Albert Einstein started his journey from Ulm, a city in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. He started showing signs of brilliance from a young age.
During his entire scientific career, Einstein produced an astonishing number of papers. His greatest achievement came in 1905 when he changed the common perception of the scientific community by publishing the ‘special theory of relativity.’ It revolutionized scientific understanding of physics and physical laws, including pace, time, and gravity.
Apart from intelligence, he was also known for his peace-loving nature and pacifist views in the 20th century. But surprisingly, there are still several mysteries and unknown facts about Albert Einstein that we are going to explore here.
12. Einstein Excelled in Mathematics as a Child
Einstein’s matriculation certificate on a scale of 1-6 (1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest score)
An unfounded claim that under-performing students often take comfort in is that Einstein failed math in his youth. In reality, he excelled in mathematics and persistently scored high grades in the subject.
Even as a teenager, Einstein seemed to favor creative learning as opposed to strict, repetitive teaching. That’s why he preferred self-education and had trouble making friends. He dropped out of school at the age of 15, shortly before leaving Munich to settle in Zurich, Switzerland.
There he applied for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic but failed to clear the entrance. While it’s true that he flunked that exam, it was certainly not in mathematics.
In 1935, at Princeton, when he was asked whether or not he had failed grad-school mathematics, he laughed and replied: “I never failed in math. Before I was fifteen, I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
11. It Took Einstein Nearly A Decade To Get a Job in Academics
During his time in Zurich Polytechnic, Einstein made waves with his intellect and creative thinking. However, his lackluster, class-skipping behavior annoyed professors so much so that at least one of them wrote ‘not so favorable job recommendation letter’ for him.
As a result, it took Einstein about two years to land an appropriate job. In 1902, he finally secured a job in Bern (Switzerland) at a patent office as an assistant examiner.
This job proved out to be a stepping stone in Einstein’s majestic scientific career. Much of Einstein’s work here was related to mechanical and electrical systems, which helped him in his experiments.
It was during his time in the patent office that he published his much-celebrated scientific papers that practically shaped modern physics. By 1908, Einstein was recognized as a leading scientist and landed his first job in academics as a lecturer at the University of Bern.
10. Most Of His Nobel Prize Money Went to Divorce Settlement
Albert Einstein with his wife Mileva Marić in 1912
Einstein married his first wife, Mileva Marić, in 1903. Together, they had two sons Hans and Edward. Marić was in Berlin when she learned that her husband is having an affair with his first cousin, Elsa, back in Zurich. They, Marić and Einstein, finally get divorced in 1919, after living apart for four years.
Apart from a fixed annual compensation, as a divorce settlement, Einstein promised Maric some extra money from his Nobel Prize money. At that time, Einstein was sure that we would win a Nobel prize for his contribution to the field of theoretical Physics.
As promised, Einstein gave a portion of his award money to Maric after winning the Nobel Prize in 1922.
9. He Designed a Refrigerator
In the year 1930, Einstein patented a refrigerator along with his former student Leo Szilard. It was an absorption refrigerator that would operate at constant pressure using a single heat source.
The two physicists were motivated to design a refrigerator that would work without any moving parts after they heard about a family living in Berlin died after their refrigerator leaked toxic fumes due to a structural failure. Their design was not susceptible to this kind of failure.
8. Although a Pacifist, Einstein Urged the U.S. to Develop Their Own Nuclear Arsenal
Einstein and Leo Szilard | Image Courtesy: Atomic Heritage Foundation
In 1938, after learning about ongoing Nazi nuclear bomb research, Einstein, along with Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard wrote a letter to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, urging the United States to initiate its own atomic weapon research as quickly as possible.
The idea of a weapon of that caliber into Hitler’s hands forced Einstein to set aside his pacifist principles and do whatever is necessary to prevent such disaster.
Understandably so, the U.S. government was slow to react. But after two independent reports demonstrated that such bombs are indeed feasible, the government was quick to initiate the Manhattan project in 1941.
Einstein’s contribution to the development of nuclear bombs, even though indirect, was immense (E=mc2). While facing an interview, he said;
“Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I never would have lifted a finger.”
After Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, he became a firm proponent of nuclear disarmament. In 1955, He signed the “Russell-Einstein Manifesto,” with philosopher Bertrand Russell pointing out the dangers of a nuclear war.
7. The Feds Spied on Him For Over Two Decades
After losing his job at the university in his native land, Einstein remained in Belgium and Great Britain for a brief period and then finally took a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey as a resident scholar. Later, he decided to remain there permanently and applied for U.S. citizenship.
On the other hand, the sudden immigration of a German physicist in the United States attracted huge attention from J.Edgar Hoover, the then Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Einstein’s pacifist, civil rights, and left-wing ideology triggered a serious surveillance campaign, which eventually continued for 22 years.
FBI feared that he was a Soviet spy and was actively planning to make a death ray as a plot against the United States. Federal Agents tracked his phone calls, trespass his mails, followed his movements in the hope of unmasking him, but all with no results. The investigation finally came to a halt upon his death in 1955.
6. Einstein Could Have Been the President of Israel
Einstein was always antagonistic towards antisemitism, which he even manifested out in public. His love for the Jews was never hidden. After the death of Chaim Weizmann, a prominent Zionist leader and the first president of Israel, in 1952, the Israeli government believed that Einstein would be the perfect candidate to succeed Weizmann.
However, when presented with the opportunity, Einstein graciously declined the offer and wrote a letter to the Israeli ambassador saying, “All my life I have dealt with objective matters. Hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official function.”
5. Einstein’s brain Was Rescued/Stolen After His Death
Princeton University pathologist Thomas Harvey with Einstein’s brain
Einstein died on April 18, 1955, from massive internal bleeding caused by an abdominal aneurysm. Before death, he instructed that his body should be cremated. However, during the autopsy pathologist Thomas Harvey removed his brain and kept it.
Later, with approval from Einstein’s son, Harvey surgically dismantled his brain and sent them to various laboratories for further studies. Since then, several theories have come forward explaining the reason for his brilliance.
The most popular of all, however, came in 1999, when a group of researchers from McMaster University, in Hamilton, Canada, reveled unusual brain anatomy that may have enabled Einstein to achieve such fate in his career.
4. About his eyes and uncommon habits
We know that upon his death, pathologist Thomas Harvey removed his brain from the body, but do you know that he also had removed his eyes for some unknown reasons. Later, he handed eyeballs over to Henry Abrams, Einstein’s eye doctor. Today they remain in a safe deposit box in New York City.
Well, it just takes something abnormal about the person to be a genius. For example, Nikola Tesla admitted that he was in love with a pigeon that he was feeding and was also certain that the pigeon loved him back. In the case of Einstein, he also had some pretty uncommon habits, including his despise in wearing socks, and so on.
3. A solar eclipse Made Einstein World famous
Einstein published his theory of general relativity, in which he stated that gravitational fields cause distortions in the fabric of space and time. The theory remained controversial only until May 1919, when a total solar eclipse provided the perfect conditions to test the theory generally, claiming that a supermassive object would cause a measurable curve in the starlight passing by it.
Hoping to prove Einstein’s theory, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, an English astronomer and physicist famous for the Eddington limit (the natural limit to the luminosity of stars), took the opportunity.
He journeyed all the way to the coast of West Africa and documented the eclipse. Upon analyzing the pictures, he confirmed that the sun’s gravity had deflected the light by roughly 1.7 arc-seconds, exactly as predicted in general relativity. The news made Einstein an overnight celebrity.
Newspapers hailed him as the heir to Sir Isaac Newton, and he went on to travel the world lecturing on his theories about the cosmos. According to Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson, in the six years after the 1919 eclipse, more than 600 books and articles were written about the theory of relativity.
2. Einstein And Hasenöhrl Connection
Austrian physicist Friedrich Hasenöhrl
In September 1905, when Albert Einstein published a groundbreaking paper on the special relativity, many of his critics pointed out that he actually plagiarized someone else’s work. They pointed out that Einstein’s famous E=mc² was actually discovered a year before by Friedrich Hasenöhrl in his Equivalence of Mass and Energy.
The Austrian born Friedrich Hasenöhrl was one of the prominent physicists of his time, famously known for his studies on blackbody radiation in a reflecting cavity and had a significant impact on some of the greatest minds in physics including Karl Herzfeld and Erwin Schrödinger.
Since then, there have been numerous debates on who came up with the formula first. In 1921, Philipp Lenard, a Nobel Laureate in physics, gave Hasenöhrl credit for “E=mc².” But soon, other physicists like Max von Laue disprove those claims, saying that Hasenöhrl only derived his calculations from the works of Henri Poincaré and Max Abraham’s work on the inertia of electromagnetic energy.
1. About Einstein’s first daughter
In the year 1896, following his surrender of German citizenship, he enrolled at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. Here, he met his future wife, Mileva Marić, a fellow student of Serbian ethnicity. The friendship soon developed into a romance, and the couple got united in wedlock after seven years.
But a year before the marriage, Maric gave birth to a daughter named Lieserl. Both of them never spoke about their firstborn child neither in public nor to their family. Biographers and researchers only came to know about this after the discovery of his private letters in the late 1980s.
According to those letters, Lieserl was born in early 1902 in Novi Sad, Serbia, where Marić was living with her family. Einstein probably never saw his daughter as he was in Switzerland while Marić gave birth to Lieserl, yet she joined him without their firstborn.
Some scholars think that Lieserl died from scarlet fever in 1903, while others believe she survived the sickness and was adopted by another family in Serbia. Her fate remains a mystery to this day.