Albert Einstein is undoubtedly not just one of the most well-known scientists ever but one of the most well-known figures in history, period. But while his contributions to modern society are famous, was he really such a great guy? The FBI, for one, wasn’t so sure.
Einstein was born in Germany in the year 1879, but that’s not the country that wanted him so desperately. The famous scientist was raised in a Jewish family, and after his incredible genius and accomplishments were made known to the world, Israel wanted to claim him as their own. So much so, in fact, that they offered him the presidency after the country’s first president, Chaim Weizman, died in 1952.
To the people of Israel, Einstein was known as “the greatest Jew alive,” but despite the compliments and extreme honor offered him by this position, Einstein turned it down. Maybe it was for the best, as the world-renowned genius died just three years after this offer was made.
Out of all the women in his life, Einstein’s most beloved seems to have been Lina. Lina was not a person. She was a violin.
His actual second wife, Elsa, took notice of the love affair immediately. According to National Geographic, she once said that the reason she fell in love with him was because “he played Mozart so beautifully on the violin.”
Music was far more than just a hobby for the scientist. It was an integral part of his day and his work process, without which his intellectual breakthroughs might not have been possible. Again, his wife Elsa was the one to point out the significance of music in her husband’s life, reportedly once having said, “Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories.”
To that same end, Einstein once admitted that life without music was of no interest to him. “I live my daydreams in music,” he once said. “I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.”
Everyone knows of Einstein because of his special and general theories of relativity and because of E = mc2. However, that’s not what got him his Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Rather, the prize was given to him because of his work on something that most people have probably never heard of before—the photoelectric effect.
Einstein’s work on the photoelectric effect proved that when light hits certain types of metal, it gives the electrons inside the object enough energy to be freed. The reason this was so significant was because Einstein came to this conclusion by observing light as a particle or photon at that instant instead of as a wave. Now, in any science class, you’re taught that depending on the situation, light acts as either a particle or a wave.
While Einstein was an inspiration to the world for his revolutionary contributions to science, he wasn’t the best husband—not even close. He apparently was quite the womanizer, as he had affairs during both of his marriages, but he was also reportedly quite demanding, especially with his first wife, Mileva Maric.
Einstein penned a list of “conditions” for his wife Mileva that resurfaced just a few years ago. Among these conditions were the orders that she must stop talking to him if he requested it and that she should not expect physical intimacy from him. He also gave her a list of duties to perform for him every day, including bringing three meals to him in his study and then promptly leaving the room. Fortunately for Mileva, they divorced in 1919.
Einstein’s family life was pretty messed up, which extended to the raising of his children. His relationship with one of his sons, Eduard, was particularly strained as it was later found that the young man had schizophrenia.
For any parent, this is a difficult and devastating bit of news, but papa Einstein handled it particularly poorly. The son was institutionalized at the age of 25, and his father didn’t see him after that. According to the New York Times, Einstein even went so far as to say, “If only I had known, he would never have come into this world.” Eduard died in a Swiss mental institution at the age of 55, having not seen his father for decades.
The Nobel-winning scientist also had a daughter who he didn’t see. The daughter in question, Lieserl, was born to him and Mileva Maric before they officially got married. Therefore, the child was illegitimate, which was a much bigger deal then than it is today. Mysteriously, the trail gets hazy soon after the girl’s birth. No one even knew Lieserl existed until decades after Einstein’s death.
That’s not even the weirdest part. The strangeness of it all comes to a head in that no one really knows what became of this lost daughter. Scholars and biographers have tried for years to solve the riddle of what happened to Lieserl, but while there are a multitude of theories out there, nothing is known for sure.
When Mileva and Einstein divorced in 1919, he made a cocky if not strange promise to her in the settlement. Einstein was to leave her with the money he received from his Nobel Prize win. Okay, that seems pretty generous. But one thing sticks out. Einstein wasn’t awarded the Nobel Prize until 1921. Therefore, when he and Mileva divorced, this money didn’t even exist and wouldn’t for another two years. The scientist was that certain (and rightly so) that he would take home the Nobel for physics that he made his personal arrangements around it.
This little-known fact serves to elaborate more on what kind of a person Einstein truly was. By all accounts not a great family man and father figure, Einstein was also a bit haughty. On the other hand, it could easily be said that with such genius, he had every right to be sure of his eventual victory. Still, humility is a virtue …
While Einstein lived in New Jersey for many years and was recognized as an American citizen, the FBI still kept a very watchful eye on him. Some of the biggest tragedies the world has ever known occurred during Einstein’s lifetime, the world wars and the Great Depression for example. With war exploding all around the world and with Einstein’s German ancestry, the FBI were considering the possibility that the scientist was really a foreign spy.
The contents of the FBI’s investigation were made known to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, and the information they gathered on Einstein amounts to an incredible 177 pages. Within those pages, Einstein is also heavily criticized as a dangerous anarchist. If you want to know what other intel the FBI gathered on Einstein and what suspicions they had of him, feel free to read the full document.
Einstein is remembered in history for many things, some of that not so pleasant. Probably the most devastating is the atomic bomb. However, Einstein was never part of the Manhattan Project that worked on the bomb in the United States, and he never wanted it to be used. Einstein was a proclaimed pacifist for his entire life.
So how did his name end up becoming attached to nuclear weapons? Einstein had left Nazi Germany for America but not without some intel. He sent many letters to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning the commander-in-chief that the Nazis were working on atomic weaponry, writing of the havoc it could wreak. This correspondence led to the US’s creation of the A-bomb, which ended up being dropped in multiple Japanese cities. The kind of outcome Einstein strove to avoid ended up having his name written all over it in the history books.
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