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Einstein stories. Walter Isaacson's book: "Einstein, his life and his universe"

The real gem of an Einstein biography is the entertaining stories about Einstein. Below are some amusing stories about the genius

The cover of Walter Isaacson's book: "Einstein his life and his universe"
The cover of Walter Isaacson's book: "Einstein his life and his universe"

These days, the Hebrew translation of Walter Isaacson's popular book "Einstein's Life and His Universe" is being published by the Attic Library and Yediot Books.
Walter Isaacson was the editor of "Time" magazine and he wrote the biography about Einstein in a language that is understandable to everyone. The biography focuses on Einstein's life from his birth to his death: his physical work, being an unusual humanist and peace-seeker, his assistance to Jews in the world and his help in establishing the Hebrew University and the Technion, his relationships with his wives and his entertaining personality.
The Hebrew version has been scientifically edited and adapted to the Israeli reader: most of the footnotes found in the English version have been omitted for the benefit of the Israeli reader. Also, sources in Hebrew about Einstein have been added for the benefit of the reader who is interested and wants to look for additional books published about Einstein. The footnotes that were included in the Hebrew version were specially adapted for the Israeli reader. The terms were translated into Hebrew, although I don't always agree with the translation. For example, the German word nostrifizieren was translated as "to attach". I would translate it as "nostrification", since Einstein used this phrase several times and the phrase was loaded for him. Chapter 9, page 295.

The real gem of an Einstein biography is the entertaining stories about Einstein. Below are some amusing stories about the genius.

How did Einstein become famous? In November 1919, after the publication of the results of Arthur Eddington's great experiment, which confirmed that light rays bend in the Sun's gravitational field as Einstein had predicted, Einstein gained worldwide publicity. On November 7, The Times of London published the following headline on page 12:
"Revolution in science/new theory of the universe/Newtonian ideas defeated".
The Times reporter announced an important announcement, talked about curved space, and wrote, "The way science perceives the fabric of the universe must change."

On November 10, the New York Times said, before Einstein published his teachings, he would inform the editor, know that exactly twelve sages in the entire world would be able to understand my new teachings. But the editor still decided to take the risk and publish an incomprehensible theory. The headline that appeared in the New York Times was: "Lights are warped on high / Enthusiasm grips scientists in the face of the results of eclipse observations / A victory for Einstein's theory [...] A book for 12 smart people / Only a dozen people in the whole world will understand it, Einstein said when his bold publishers accepted the book."
For days afterward, the New York Times described the story in different versions. During November 1919, every week, the New York Times updated the story and accepted that Einstein's theory was gaining momentum in a public that could not understand at all. On December 2nd, a particularly diligent Berlin newspaper reporter managed to secure an interview with Einstein at his Berlin apartment.

The reporter's report from December 3rd in the New York Times turned Einstein's famous thought experiment, which he conceived while working in the patent office in Bern in 1907 and led to the theory of general relativity - a man falling from the roof of a house - into a real event. The reporter reported that years ago Einstein watched a man fall from a roof near a library in Berlin. And luckily he landed on a soft pile of doman - and came out almost unscathed. The man told Dr. Einstein that at the time of the fall he did not experience any sensation that can be described as the effect of gravity. This is how Einstein developed an extension to Newton's law of gravity. Do you think Einstein told the reporter a new storyline?... Read chapter 12 "Fame".

Einstein summed up the essence of this celebration in these words to his friend Max Born on September 9, 1920, "Just like with the man in the legend of the people, everything he touched turned to gold, with me everything turned into journalistic noise.

People of Einstein's time went crazy. To understand the magnitude of the hysteria, it is worth noting that people named babies and cigars after Einstein. A story goes around that one day Einstein came to the house of the biologist C. B. S. Holden to stay with him for the night. His daughter looked at him but one fleeting glance and immediately fainted and as if died.

Einstein was elevated to the rank of a supreme sage. Although he could be seen as humble and kind as ever. Einstein did not praise himself and never said compliments about himself while the press spread stories about him. He remained wild and sloppy and humbly said, "I talk to everyone the same way, whether it's the garbage man or the president of the university."

Einstein and Chaim Weizmann traveled together by ship to collect donations for the Hebrew University. When they both arrived in New York in 1921, Chaim Weizman was asked, "Do you understand Einstein's theory?" Weizmann replied with a wonderful answer: "During the crossing of the ocean, Einstein explained the theory to me every single day, and by the time we arrived I was able to convince myself without a doubt that he really and truly understood it." Isaacson added before the joke, "and during the trip, Einstein tried to explain the theory of relativity to Weizmann." This is not true. This is Isaacson's addition to the story that originally appeared in Carl Seelig. Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was one of the greatest scientists, understood well the theory of relativity and the answer he gave above when he arrived with Einstein in New York, was a very witty joke by one of the most brilliant scientists the Jewish people had. See chapter 13, "Einstein in America, 1921".

Einstein was never like everyone else, neither as a child nor as an adult. Einstein was a rebel.

While physicists have long since worked in accelerators and moved to work in telescopes and sophisticated laboratories, it is said of Einstein that he used to lock himself in a room, pull down the curtains and, as he used to say, "I will do a little thinking". He would scribble down a number of equations, make some notes, and look, very quickly he would solve everything. Only in the way of thought. No machines or devices for it. Someone once asked the great physicist where he kept his laboratory. And Einstein smiled and took out a fountain pen from his breast pocket and answered, "Here."

As a small child Einstein was prone to tantrums. His sister Maya says "at such moments his face would turn completely yellow, the tip of his nose would turn white like snow, and he would lose control of himself." Once, at the age of five, he grabbed a chair and threw it at the teacher who came to his house to study music. She was so frightened, and she tried to kill herself and never came back. Maya's own head became a target for all kinds of hard objects. "You need a stiff skull to be the sister of an intellectual," she joked later. Chapter 2, "Childhood, Munich".

At the Lutifold Gymnasium, the teachers sensed Einstein's resistance to authority more than usual, and they reacted accordingly, sometimes rudely. One teacher went so far as to say that Einstein's very presence destroyed the respect a teacher needed from his class. Einstein's Latin teacher declared that nothing ever came out of Einstein. And in fact, said his sister Maya, Albert Einstein never received a professorship in Latin grammar.

And Einstein added: "Only in mathematics and physics and also in philosophy did I reach far beyond the school curriculum through self-study."

We will end with a typical Einstein story. Einstein told his biographer Carl Seelig that in July 1909, while working in the patent office, a large envelope was brought to him, from which an elegant sheet of paper appeared. On top of the page was engraved something in a pictorial pattern, Einstein thought in Latin (and you remember that his Latin teacher thought that nothing came out of it because he didn't know Latin...).

This seemed to Einstein as something impersonal and he threw the letter straight into the trash can. Einstein later realized that it was an invitation to the Calvin celebrations in Geneva and the announcement that he was about to be awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Geneva. In Geneva they waited in vain for a response from Einstein, which of course did not come. In their desperation, they turned to his friend Lucien Chavan the Janbay, who was living in Bern at the time. Shawn came to Einstein and without any explanation told him, now we are going to Geneva and rented rooms at the Geneva Hotel.

In the evening in Geneva they met with dignitaries and professors in a restaurant and they told Einstein why he was there now. Einstein told them: Look, I only brought a straw hat and normal clothes for the trip and he offered not to participate in the ceremony. But Einstein had no choice and the celebration continued in a strange way with Einstein dressed in strange clothes and wearing a straw hat, sitting at the gala dinner at the National Hotel.

Einstein told Seelig, it was the most magnificent banquet I had ever attended in my life. Einstein sat next to a Janbiani celebrant and said to him: "Do you know what Calvin would do if he were here?" And the celebrant of course didn't know and asked what the straw hat owner meant, and Einstein answered: "He would set up a huge steak and cause us all to burn because of sinful extravagance" Einstein heard no more from the man and that was the end of his memory of the Geneva celebration.
And this is also the end of our coverage of the plots of the genius, the humanist, the rebellious and the entertaining Einstein.

32 תגובות

  1. The main thing is that the article aroused interest, there were a lot of commenters (especially Gali) and there was a substantive and intelligent debate.

  2. As I wrote - I knew it might lead to the continuation of the piercings.
    Relax, Gali, I'm completely calm.

  3. Michael, you need to calm down. Do you want me to tell you that you are right? I tell you: Michael, you are right.
    And now you can relax because I told you, Michael, you are right.
    I do not understand what you want. I really don't understand.

  4. jelly:
    Please note that it was not me who introduced the phrase "peck war" into the discussion. Although I really felt that this was what was happening.
    Even when you decided to stop arguing about the translation, you couldn't just move on to the agenda and instead of admitting a mistake or at least feeling it, you lectured me about the very argument.
    In the process, you gave an unfounded example about Einstein.
    In this you created a new debate because I knew that the things you said about Einstein, not only are not confirmed by the historical facts but are in contradiction with you.
    I explained what she was contradicting and then you continued to drag the debate into personal intentions such as "defense of Einstein" or "admiration of him".
    I think that the expression "peck war" actually suits this debate.
    Obviously, if I hadn't responded now - the debate would have ended, but then it would have ended without having learned everything that could be learned from it, and between stopping the debate and making the most of it, I decided in favor of making the most while risking that the debate would continue.

  5. Von Messerschmitt, that's right. And also without anything to do with the English translation
    Einstein participated in a feast of corruption where meat was roasted on skewers and Einstein told a joke about putting... on the stake.
    In the end it was a joke by Einstein, and when explaining jokes they are no longer so equal... anyone can translate Einstein as they see fit. I translated this story from Carl Seelig's book.
    The translators of Isaacson's book worked for a long time to translate the book and it is very difficult to translate terms.
    So I can think that there are terms that I would translate differently and someone else can think that there are terms that he would translate differently.
    Michael, there is no peck war here. I was actually very patient with you and stopped arguing about this issue of the focus and the steak very quickly.

  6. The English translations are correct, however I get what you are saying about the German pun.
    I would like to read the English sentence found in the book.

    Someone here made a mistake (either Gali or the Hebrew translator or the translator of the book in English)

    The only thing I can think of as a pun (if he really sleeps) is that they may have had a dessert called Scheiterhaufen

    Let's solve this nonsense :o)

  7. So you're also saying that Einstein intended to make a pun that would only work in a clumsy English translation?
    And from nothing that developed into a peck war, you decide to join the peck war?

    You are also wrong in the translations (at least according to the dictionary and according to Google Translate) but so be it.
    I do not agree to any of this and I did not and will not take part in the peck war either.
    I made a matter-of-fact comment and got poked.
    I am used to it.

  8. How come there is a peck war here.

    The translation of Scheiterhaufen in Google English is this:


    A campfire is not a pyre, a campfire is a bonfire

    pyre uses a very specific usage:

    funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed on the pyre, which is then set on fire.

    The word Stake
    Burn the witch to the stake

    The origin of the word is from Old Norse steik

    which translated into English is To Roast

    And hence the use in English of the word Steak for the meat that was spared.

    All the uses talk about roasting meat (the dead body, "witch", or meat)

    And so the pun that Gali claims that Einstein meant is indeed appropriate.

  9. Michael. I don't admire Einstein. He is not my hero. He is the subject of my research and I am investigating his theories. He influenced my thinking. It is important to me that they do not distort his image and his theories and that they do not use his name for foreign and improper purposes. This is because he was the greatest Jewish scientist we had. There are children and teenagers in Israel who, if you stop them on the street, they won't know who Albert Einstein was and who Chaim Weizmann was. And worse than that, there are teachers at school who couldn't tell you who these two great scientists were...

  10. jelly:
    Although I admire Einstein, it does not seem to me that in this thread I defended him (and this, among other things, for the simple reason that in this thread no one attacked him and he did not need defending)

  11. Michael, it's good that you fiercely defended Einstein because now there are those who try to say: "Einstein was wrong", "Isn't Einstein such a genius?" Surf some foreign networks and you will hear such tones. And there are those who rush to eulogize Einstein after the neutrino experiment. They do not understand the experiment, do not understand what is going on and especially remember that there used to be Jewish physics. I'm going to pick up my son from the shuttle.

  12. someone:
    I'm always on vacation.
    My life is indeed beautiful (which I don't think is true of many others).
    Not long ago I returned from a bicycle trip along the Danube (I recommend you try it. Bicycle trips are, in my opinion, the ultimate vacation).
    What is your problem that led you to write the above comment?

  13. Mr. Rothschild,
    You should take a vacation in the Caribbean, drink a lot of tequila (even if you don't like it) and realize that life is also beautiful but mostly short.

  14. jelly:
    What you said about Einstein is true but does not refer to what I said about him.
    All in all, I brought his many years of debate with quantum theory as evidence that your claim that "arguing endlessly is not healthy and it is one of the things that Einstein really disliked" does not reflect the state of affairs to his satisfaction. He also argued tirelessly until (in this case) his strength gave out (along with his life).

    The debates with the ultra-Orthodox are intended - and I have explained this many times - for the viewers of the debate much more than for the Chabatites I am debating with.
    When I see that my interlocutor goes to the exhaustion method by repeating his nonsense without addressing the words - I stop arguing with him very quickly (and just make sure that the viewers understand that this is the case).

  15. look Only Einstein knows what he really loved. Who are we to say what he liked or didn't like.
    And it's true you don't have to like everything he liked.
    Arguing until the truth comes out does not always lead to results, because many times it is like talking to a wall.
    Let's take your favorite subject, ultra-Orthodox. Both you and I agree that if the government had not poured billions into the ultra-Orthodox and they would have gone to work, etc., then today there would be money for the middle class who go out in protest. See the following excellent article by Yizhar Oflatka:,7340,L-4123344,00.html
    Well then what to do? Arguing here is like talking to a wall. I'm already tired.
    Regarding Einstein and the quanta. Einstein was strongly opposed to the interpretation of quantum theory, the Stadnardtian probabilistic interpretation, the Copenhagen Consensus that we accept today. And he did not believe that there could be a remote movement of ghosts and he was wrong. In my opinion, if he were alive today, he would have accepted the quantum theory and he would have tried with all his might to find a new quantum theory of gravity. Just like he worked on the field unification theory.

  16. I will allow myself to decide for myself what is good.
    I do not undertake to like everything that Einstein liked and I do not undertake to accept your opinion on what Einstein liked or did not like.
    I argue until the truth comes out or until my strength runs out.
    Einstein didn't like?
    Until the end of his life he argued with quantum theory.

  17. I took my son to judo class so I couldn't turn to Einstein.
    It's good that you asked your parents.
    I actually thought you were of French descent by name. And I thought you were a relative of the one who founded the baron colony.
    You know arguing endlessly is not healthy and it's one of the things that Einstein really didn't like. He was the most patient person on earth.
    Therefore, how you want and what you say is acceptable to me and probably also to Einstein.

  18. jelly:
    I will not leave the Google translation software.
    She works great.
    I understand German myself and to be sure I also asked my parents who are of Swiss and German origin.
    The word Scheiterhaufen consists of two words Scheiter (which means wood scraps) and haufen which means pile (and together - a pile of wood scraps). The word is used in two directions: one - bonfire (in English Pyre), and the other - see it's a miracle - Moked (in English Stake)
    It has nothing to do with adoption.
    And again - as mentioned - Einstein would not have said anything in German so that by mistake in the English translation he came out (as if) joking (and I explained the difference between steak which is adopted and stake which is a focus)

  19. Leave Google's software... it's not a bonfire! Google's translation software translates more or less correctly but you need to know German to understand what it translates. You can't understand the sentence without knowing German at all.
    Einstein was cynical. He also had a sense of humor. The combination of the two brought him into strange situations. His comments were sarcastic. He was rebellious and he didn't come and make serious comments at fancy and ridiculous dinners. His comments were both amusing and sarcastic in such situations.
    The translation of this is either pyre or stake.

  20. So the original is in German anyway.
    According to Google's translation software, Scheiterhaufen is a bonfire.
    Einstein wouldn't have said something in German so that by mistake in the English translation it came out (as if) as a joke.

  21. But Michael, leave. You know what just a focal point. In English it sounds better when you say steak to the focus. Because it's a pun. You write stake and people think of steak. And this is how I think about it when I translate because I write articles in English.
    So let there be a focus.

  22. The source is:

    Er würde einen großen Scheiterhaufen erichtet und uns alle wegen sündhafter Schlemmerei vernacht haben

    The word:


    She is either a focus or a steak. Since Einstein was at the banquet, this is a black and cynical humor typical of Einstein.
    The translation of the German is so complicated. I told you that translation is complicated. And probably a professional translator would have done it better than me, because you have to take into account that this is a banquet of corruption.

  23. jelly:
    These steaks are spelled differently and I have no doubt that Einstein did not mean adoption (and if it was funny, then every promotion on the stake would be equally funny because in all the promotions on the stake this pun catches)

  24. Michael,
    The sentence is taken from Seelig and I chose the English version.
    Steak here is in two senses:
    One is a "steak" for food and the other is a "steak" a pillar of fire on which they would put it on the fire.
    There is a play on words here, so it is impossible to translate it - "he would set up a huge camp and cause everyone to burn"...
    Because the intention is both a steak for food and for the center...
    To a foreign reader it is clear and he laughs at the joke... and to a Hebrew reader it is a little less clear...
    And maybe a professional translator would have found some way to translate:
    Maybe adopted and something else... you understand?
    So I left the source... but the story is taken from Seelig.

  25. "He would set up a huge steak and make us all burn"

    Was this sentence quoted from the Hebrew translation of the book?

    I have not read the book - neither in Hebrew nor in English, but I assume that it says something related to the word stake that appears in the phrase burn at the stake

    In this context - the meaning of the word is pillar (the pillar to which the victim was tied).

    This word has nothing to do with the word steak - adopted

    If this is the case, then the correct translation is something along the lines of "Einstein would have set up a large center and brought us all up on it"

  26. We need an Einstein today to lead the social revolution.

    "The minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them. "

    - Albert Einstein, letter to Sigmund Freud, July 30, 1932

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