We all know the name of Albert Einstein, the German-born physicist who gave us his famous theory of relativity, but what else do you know about the scientist who was voted Time magazine’s Man of the Century? Here are some facts about Albert Einstein you may not have known.
#1 — Einstein and His Violin
Einstein’s mother, who was a talented pianist, got him playing the violin at an early age, but Einstein hated it. It wasn’t until Einstein was 13 years old when he discovered he actually liked it after listening to Mozart. Einstein continued to play the violin for the rest of his life and even used it to help himself think over problems.
#2 — Einstein and School
Einstein took an entrance exam to gain admittance to the Federal Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1895, and he was only 16 at the time when the other applicants were 18. While he did well in the math and physics parts of the test, he did poorly in the non-science areas, especially French. Einstein failed the test because of it and had to continue at his current school. He passed the entry exam after he took the test a second time.
#3 — Einstein’s Miracle Year
Einstein had a banner year in 1905. As he was working for a Swiss patent office, since he couldn’t get a job in academics at the time, he wrote four papers that turned the physics world upside down.
One paper explained how light could be particles. The second proved that atoms and molecules really did exist. The third was his special theory of relativity that explained that everything moves relative to everything else, and that time was not absolute. And in the fourth paper, he explained that energy and mass were related and not separate, as previously thought.
This is where his famous equation, E=mc², illustrated this thought, with E being kinetic energy, m being mass, and c being the constant speed of light squared. In 1915 he pulled everything together and produced his general theory of relativity after ten years of work.
#4 — Einstein’s Nobel Prize
Einstein won a Nobel Prize in 1921, but it wasn’t for his general theory of relativity. It was for his explanation of the photoelectric effect where Einstein theorized that light is composed of tiny particles called quanta. It was the first paper he had published in his magical year of 1905.
#5 — Einstein’s Marriage
While in Switzerland attending school at Zurich Polytechnic, Einstein fell for another student named Mileva Maric, the only woman in one of his physics classes. He didn’t have the money at the time to marry her, and in addition to that, his parents were firmly against his choice. The pair had an illegitimate daughter named Lieserl in 1902 after a trip to Lake Como in Italy, but there was little known about his first child since both Einstein and Maric kept it a secret.
Scholars only discovered her existence recently. It’s believed she might have died at an early age from scarlet fever or some other illness, or she may have been given up for adoption. No one knows for sure. Einstein finally married Maric in 1903 after getting together enough money to do so, and the couple had two more children; Hans Albert and Eduard.
#6 — Einstein’s Divorce
Things were tumultuous in Einstein’s love life. Einstein wanted to divorce Maric in 1914 and offered her a deal if she would agree. He offered her the prize money from the Nobel Prize he was confident he would win from one of his 1905 papers. She agreed after thinking it over for a time, and the couple eventually divorced in 1919. Maric had to wait until 1922 for Einstein to make good on his promise when he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
#7 — Einstein’s Second Marriage
After divorcing Maric, Einstein had a relationship with another woman named Elsa Loewanthal, whom he married in 1919. The strange part was, Loewanthal was his cousin. Elsa Loewanthal was related to Einstein on both sides of his family. Einstein’s father and Loewanthal’s father were cousins, and Einstein’s mother and Loewanthal’s mother were sisters. They had known each other since they were young, but the relationship didn’t begin until Loewanthal had married and then divorced her husband. Loweanthal passed away in 1936, and Einstein never married again.
#8 — Einstein Stays Put
Before the Nazis took power before the start of World War II, Einstein emigrated from Germany. He found a job in Princeton, New Jersey, and stayed there for the rest of his life. He never returned to Germany.
#9 — Einstein and the Bomb
Even though his famous equation, E=mc2, was essential in developing the atomic bomb, Einstein didn’t work on the Manhattan Project (the project that developed the atomic bomb in World War II). He didn’t receive security clearance by the U.S. Army based on his pacifist views. He did, however, write to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the development of the atomic bomb because he didn’t want Germany to be first to succeed in developing it.
#10 — Einstein’s Look
Einstein had a trademark look that he was known for, and it was relatively sloppy in his later years. He had uncombed and wild hair and never wore socks because they would get holes in them, opting for sandals much of the time. He preferred a gray sweatshirt as opposed to wearing a suit or tie, which he didn’t care for.
#11 — Einstein and Sailing
Einstein loved to sail, but he wasn’t particularly apt at it. While spending his summers on Long Island in New York, people recalled fishing Einstein from the water or helping him get his boat back upright after he capsized it.
Einstein knew he wasn’t that great at sailing either, and named his boat, Tinef, which in Yiddish means “worthless.” In true Einstein fashion, he never learned to swim but kept sailing for most of his life.
#12 — Einstein and Smoking
Einstein really enjoyed smoking. He was often seen around Princeton as he puffed away on his briar pipe. He even accepted a life membership in the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club in 1950.
#13 — Einstein’s Offer
After Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, died in 1952, Einstein was offered the position to be the second president of Israel. He was 73 at the time and declined, saying he didn’t have the “natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people.”
#14 — Einstein’s Invention
Einstein invented a refrigerator with a former student which ran on compressed gases and did not require electricity to operate. It was patented in 1930 but was never produced because of the emergence of new technology in refrigeration, specifically freon systems. Einstein helped create the refrigerator because he had read a story about how a Berlin family had been killed because their sulfur dioxide refrigerator (the refrigerant used at the time) poisoned them.
#15 — Einstein’s Brain
Albert Einstein died in 1955 because of an aortic aneurysm, and per his wishes, his body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered. But before the cremation, a pathologist who was on-call at Princeton Hospital after his death named Thomas Harvey conducted an autopsy where he removed Einstein’s brain. Harvey didn’t put Einstein’s brain back, and instead, kept it to study. He never had permission to keep the brain.
Harvey convinced Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, to let him keep it. He tentatively agreed as long as the brain was used for scientific study, but later that agreement became disputed. Harvey quickly lost his job at Princeton and eventually lost his medical license because he refused to give back Einstein’s brain.
But things didn’t stop there. Harvey removed Einstein’s eyeballs and gave them to Henry Adams, Einstein’s eye doctor. They ended up in a safe deposit box in New York City, where they sit to this day. Harvey then had the brain cut by a technician into more than 200 pieces. Many of the slices were properly saved, but others ended up being put in jars that ended up in his basement.
Some of the pieces were sent to other researchers around the country for study, but Harvey never published any results from a study of Einstein’s brain. Finally, in 1998, he returned the brain to the pathologist at Princeton Hospital.
In 2012, two slides of Einstein’s brain that had been properly saved by Harvey made a trip across the Atlantic Ocean and went on display at the Wellcome Collection museum in London. They were on loan from the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, where they had been donated by a researcher who had received parts of the brain years before from Harvey. Who knows what Einstein would have thought about all of this.
Sources: Time, ABC News, ABC Science, History, World Science Festival, About.com, NY Times, The Guardian