7 Myths About Albert Einstein You Need to Stop Believing
Albert Einstein was one of the most influential scientists of all time. Because of the almost cult-like status that has since surrounded him, it should come as no surprise that many myths about Einstein have appeared since his death.
From being slow to learn at school to being left-handed, some of these myths are pure fantasy. Whilst claims about him being dyslexic are questionable, there are some other lesser known aspects of the man that are actually more interesting than most of the myths about him.
So, without further ado, here are 7 myths about Einstein you really should stop believing.
1. No, Einstein didn’t help 'build the bomb'
This is one myth that keeps doing the rounds when it comes to Einstein. The link is probably made simply because of the man's groundbreaking work prior to the Second World War.
In 1939, Einstein became aware that the National Socialists in Germany had managed to split the Uranium atom. This shook Einstein to the core, he was after all a non-practicing Jew.
The very idea that the Nazi regime might be close to developing such a powerful and deadly weapon appalled him. This inspired many prominent scientists, including Einstein, to write to President Roosevelt to do whatever he could to make sure America got there first.
The Manhattan Project was launched soon after. Prominent scientists like Enrico Fermi, Oppenheimer, and others, were recruited to accelerate the US development of nuclear fission technology.
But, Einstein's political views (he was an open supporter of socialism) caused many to suspect his motives in the US Army and government. In fact, he was openly complimentary about Vladimir Lenin.
"I honor Lenin as a man who completely sacrificed himself and devoted all his energy to the realization of social justice. I do not consider his methods practical, but one thing is certain: men of his type are the guardians and restorers of the conscience of humanity."
An unfortunate statement today in light of Lenin's humanitarian crimes.
He was denied the necessary security clearances that were required to be part of the Manhattan Project. Whether he played a significant indirect role is unknown, but he was not officially part of the project.
2. Einstein might not have been a bad student, as is often claimed
It is often claimed that Einstein was a bad student in school. Not badly behaved, but actually not the brightest or most attentive in class.
This seems to be a bit of a fallacy. From claims that he was slow to start talking like an infant, to flunking various exams, this 'fact' about Einstein appears to be less than accurate.
Einstein, in fact, graduated top of his class after graduating high school. Some of the confusion may come from a misunderstanding of the grading system at Aargau Cantonal School which he attended.
In his first semester, the highest possible grade for anything was a 1. This system was reversed during his second semester where he frequently scored 6s.
He also famously failed the entrance exam for the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School. But it must be born in mind that the exam was in French (not his first language) and he did sit it two years earlier than most students.
Whilst he rocked the maths section, he appeared to struggle with the botany, language and zoology sections.
3. No, Einstein was not left-handed
This might just be one of the funniest myths about Einstein. At some point in history, a link between being left-handed and a genius was made popular - for no apparent reason.
Whilst whichever hand-dominant you are has nothing to do with your intellectual prowess, it can lead to some serious life challenges. Not to mention some great perks - at least so we are told.
Einstein, as one of the most influential scientists of all time, was inevitably ascribed with the same left-handed fallacy. This, despite there being a plethora of photographic evidence of him holding a pen and playing the violin using his right hand.
He is commonly seen writing and pointing at chalkboards using his right hand too.
4. Einstein chose to become a vegetarian
Here is another myth about Einstein that has become popular in recent years. The claim is that Einstein voluntarily chose to stop eating meat and become one of the first high-profile vegetarians in history.
In fact, this couldn't be further from the truth. Einstein was plagued with digestive problems throughout his life. He would often suffer from stomach ulcers, jaundice, inflammation of the gall bladder and intestinal pains.
Because of this, his doctor would later advise him to stop eating meat. Since it is unlikely he shared his deeper, personal medical history with many people, this might explain how this myth came to be born.
He would later admit he felt guilty when he did dine on meat and openly agreed with the deeper moral arguments around vegetarianism. But despite this, he did not choose vegetarianism voluntarily - it was a medical necessity.
5. He didn't suffer from Asperger's syndrome either
Another myth about Einstein is that he suffered from Aspergers Syndrome. Whilst he was famous for enjoying his own company and was sometimes characterized as being rude and insensitive, this doesn't mean he suffered from Aspergers Syndrome.
There are also many reports of him acting out in school as a child, which has led some to retrospectively diagnose Einstein over the years.
But, there doesn't appear to be any credible evidence that he had issues socializing or communicating with others throughout his life. He also doesn't appear to have shown many, if any, of the symptoms of the disorder.
He also traveled extensively throughout the 1920s and kept detailed diaries of the people he met and made connections with. Einstein also had several close relationships with physicians throughout his life and none of them ever reported, or suggested, that he might 'be on the spectrum'.
6. Einstein was also not dyslexic
There are some who like to claim that Einstein had dyslexia. This is somewhat linked to previous claims that he was a bad student, or indeed, suffered from Asperger's syndrome.
As we have seen, both of these claims about Einstein have no real evidence in history.
Dyslexia is often defined as a neurological condition that causes problems in translating language to thought and vice versa. For this reason, dyslexics often suffer from difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, speaking or listening.
Can any of this really be said for Einstein? He also mastered the German language and his ability to express himself in writing and speech showed high skills of comprehension, discrimination, and precision.
Like other retrospective claims about Einstein, this one seems to be the product of wishful thinking.
7. He was only a theorist
It appears Einstein was not a one-trick pony. Whilst his work in theoretical physics was groundbreaking, he also appears to have enjoyed invention.
Between 1902 and 1909, Einstein worked at the Swiss Patent Office. From time to time he was also an expert witness in patent trials during this period.
It appears this had a life-long impact on the man and he would go on to file over 50 patents in 7 countries around the world.
Some of his inventions were interesting in and of themselves beyond his theories in relativistic physics. His inventions included the self-adjusting camera, an electromagnetic sound apparatus, and, his most famous invention, a silent, energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly refrigerator.
This device, co-developed with his student Leó Szilárd, was an absorption refrigerator and had no moving parts and only used heat as an input. You can check out the patent here if you are interested that is.