Friday, January 14, 2011

Einstein's Tongue - Here’s the Story Behind Albert Einstein’s Most Iconic Photograph of All Time

14 March 1951: Arthur Sasse was amongst the pack of photographers hounding Albert Einstein as he left his 72nd birthday celebration but the only one to get this shot of him playfully sticking his tongue out. This crop (from a wider image showing his companions in the back of a car) was chosen by Einstein himself to put on greetings cards to be sent out to friends. The photograph, arguably one of the best known press photographs of any 20th century personality, established a public image of Einstein as the 'nutty professor' rather than the nobel prize-winning physicist who developed the theory of general relativity.

On March 14, 1951, friends and colleagues were celebrating the birthday of the great scientist. Photographers from all over the US were present to cover the whole event, something that Einstein found distressing.

As the event came towards its conclusion, Dr. Frank Aydelotte- former head of the Institute for Advanced Study and his wife offered Einstein a ride home- an offer the scientist accepted. Just as he got into the car, a throng of photographers surrounded it.

But the luck was on the side of a UPI photographer Arthur Sasse, who after persistent trials of persuading Einstein to smile for the camera, finally got a reaction. An exasperated scientist who had already faked a smile several times before at the party did something different this time. He stuck his tongue out, Sasse captured the shot, others missed it, and the photograph became one of the most famous of all time.

Einstein was happy with the spontaneous output and he ordered UPI to give him 9 copies of the snap. He chose the “cropped” version of the original photograph in which his friends were also seen, to use on the greeting cards he sent out to his friends. Out of the 9 he ordered for personal use, he signed one for a reporter. His originally signed photograph was sold at an auction on June 19, 2009, for a staggering $74,324!

Interesting facts:

He was an ideal model for depiction of crazy professors

Be it the formula E = mc2, which is dubbed as “the world’s most famous equation”, the general theory of relativity which is regarded as one of the two pillars of modern physics, or the fact that he published more than 300 scientific papers, Einstein will remain one of the unparalleled geniuses for eternity. But these aren’t the only reasons for his fame. Einstein is regarded as an ideal model for depictions of mad scientists and absent-minded professors.

Einstein flees the Nazis

In 1933 Hitler came to power and passed the “The Law of the Restoration of the Civil Service” which forced Jewish government employees from their jobs. Einstein who had been teaching in America part-time decided to stay in America and in 1940 became a US citizen. In 1939 Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging America to start a nuclear program out of fear the Nazi’s would develop atomic weapons first. In his later years he would hold a number of teaching positions while trying to prove his theories.

President of Israel

Throughout his life he was a big supporter of Israel and worked with a number of Israeli Universities and Israeli causes. In 1952 the Israeli government offered the post of president of Israeli to Einstein an offer he declined. In letter to the Israeli government he wrote:
“I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel [to be 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. Therefore I would also be an inappropriate candidate for this high task … I wish from the bottom of my heart that a man is found who will be able to take over the hard and responsible office due to his work and his personality.”

The death of Einstein

Did you know that after the death of Einstein, a pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, without the permission of the scientist’s family members, removed the brain of the scientist to preserve it. He hoped that studying his brain, the neuroscience of the future will be able to figure what made Einstein so intelligent!

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