5 Things You Didn’t Know About Albert Einstein
Today we celebrate the birthday of Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant minds in history.
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Wüttemberg in what was then the German Empire. Considered one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century, Einstein’s scientific breakthroughs dramatically changed our understanding of the universe.
Albert Einstein / Library of Congress
In honor of his birthday, here are some interesting facts about Albert Einstein that you may not have known:
1. He loved music.
Albert Einstein, 1930 / Kalamazoo Public Library, Flickr
His mother was an accomplished pianist and taught Einstein to play at a young age. He learned to play the violin at the age of 5 and by 13, he discovered a love for Mozart’s violin sonatas. He gave his violin the nickname “Lina.”
He once said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
2. His first daughter is a mystery.
No one knows exactly what happened to Einstein’s first daughter, Lieserl, who was born out of wedlock. In fact, historians were unaware of her existence until the 1980s when she was mentioned in some newly discovered letters between Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Marić. The couple first met while students at Zürich’s Polytechnic. She was the only woman among the six students in mathematics and physics. Lieserl was born in 1902, a year before their marriage. From their letters, it’s possible Liessrl either died of scarlet fever or was put up for adoption in 1903. They would later have two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard.
3. His second wife was also his first cousin.
Albert and Elsa Einstein / Library of Congress
After divorcing Marić in 1919, Einstein married Elsa Löwenthal (Einstein), who was also his first cousin. Her mother, Fanny Koch, was a sister of his mother, Pauline. And that wasn’t their only family connection. Elsa’s paternal grandfather, Raphael Einstein, was the brother of Albert’s paternal grandfather, Abraham Rupert Einstein, also making them second cousins through their fathers.
4. He renounced his German citizenship twice.
At the age of 17, Einstein renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Wüttemberg to avoid military service. He obtained Swiss citizenship in February 1901. After World War I, he returned to Germany and regained his German citizenship.
Einstein’s declaration of intention / NARA
In 1933, Einstein left Germany for the last time. Taking a stand against the rising Nazi party, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and left the country with his family for the United States. In 1940, he became an American citizen.
5. His Nobel Prize money went to his ex-wife.
Although Einstein is perhaps best remembered for his theory of relativity, he did not receive the Nobel Prize for it. In 1921, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics for “his services to theoretical physics, and especially his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” However, he did not get to keep the prize money. As part of the divorce agreement with his first wife, Einstein, confident that he would win a Nobel Prize one day, offered had Marić his Nobel Prize money.