10 surprising facts about Albert Einstein

As we gear up for National Geographic's drama series Genius about the life and times of Albert Einstein, we take a look at ten weird but true facts about the scientist.

Genius, National Geographic’s (BT TV channel 317/373 HD) first ever drama series, is about the private life and times of  scientist Albert Einstein.

Starring Geoffrey Rush as Professor Einstein, the show aims to portray a more personal and human side of this eccentric historical figure.

Here we take a look at ten surprising but true facts about Albert Einstein:

1. He had delayed speech

Despite being hailed a genius throughout much of his adult life, Einstein had severely delayed speech as a child and did not begin speaking at all until the age of three. The term “Einstein Syndrome” has since been coined which is used to describe intelligent adults who struggled with speech as a child.

2. He was naturally brainy

While Western doctors tend to disagree with the theory that a big brain equates to high intelligence, part of Einstein's brain was in fact abnormally large.


With a near perfect IQ score of 160, Einstein’s autopsy revealed that the overall size of his brain was actually smaller than average, but the corpus collossum (the part of the brain which allows communication between its two hemispheres) was abnormally large. Some neuroscientists have argued this abnormality could explain why he was so exceptionally intelligent.

3. He made his wife sign a marriage contract

Unfortunately Albert wasn’t the best husband to his first wife, Mileva Einstein. Not only was he a notorious philanderer but he also made her sign a sort of marriage contract.

Reading very much like a servants chore list, the contract includes instructions such as to make sure “that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order” and “that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room.” He even went on to state that she must also expect that he will never be found “sitting at home with you” or even “expect any intimacy from me.”

4. He escaped Nazi Germany

Albert was born in Ulm, South West Germany in 1879 but fled the country one month after Adolf Hitler was anointed Chancellor in 1933.

Fearing the rise of Nazism and persecution of Jews, he immigrated to America with his second wife Elsa. Here he renounced his German citizenship and became an American citizen in 1940. He never returned to Germany.

5. He rejected the chance to be President

Einstein was offered to become the second-ever President of Israel in 1952. Israel’s first President, Chaim Weizmann, even hailed Einstein as “the greatest Jew alive.”


However, Einstein kindly rejected the offer, saying he didn’t feel he had the communication skills or natural aptitude to fulfil the role’s full potential. His exact words were, “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel [to serve as President], and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions.”

6. He may have had an affair with Marilyn Monroe

We’ll likely never know for sure whether this actually happened, but there have long been rumours that Albert had a brief romantic affair with the much younger Marilyn Monroe.

Fellow actress Shelley Winters was once a roommate with a young Monroe and claims that she confessed to her that she had had a brief but passionate affair with the four-and-a-half decades older Einstein and that he was one of the most “energetic” men she’d ever been with.

While some say the two never even met, Marilyn was an admitted fan of Einstein’s work and genius, and even had a photo framed of him in her home.

7. He was right handed

Sorry lefties. The popular belief that Einstein is one of the most famous left handers of all time is actually false. Lists and books often quote Einstein as one of the most famed left handers of all, but the truth is he was most certainly right handed.

Photographs and film reels show him writing and playing music right handed. The rumour that he was a lefty most likely developed after his death when his brain was examined and revealed to be slightly more symmetrical than the average – which is a common but not guaranteed trait for left handers.

8. He helped develop nuclear weapons

Despite common folklore, Einstein did not develop the atomic bomb. However, his scientific discoveries and influence did play a major part in its creation.

Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity clearly illustrates that a large amount of energy can be dispersed from a small area of matter – which is ultimately what the atomic bomb did.


Einstein was actually a pacifist until in 1933 when he declared that mainly because of Hitler’s worrying rise to power he was no longer an “absolute pacifist.” In 1940, along with fellow famed scientist Leo Szilard, he penned a letter to US President Roosevelt encouraging him to develop an atomic bomb in response to Nazis advancement in weapons and fears that they had already developed the bomb themselves.

This letter is seen as highly influential in the US development of the bomb and of the destruction caused at Hiroshima and Nagasaki - but Einstein lived to regret ever signing it.

Five months before he died, Einstein declared, "I made one great mistake in my life... when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification - the danger that the Germans would make them.”

9. He was a highly skilled musician

In addition to being a genius-level mathematician and scientist, Einstein was also an accomplished musician. He played violin from the age of five and apparently always travelled with his favourite violin which he named “Lina.”

Einstein also played the piano, and listed Mozart as his favourite composer. He’s even quoted as saying, “I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”

10. He wasn’t a spy

Despite Einstein immigrating to USA in 1933, an investigation led by the FBI was made against him that year and it dogged him the rest of his life.

Einstein long campaigned for peace and was involved in various peace groups and organisations that had direct ties to the Communist Party. His FBI file even states on its first page that “not even Stalin himself” was associated with as many suspicious groups and societies as Einstein was.


Publicly speaking against the McCarthy investigations did little to help matters, and both the FBI and various other spy agencies (both American and foreign) continued to monitor his movements and actions right up to his death. There were even rumours that he was a Russian spy in his last years. No solid information has ever confirmed any of this, and the now publicly-released FBI files are clearly inconclusive regarding his involvement with the Communist Party. 

Genius is on National Geographic every Sunday at 9pm from April 23rd. Watch National Geographic on BT TV channel 317/373 HD.

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Image credits: HistoryArchives/REX/Shutterstock

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