Having died over 6 decades ago, Albert Einstein remains one of the most influential scientists of our era. Aside from introducing the theory of relativity and mass-energy equivalence, he made great contributions to a variety of scientific fields, including statistical and quantum mechanics, and received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his explanations of the photoelectric effect. He was known for his quirky character and his name became synonymous with “genius”, but the full scope of his interests and oddities is not widely known. In this article, we will cover 10 interesting facts that you may not know about this great physicist.
1. Albert Einstein was once offered to be the President of Israel.
Being commonly regarded as having the capacity to be a great ruler, Einstein received a letter from the Embassy of Israel in 1952 asking on behalf of the Prime Minister whether he would accept the position of the President of Israel with the complete liberty to continue his scientific work. Despite it being a largely ceremonial role, Einstein replied that he was not fit for the job, as he rarely worked with people and did not possess the skills of a politician.
2. Einstein helped invent a “green” refrigerator, among other things.
Not only did Einstein contribute to the invention of many common items that we use today, but he was also an inventor himself, and some of his abandoned ideas such as the Einstein refrigerator might make a comeback in the future. Starting from the mid-1920s, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard, his co-author of the letter to Roosevelt developed technologies that would combat the risks posed by coolants like freon to people and households. In 1926, they developed a unit that used safer fluids and was much safer, more energy-efficient, and extremely long-lasting.
3. Albert Einstein was a champion of civil rights in America.
In addition to advocating the end of militarism, Einstein was also an outspoken critic of racism against African Americans. During his visit to the US in 1931, he defended the Scottsboro Boys wrongly accused of rape. After moving there in 1933, he extensively used his fame to push for equality and justice by writing essays, giving speeches, joining the NAACP, and defending civil rights activists against attacks from the government. This was in part why the FBI kept a close eye on him, considering him to be a possible communist.
4. His travel diaries from the early 1920s did not age well, to put it lightly.
First published in 2018, Einstein’s accounts of his travels in Asia in 1922 were in stark contrast to his later activism mentioned above. In particular, his descriptions of the Chinese sparked controversy for being filled with racist rhetoric, such as calling them “filthy” and “obtuse” or fearing the possibility of them “supplanting other races”. He then also stated that the people of Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) “do little, need little” and questioned the “intellectual needs” of the Japanese.
5. The fate of Albert Einstein’s daughter remains a mystery.
Unlike his two other children, one of whom went on to be a professor of hydraulic engineering and the other institutionalized with schizophrenia, not much is known about Einstein’s first child, who he referred to as Lieserl. Her personality attracted attention due to a “letter” which she allegedly received from him and which was later found to be a fake. Lieserl was born in 1902 to his then-girlfriend and classmate Mileva Marić, but the only thing that was found about her in his writing is that she had scarlet fever at the age of 1.
6. Einstein’s second wife was both his first and second cousin.
This may sound complicated, but so were seemingly all of Einstein’s love affairs. Numerous letters reveal that his romantic interests and commitments overlapped with one another throughout his whole life. One relationship stands out, however – in 1912, 7 years prior to his divorce with Marić, he began an affair with the daughter of his mother’s sister and his father’s first cousin, Elsa Löwenthal (nee Einstein). He had numerous affairs in this second marriage as well, which included one with a Russian spy Margarita Kolenkova, and it is generally regarded to have been a “marriage of convenience”.
7. Lina, the violin, was Albert Einstein’s greatest love.
At the same time, Einstein also had an “affair” of a different kind – that with Lina, which was his name for the 10 violins that he owned throughout his life. When Einstein first began his violin lessons at age 6, he despised playing, but upon discovering Mozart’s sonatas at 13 he finally began to enjoy it. As an adult, Einstein regularly used Lina to help him brainstorm and reflect on his scientific theories. He was certain that if not for his love of science, he would have become a professional musician.
8. Not wearing socks was a point of pride for Einstein.
Einstein undisputedly had many well-known characteristics and achievements, but in his opinion, one of them was surprisingly the choice to not wear socks, of which he boasted in his letters to Elsa. As for the explanation, he simply stated that he kept ripping them with his toenails. This rejection of conventional practice can be alluded to him later disproving some common-sense theories of physics.
9. Sleep was something that Einstein took very seriously.
While there are no written accounts on the matter, it is generally believed that Einstein typically had around 10 hours of sleep each night, despite what one of Robert Downey Jr.’s characters once famously said. What’s more, is that he reportedly took regular naps during the day which helped him work out the numerous problems he was working on his whole life. Whether these claims had a factual basis remains to be verified, but it is a nevertheless interesting insight into his peculiar lifestyle.
10. Someone stole Einstein’s brain to discover its secrets.
Einstein met his death peacefully in 1955, leaving explicit instructions to have his body cremated and the ashes scattered in a secret location to prevent unscientific claims regarding his remains. However, his brain did not experience the same fate as the rest of his body. The pathologist Thomas Harvey took Einstein’s brain without permission to conduct research, which he published in 1985. Harvey was fired and his findings produced no evidence of the extraordinary nature of Einstein’s brain.