More than six decades after his death on this date in 1955, Albert Einstein continues to inspire generations of students in the sciences. But let don’t the mop of white hair and distinguished mustache fool you. Einstein was “a stud muffin theoretical physicist,” according to Geoffrey Rush, who stars at the man himself in the appropriately titled new series “Genius.” Here are some lesser known facts about the man behind the theory of relativity.
1. Bad Student!
Born to a German Jewish family in 1879, Einstein was a late bloomer. He learned to speak after most of his peers, and though he earned decent marks in class, he didn’t impress his teachers. Rather than focus on wowing them, he focused on the topics he found interesting: physics and philosophy. As a preteen, he was reading Kant and college-level science texts. He went to Zurich Polytechnic after initially failing the school’s entrance exam.
2. He Put Up His Daughter For Adoption
Before he wed first wife Mileva Maric – a fellow student from Serbia at Zurich Polytechnic – he got her pregnant while the two were on a romantic getaway in the Alps. Not ready to be parents, the two put up their daughter for adoption – never to be seen again. They later had two sons prior to their divorce.
3. Married His First Cousin
His second wife was Elsa Einstein – the two were first cousins via their mothers, who were siblings, and also related via their fathers, who were first cousins. The two fled Nazi Germany together and settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where she died in 1936 from heard and kidney disease.
4. Had An Affair (With Permission)
Einstein took up in the 1920s with his secretary Betty Neumann, even though he was married to second wife Elsa. He even got her permission to mess around with Neumann. Talk about chutzpah!
5. BFFs With Important People
Einstein maintained friendships with a diverse cast of characters throughout his life, including the psychologist Carl Jung, the troubled novelist Franz Kafka, scientists Pierre and Marie Curie and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was also an intimate of Walter Rathenau, Weimar Germany’s Jewish foreign minister, who was viciously murdered by the far-right.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.