Einstein A to Z by Karen C. Fox and Aries Keck


Einstein Fun Facts

Did Einstein really fail math?
First and foremost, let us dispel the most popular, most beloved rumor about Einstein of all. He did not fail math. He got top grades in math and science all of his life. He also didn't fail out of school -- though he did abruptly leave his secondary school when his family moved to Italy during his final year. But he did earn his diploma elsewhere and then went on to and graduated from college
(albeit with only fair grades, and he was known to skip a lot of classes. . . )

To be honest, however, for a high-end theoretical physicist, Einstein's math was subpar. His earlier papers -- while elegant, brief, and brilliant -- often contain simple errors. However, it must be remembered the Einstein was not balancing a checkbook, he was balancing the forces of gravity and the speed of light. The level of mathematics he was doing is far beyond two-plus-two. And so it's more correct to say that Einstein wasn't a mathematician -- and that he needed their help quite often to make sure his theories did pan out in the end.

Why did Einstein stick out his tongue in that famous photo?
It was Einstein's birthday and he was being hounded by photographers. He stuck his tongue out in exasperation trying to ruin the photo. (I mean, if he were an actor alive today he might have grabbed a camera and thrown it on the ground. . . ) Of course, his plan backfired. Since the scientist had such a reputation for being quirky, the photo was just seen as another example of his irascible charm, and it's become one of the most famous pictures of Einstein ever taken.

I heard that Albert Einstein wore the exact same thing every day. Is that true?
Another story about Einstein that is highly exaggerated but has some basis in reality concerns his clothing. Many say that Einstein wore the same thing every day and had a closet full of the exact same suit, shirts, ties, and shoes. This isn't true, especially when Einstein's second wife, Elsa, was alive. Elsa took a firm hand when it came to her husband's appearance, and pictures of the two of them touring everything from Japan to the American Southwest show Einstein in beautiful silk vests, and dapper neckwear -- as well as in a kimono and an American Indian headdress. But after Elsa passed away and Einstein spent his last 20 years as a professor emeritus at Princeton, his clothing did become more, er, irregular. He openly disliked wearing a suit and while already legendary for often going sockless, now he wore sandals. Perhaps the most common pictures of Einstein from that time show him happily shuffling around his Princeton study wearing a big gray sweatshirt. Luckily for Einstein, his life coincided with the invention of the cotton sweatshirt -- for he was enamored of the soft warm comfortable garment.

Did Einstein have an affair with Marilyn Monroe?
While Einstein was known to have had extramarital affairs, Marilyn Monroe was not one of them. Another popular urban legend about Einstein that has no basis in reality is that he sat next to Marilyn Monroe once at a dinner and she told him that she wanted to have a child with Einstein -- with her looks and his brain, it would have been the perfect child. Einstein is said to have responded: "Ah, but what if it had my looks and your brain?" This is clearly untrue first of all because the two never met, and second because the same story is often told of George Bernard Shaw and Isadora Duncan.

Send your questions to Karen.C.Fox@EinsteinAtoZ.com

Einstein A to Z * Karen C. Fox and Aries Keck
Wiley publishing * Publication date: August 2004 * ISBN: 0-471-46674-3 * $17.95 paperback * 300 pp