Einstein's theory of infidelity

Arifa Akbar
Tuesday 11 July 2006 00:00 BST

Albert Einstein has been revealed as a charismatic flirt and philanderer who liked to describe his extramarital affairs to his second wife and stepdaughter.

A series of 1,300 letters written by the physicist were published for the first time yesterday. They are part of a batch of 3,500 bequeathed to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The letters, translated from German, portray Einstein as a heartbreaker who in one letter tells his long-suffering wife, Elsa, how some women shower him with "unwanted" affection. In another he asks his stepdaughter, Margot, to discreetly deliver a love note to his Russian lover.

He was reputed to have been a charmer who bewitched Marilyn Monroe, and had 10 lovers outside of two marriages. These letters, kept by Margot, and released two decades after her death on 8 July 1986 on her instruction, illuminate how Einstein spent little time at home, instead lecturing in Europe and the US, but wrote about his amorous adventures to his family.

Previously released letters have revealed how miserable he was in his first marriage to Mileva Maric, whom he divorced in 1919, to marry his cousin, Elsa.

In the letters, the professor describes six women whom he romanced and spent time sailing, reading, and attending concerts with, while being married to Elsa. Some of the women identified by Einstein include Estella, Ethel, Toni, and his famous "Russian spy lover", Margarita, while others are referred to simply by their initials, such as M and L.

In one letter to Margot, Einstein asks his stepdaughter to pass on "a little letter" to Margarita "to avoid providing curious eyes with tidbits".

In another from Oxford, dated 1931, he writes about the ardent nature of some of his lovers who pursued him relentlessly, showering him with gifts, including Ethel Michanowski, a 30-year-old Berlin socialite who was involved with Einstein in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and chased him to England.

Michanowski is mentioned in three of the newly unsealed letters including one in which he writes: "It is true that M followed me [to England] and her chasing after me is getting out of control. But firstly I could hardly avoid it, and secondly, when I see her again, I will tell her that she should vanish immediately. Out of all the dames, I am in fact attached only to Mrs L, who is absolutely harmless and decent."

In one correspondence to Elsa, he insensitively writes about Mrs M, who accompanied him on his trip abroad. "Mrs M definitely acted according to the best Christian-Jewish ethics: 1) one should do what one enjoys and what won't harm anyone else; and 2) one should refrain from doing things one does not take delight in and which annoy another person. Because of 1) she came with me, and because of 2) she didn't tell you a word. Isn't that irreproachable?" he writes.

Hanoch Gutfreund, chairman of the Albert Einstein Worldwide Exhibition, said while Einstein's marriage to Elsa was best described as a "marriage of convenience," he nevertheless wrote to her almost every day with descriptions of lecturing in Europe and his efforts to give up smoking, as well as detail of his mistresses. In 1921, he wrote a postcard to her about the nature of scientific discovery, saying: "Soon I'll be fed up with the [theory of] relativity Elsa. Even such a thing fades away when one is too involved with it."

Einstein's harsh treatment of his first wife, Mileva, has been documented in biographies since his death, and he has been portrayed as an indifferent father.

But Professor Gutfreund said the latest collection showed Einstein to have been warmer to his first family than previously thought, and letters written by his two sons from his first marriage showed "they understood he loved them".

The letters dated from 1912 until 1955, when Einstein died at the age of 76 - nearly two decades after Elsa's death - also reveal how he lost much of his Nobel Prize money from 1921 in the Great Depression. Under the terms of his divorce from Mileva, the entire sum was supposed to have been deposited into a Swiss bank account, from which Mileva was to draw for her and the couple's two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, but the new correspondence shows he invested most of it in America, where much of it was lost after the Wall Street crash of 1929.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in