuck with him for years, and was one of the things that drove him to study science.
Einstein had a knack for music, and he could have become a professional violinist. “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician,” Einstein once said. “I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.”
Einstein had a weird relationship with his first wife Mileva. Eventually, he came up with a contract for Mileva, which he claimed was the only way they could continue living together. The title of the contract was “Conditions” and stated the following: A. You will make sure 1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order; 2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room; 3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only. B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons… Yikes.
Einstein spoke frequently of the importance of creativity in the powerful mind. Here is one of his more popular quotes on the subject: “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Einstein’s oldest son was named Hans Albert, and he spent years angry with his father for not taking financial responsibility for his mother after Einstein divorced her. Einstein also didn’t approve of Hans’ wife. In the end, Einstein didn’t leave much of his estate to his estranged son.
After Einstein’s death, Hans Albert Einstein let scientists send pieces of his father’s brain around the world for observation. As a result, Marian Diamond of UC Berkeley, discovered that compared to a normal person, Einstein had significantly more glial cells in the region of the brain that is responsible for synthesizing information.
A man named Thomas Harvey was the first to take home Einstein’s brain in a jar. In the nineties, Harvey went with freelance writer Michael Paterniti on a cross-country trip to California to meet Einstein’s granddaughter. They drove to California with Einstein’s brain in the trunk.
Though he described himself as a pacifist, Einstein was actually partially responsible for Roosevelt’s Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb – He urged the president to do it. Unfortunately government officials felt that Einstein was a security risk, so they didn’t consult him for the project.
Einstein loved to sail, but he was terrible at it. In fact, his neighbors in Long Island often had to rescue him after he capsized his boat.
They were called “Gedankenexperiment,” or “thought experiments. When he was just 16 years old, he tried to picture in his mind what it would be like to ride alongside a light beam. He found himself asking the same question over and over again: If you manage to go at the same speed as light, wouldn’t the light look stationary to you? From there, he spent next ten years wresting with this idea. The end result? The theory of relativity.
Einstein’s second wife Elsa was actually his cousin.
Before Mileva Maric became Einstein’s wife, she was his student. They had an inappropriate relationship that resulted in the birth of a daughter. The girl was sent away, and when the couple got married, they didn’t bring her back or speak about it.
President of Israel Chaim Weizmann died on November 9, 1952. Afterwards, Einstein was asked to replace him. Einstein politely refused.
After suffering a burst blood vessel, doctors suggested that Einstein have surgery. Einstein refused, saying “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially.”
Albert Einstein applied for early admission into the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School. He passed the math and science sections of the entrance exam (obviously), but failed the rest, including history, languages, geography. He retook the test and was admitted one year later.
Einstein was a member of the NAACP in Princeton, New Jersey. He also corresponded frequently with W.E.B. Dubois, the founder of the NAACP, and was once quoted as calling racism a “disease.”