I love Greenville for more reasons than I can count. My work keeps me researching the rich history of my hometown. The deeper I dig, the richer it gets.
Who knew Albert Einstein was a visitor to Greenville in the early 1900’s? I had no idea! Why does no one talk about this?
Picture it: Germany, March 14, 1879. (Golden Girls fans, that was for you!) Herman and Pauline Einstein have a bouncing baby boy. They planned to name him after his grandfather. In the troubled times, they decided Abraham was “too jewish” and settled on Albert. I found it interesting that he didn’t speak till he was three years old. In fact, “Einstein Syndrome” is used today to describe bright children with delayed speech. Parents, this should teach us not to play the comparison game. If our kiddos take a little longer to meet those milestones, it might be because they’re genius!
Let’s fast forward to adult Albert. Einstein married Serbian physicist and mathematician, Mileva Maric, in 1903. The couple had three children. Daughter Lieserl was developmentally disabled and died of scarlet fever before her second birthday. We were unable to find out much about her. I read one article that said she was given up for adoption.
They had two sons, Eduard “Tete” and Hans Albert (more on him in a minute).
In 1914, Albert moved his family to Berlin. After a short time, Mileva moved with the sons back to Zurich. Eduard was a good student with musical talent. At age twenty, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Two years later he was institutionalized for the first time. Einstein financially supported his first born son, but never saw him again. Eduard died at age fifty-five in the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich. For the record, it bothers me that he never saw him again.
Albert Einstein paid his first wife the money from his Nobel Prize for a divorce in 1919. That same year, he married his first cousin and second cousin at the same time. Elsa was the daughter of Albert’s mother’s sister (stay with me here). Elsa’s father and Albert’s father were first cousins - making the bride and groom maternal first cousins and paternal second cousins. Now, go back and read that again - it took a few (hundred) times to sink in. Gross.
Whatever happened to Hans? He became a civil engineer and moved to Greenville from Switzerland in 1938. While living on Randall Street, he worked with Clemson University and the US Department of Agriculture. Hans was involved in a project with the Soil Conservation Service and the state of South Carolina on the Enoree River.
When Albert Einstein visited his son in Greenville, he occasionally spoke at Furman University. On those days, classes were cancelled so students could listen to the Nobel Prize winner.
Albert Einstein has two grandsons buried in the upstate. Klaus Martin Einstein died of diphtheria just shy of his sixth birthday. You can find his grave in the “U” section of Woodlawn Memorial Park off Wade Hampton Blvd. Jackson will be glad to show ya - he had a ball running around with us trying to find the marker!
David Einstein, another son of Hans, died at one month old and is buried in an unmarked grave in Spartanburg’s Greenlawn Memorial Gardens. I’ve tried to find out why the grave is unmarked and where it is located, but have not had success.
Albert Einstein held three citizenships in his lifetime. German by birth, he gave up his citizenship in 1896 because he was opposed to the German military. He became a Swiss citizen in 1901 and a citizen of the United States in 1940.
Einstein is such a famous figure, most readers are familiar with his extraordinary accomplishments. During my research, I unearthed some lesser known facts about the life of the brilliant, but quirky physicist.
I’m going to put these facts in bulleted form to keep from getting too wordy - ya’ll know I can get wordy!
Albert could not swim, but loved to sail
he never wore socks
music was his second love
Albert dropped out of school at the age of fifteen
at age sixteen, he failed an eye exam trying to qualify for engineer training
he fell in love with physics when his grandfather gifted him a compass
he needed at least ten hours of sleep to “function well.” Makes sense, Netflix wasn’t a thing
the average IQ is 100 by definition - Albert’s IQ was 160. (Nadia Camukova, from Moscow, has the highest IQ on record at 200) I have NO desire to find out my IQ 😳
FBI Director, Edgar Hoover, thought Einstein was a Soviet spy and kept a 1,427 page file on him
he refused surgery for a busted blood vessel near his heart. “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially,” he said. Albert died shortly after
Thomas Harvey @ Princeton Hospital removed Einstein’s brain during an (illegal) autopsy and was later fired for not returning the brain. It was kept in two large mason jars full of alcohol in a cider box for over twenty years
Albert’s eye doctor, and personal friend, Henry Abrams, kept his eyes in a safe deposit box in NYC. Henry was recorded as saying that having his eyes made him feel like he was close by. Creepy, but whatever. Abrams died in 2009 - I wonder where Albert’s eyes are now
Albert Einstein having such personal ties to Greenville is unbelievable to me. His philosophy on education has been instrumental in our homeschooling journey. I thought I’d leave you with my two favorite quotes:
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
”Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
- Albert Einstein