In 2006, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem released fourteen hundred personal letters of the famous physicist, Albert Einstein. They shed no light on how he developed his important relativity equations, but they do illuminate the life of Einstein, the man. In a 1921 letter to his second wife, Elsa, Einstein said, “Soon I will be fed up with relativity. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it.”
Quirky details are revealed when he writes “even on the most solemn occasions during my visits to the University of Oxford I got away without wearing any socks.” And more seriously the letters show how affectionate he was towards his two sons.
The letters reveal that Einstein was involved in many extra-marital affairs. In a letter to step daughter Margot, Einstein complained that “Mrs. M. followed me to England, and her chasing after me is getting out of control.” Mrs. M. was a beautiful Berlin socialite called Ethel Michanowski who had pursued Einstein to Oxford, only to find he was involved with a lady he called Mrs. L.
The letters reveal that Einstein lost his 1921 Nobel Prize money in the Great Depression when the stock market crashed. This caused great friction with his first wife, Mileva, a Serbian scientist, who felt betrayed because he didn’t deposit the money in the bank as agreed.
So next time you’re tempted to think scientists are in a class by themselves, remember that in their personal lives, even the greatest are all too human.