Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879 and died in Princeton, USA, in 1955. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921 and is considered one of the most groundbreaking scientists of all time, famous for his leading theories of Special Relativity (1905) and General Relativity (1915).
Einstein was not only an important physicist but was also something of an icon of the 20th century, with the famous photo of his wild white hair and tongue sticking out.
Here we look at 7 fascinating facts about the life of Albert Einstein.
He turned down the presidency of Israel
Near the end of his life Einstein, the veteran scientist and respected figure was asked to become the second president of Israel. The first president, Chaim Weizmann, with whom Einstein co-founded the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1918, had died in November 1952. Einstein, who was born into a Jewish family and evaded Nazi persecution by remaining in the US from 1933, reluctantly declined the invitation, saying that he lacked ‘experience and natural aptitude’.
He was publicly opposed to WWI while living in Berlin
Einstein’s scientific genius was more than enough of a contribution to the modern world, but he was also active in the realm of politics. He even said himself that his life was ‘divided between politics and equations’.
He wasn’t shy in expressing his opposition to the First World War, during which he was working in Berlin. He even encouraged Germans to publicly protest and to refuse conscription. He once likened nationalism to a disease, calling it ‘the measles of mankind’.
He may have had a fling with Marilyn Monroe
A popular legend about Einstein is that he had a liaison with Marilyn Monroe. There is no evidence that the two ever met, but Shelley Winters, who shared an apartment with Monroe in the 1940s, claimed that when they were compiling a list of fantasy flings, one of the names Monroe jotted down was the ageing physicist. When Winters mentioned Einstein’s advanced years, she claimed that Monroe replied, ‘That has nothing to do with it. I hear he’s very healthy.’ Monroe was also said to have had a photo of him on her piano.
He wrote his first scientific paper when he was 16
Einstein did initially leave school at 15 and did fail some exams, but this was because of his poor grasp of French as a youngster. He was certainly a child prodigy, though, and was outstanding at Latin, geometry, maths, and a fantastic violin player. At the age of 16 Einstein wrote his first scientific paper, called ‘The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields’.
He thought Newton was number one
There is a popular misconception that Einstein’s theories made Isaac Newton’s work redundant. But although Einstein’s theories were vital and revolutionary, they didn’t make Newton’s natural laws obsolete. As Einstein said himself:
‘No one must think that Newton’s great creation can be overthrown in any real sense by this [Theory of Relativity] or by any other theory. His clear and wide ideas will for ever retain their significance as the foundation on which our modern conceptions of physics have been built.’
The FBI had a huge file on him
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) opened a file on Einstein in the early 1930s, watching him and gathering information on the academic. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director, was concerned about Einstein’s public activism in the realms of pacificism and other left-leaning causes. Hoover considered Einstein an ‘extreme radical’, and tried unsuccessfully to bar his entry into the United States. The FBI’s colossal casebook on Einstein eventually ran to over 1,400 pages.
He once attended a séance
Einstein once said that even if he saw a ghost, he still wouldn’t believe it. In 1930, while in California, Einstein attended a séance at the house of author Upton Sinclair, conducted by a medium who called himself Nostradamus. Nothing much happened during the séance, an attendee later reported, and Einstein was apparently unmoved by this extrasensory evening.