Armed with his camera and a case of scotch — to open doors and loosen tongues — Morse compiled a quietly intense record of a 20th-century icon’s passing. But aside from one now-famous image — of Einstein’s office, exactly how he left it, taken hours after his death — the pictures Morse took that day were never published. At the request of Einstein’s son, who asked that the family’s privacy be respected while they mourned, LIFE’s editors chose not to run the full story, and for more than five decades Morse’s photographs lay in the magazine’s archives, unseen and forgotten.
Now LIFE presents a selection of Morse’s photographs from that day, as well as Morse’s own memories of what it felt like 57 years ago, on a spring morning in Northern New Jersey, when he found himself racing around an Ivy League town trying to find out what became of the late, great scientist...
|Ralph Morse's famous photograph of Albert Einstein's office -- just as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist left it -- taken mere hours after Einstein died, Princeton, New Jersey, April 1955.|
|Mourners walk into the service for Einstein, passing the parked hearse that carried his body from Princeton.|
|An unidentified man holds a car door open for Einstein's secretary, Helen Dukas, following Einstein's cremation.|
|Late in the afternoon, family and friends return to Einstein's home at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, where he lived for 20 years.|
(Ralph Morse – Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)