Born on March 14, Albert Einstein is considered one of the most celebrated physicists. Einstein's theory of relativity forms the crux of modern physics. The German-born theoretical physicist is most widely known for his mass–energy equivalence formula E=mc^2. In 1921, he won a Nobel Prize in Physics.
On his birth anniversary, here are 10 things you may not know:
1. Albert had a fat head at the time he was born
This startled his mother and grandmother when they saw him for the first time. However, the fat head slowly receded and turned into a normal size. Interestingly, a head containing the brain that would inspire millions of people in the future was not so perfect at birth.
2. Speech difficulty during childhood
Einstein was supposedly slow to talk—the man himself told his biographer he didn’t start speaking until at least age three. Stanford economist Dr. Thomas Sowell even coined the controversial term “Einstein Syndrome” to describe exceptionally bright people whose speech is delayed.
3. He didn’t fail math as a child
The future Nobel Laureate dropped out of school at age 15 and left Germany to avoid state-mandated military service, but before then he was consistently at the top of his class and was even considered something of a prodigy for his grasp of complex mathematical and scientific concepts. When later presented with a news article claiming he’d failed grade-school math, Einstein dismissed the story as a myth and said, “Before I was 15 I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”
4. He was passionate violinist
Einstein’s mother, Pauline, was an accomplished pianist and wanted her son to love music too, so she started him on violin lessons. At first, Einstein hated playing the violin. When Einstein was 13-years old, he quickly changed his mind about the violin when he heard the music of Mozart. With a new passion for playing, Einstein continued to play the violin until the last few years of his life.
5. The beginning of Einstein’s fascination for science
It came from a pocket compass, which was shown to him by his father when Albert was five years old. He wondered what made the needle point in a certain direction and not anywhere else. This was the beginning of his long and illustrious career in science, which made him renowned around the world.
6. He never learned how to swim
However he loved sailing and continued to do so as a hobby throughout his life. He fell in love with sailing during college years at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. He would often take a boat out onto a lake, pull out a notebook, relax, and think. Also, Einstein never wore socks. He thought wearing socks was a pain, and he would often get holes in them.
7. He was asked to be president of Israel.
A few days after Zionist leader and first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann died on November 9, 1952, Einstein was asked if he would accept the position of being the second president of Israel. Einstein, age 73, declined the offer. In his official letter of refusal, Einstein stated that he lacked the “natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people.”
8. Conditional marriage
In 1896, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and enrolled at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. There, he began a passionate love affair with Mileva Maric, a fellow physicist-in-training originally from Serbia. The couple later married.
Einstein lived on certain conditions with Mileva, his first wife, which she agreed to. Here are the terms of the marriage, which lasted for almost 16 years:
He said in the contract, you (Mileva Maric) will make sure:
- that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
- that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
- that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
- that you will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons…
9. No one knows what happened to his first daughter
A year before Einstein and Mileva Maric married, she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter named Lieserl. Einstein never spoke about the child to his family, and biographers weren’t even aware of her existence until examining his private papers in the late-1980s. Her fate remains a mystery to this day. Some scholars think Lieserl died from scarlet fever in 1903, while others believe she survived the sickness and was given up for adoption in Maric’s native Serbia.
‘Albert Einstein’ is an anagram of ‘Ten elite brains’.
11. Einstein's second marriage
During his marriage to Maric, Einstein had also begun an affair with his first cousin, Elsa Löwenthal. After divorcing Mileva Maric in February of 1919, Einstein married Elsa, just a few months later. He would continue to see other women throughout his second marriage, which ended with Löwenthal's death in 1936.
12. He offered his wife his Nobel Prize as part of their divorce settlement
After his marriage to Mileva Maric hit the rocks in the early 1910s, Einstein left his family, moved to Berlin and started a new relationship with his cousin, Elsa. He and Maric finally divorced several years later in 1919. As part of their separation agreement, Einstein promised her an annual stipend plus whatever money he might receive from the Nobel Prize—which he was supremely confident he would eventually win. Maric agreed, and Einstein later handed over a small fortune upon receiving the award in 1922 for his work on the photoelectric effect.
13. He was a smoker
Smoking was Einstein’s passion and obsession. One could see the trail of smoke behind him when he walked from his home to his office.
In 1950, after accepting a life membership in the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club, Einstein said he believed “that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.”
14. The miracle year 1905
This year is believed to be a miracle year in Albert Einstein’s life. He published four papers during this year, representing his most creative work. These papers were about the Quantum theory, Brownian motion (existence of atoms), Electrodynamics of moving bodies and the most famous equation in the world – the E=MC2 equation – establishing the relationship between mass and energy. At this time, he was just 26 years old and worked during the day at a patent office.
15. Einstein’s brain was stolen after his death
Einstein died in April 1955 from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He had requested that his body be cremated, but in a bizarre incident, Princeton pathologist Thomas Harvey removed his famous brain during his autopsy and kept it in the hope of unlocking the secrets of his genius. After winning a reluctant approval from Einstein’s son, Harvey later had the brain cut into pieces and sent to various scientists for research. A handful of studies have been conduced on it since the 1980s, but most have either been dismissed or discredited. Perhaps the most famous came in 1999, when a team from a Canadian university published a controversial paper claiming Einstein possessed unusual folds on his parietal lobe, a part of the brain associated with mathematical and spatial ability.
16. His last words
On his death bed, he uttered his last words in German to his attendant who did not understand German and those last words of his are still unknown.