112 Mercer Street
"But I also found Princeton fine. A pipe as yet unsmoked. Young and
Much is to be expected from America's youth."
-Einstein to a reporter in 1921
In 1932 Albert Einstein accepted a position at the newly-created Institute for
Advanced Study in Princeton. Coming to Princeton in October 1933, he and his
wife Elsa, along with his personal secretary Helen Dukas, spent ten days at the
Peacock Inn, while Elsa looked for a suitable house and Einstein dodged
The Einsteins' first two years in Princeton were spent in a two-family house
at 2 Library Place. By 1935 Einstein had decided to remain in Princeton and
began the formal process of obtaining permanent residency in the United States.
The family moved to the white, two-story house at 112 Mercer Street, which
would become their permanent home.
After Einstein's death in 1955 (Elsa had died in 1936), his daughter Margot
and Helen Dukas remained in the house until their deaths in 1986 and 1982,
respectively. At Einstein's request the house has never been turned into a
museum or public shrine; today it is owned by the Institute for Advanced Study
and is used as a private residence.
". . . these two old people sitting together with their bushy hair,
agreement, understanding and love."
-Lily Kahler, a close family friend, describing Einstein and his sister Maja
After Elsa Einstein's death, Helen Dukas took charge of the household, which
consisted of Einstein, his daughter Margot, and his sister Maja. Einstein was
devoted to his sister, who lived with him from 1939 until her death in 1951,
reading to her nightly after she was bedridden from a stroke.
Einstein had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, from his first marriage to
Mileva Maric, which ended in divorce. In 1919 he married his cousin, Elsa
Einstein Löwenthal, and adopted her two daughters, Ilse and Margot. (Ilse
died of an illness in 1934.) Margot, an artist and sculptor, shared a deep
love of nature with her father.
Devoting the majority of his time to scientific work, Einstein also found
enjoyment in sailing, often taking advantage of Princeton's Lake Carnegie, and
music, especially the work of Mozart. Einstein was a well-known figure in
Princeton, due in no small part to his shock of white hair, his refusal to wear
socks, and his total absorption in scientific problems. Many Princeton
residents have fond memories of spotting the famous physicist, lost in thought,
walking to and from his office at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Celebrations and Commemorations
". . . especially when he has, through no will of his own, become a kind of
legend in his
own lifetime. All manner of fable is being attached to his personality, and
no end to the number of ingeniously devised tales."
-Einstein describing himself in a 1954 letter to his lifelong friend
the Queen Mother of Belgium
Einstein's scientific achievements, coupled with his unpretentious attitude
and concern for humanity, made him a beloved, world-renowned figure. Wherever
he traveled he was mobbed by people hoping to catch a glimpse of or even touch
the genius who had changed their perception of the universe. Einstein himself
never understood the public's fascination with his every word and deed, saying
once: "Why is it that nobody understands me and everybody likes me?"
Every year on March 14, Einstein would receive cards, letters, and telegrams
with birthday wishes from throughout the world. Even on the centennial of his
birth, in 1979, the world celebrated with newspaper and magazine articles,
symposiums, publications, and commemorative stamps.
Einstein died on April 18, 1955 in Princeton Hospital; he was cremated and his
ashes scattered in an undisclosed location. The worldwide fascination with
this kind and gentle genius has not dissipated to this day.
". . . my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human
bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the
nations of the world."
-Einstein in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion,
November 18, 1952
In the early 1930s Einstein recognized the threat that Hitler posed to Jews
living in Germany and to himself in particular as a world-famous Jew. In 1932
Einstein left his country of birth never to return. Throughout the thirties
Einstein was deluged with pleas for help from relatives and strangers desperate
to flee fascism in Europe. Working against harsh immigration quotas imposed
against Jews, Einstein wrote affidavits and enlisted the help of friends in
assisting as many refugees as possible. By the end of the 1930s, Einstein had
written so many affidavits that his signature on a document no longer carried
At the same time, Einstein was busy raising funds for organizations such as
the United Jewish Appeal, and working toward securing a Jewish homeland in
Palestine, which was realized in 1948 by the creation of the State of Israel.
When Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel and an old friend of
Einstein's, died in 1952 Einstein was offered the Presidency. He regretfully
declined, writing: "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel,
and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it."
". . . I have become a kind of enfant terrible in my new
homeland, due to my inability
to keep silent and to swallow everything that happens there."
-Einstein in a 1954 letter to his lifelong friend Elizabeth, the Queen
Mother of Belgium
Einstein was a lifelong pacifist dedicated to the establishment of a World
Government, which he felt would allow nations to work together and abolish the
need for war. He could not keep silent about the ills he saw in society;
during the anti-communist "witch hunts" of the 1950s Einstein spoke out against
the persecution of those who were accused of being "unAmerican," urging them to
commit civil disobedience. He saw a parallel between the American political
climate of the postwar period and the fascism of Europe in the thirties.
In answer to a request for advice from William Frauenglass, a Brooklyn high
school teacher under investigation by the Senate Internal Security
subcommittee, Einstein wrote a letter which was published in The New York
Times on June 12, 1953. It read, in part: "Every intellectual who is
called before one of the committees ought to refuse to testify, i.e., he must
be prepared for jail and economic ruin, in short, for the sacrifice of his
personal welfare in the interest of the cultural welfare of his country."
Einstein: Cultural Icon
Einstein in Popular Culture
"...the public image of Albert Einstein has come to represent
intelligence in general, and the scientific mind in particular."
Alan J. Friedman and Carol C. Donley, Einstein as Myth and Muse
A well-known image in marketing and advertising, Albert Einstein graces
magazine ads, T-shirts, mugs, cartoons, calendars, and post cards, and is
featured in popular films. The wild-haired, sockless, disheveled, eccentric
genius with a heart--our popular culture hero, Einstein--is the currently
accepted symbol of intelligence.
Einstein's image in the mass media evolved during and after his lifetime.
Overwhelmingly positive views of Einstein as an intellectual hero prior to the
Second World War gave way to tragic portrayals linking him to the development
of the atom bomb in the years following the war. Though E=mc2 had
no crucial role in the unleashing of atomic energy, Einstein was portrayed in
popular culture as the sorrowful father of the atomic age, whose genius was
used to tragic ends.
As this mythical connection between Einstein and the atomic bomb was gradually
refuted, his name and face once again became the symbol of genius. His status
as an icon evolved from intellectual hero to intel-lectual victim and back
again. Today, Einstein is again a popular culture hero.