The Other Side of Einstein’s Genius

Best known for his theory of relativity, Albert Einstein has become a pop culture icon synonymous with intelligence, empathy, and a healthy dose of silliness. He did possess his fair share of quirks and oddities, though (incestuous and otherwise). Meet the Einstein you never knew.

1. He Worked at the Swiss Patent Office

Speichergasse Einstein
House of Cantons on Speichergasse in Berne, Switzerland where Einstein used to work for the Swiss Patent Office. Image:

Einstein looked for an academic teaching position for two years after receiving his polytechnic degree, but found nothing.

He earned his Swiss citizenship in 1901, then used his father’s connections to land a job as a Level-III Technical Assistant at the Patent Office in Bern. He called the patent office a “worldly oyster” that inspired some of his best ideas—and where he developed his critical mindset.

One of the most intelligent men in history couldn’t get a job for two years. And you thought today’s job market was bad!

Source: Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property

2. Socks Weren’t His Thing

Einstein was legendary for going sockless. Source:

Einstein not only disliked wearing socks, but he took pleasure in getting away with it “even on the most solemn occasions.”

His logic followed that if the big toe would create a hole in your socks eventually, then why wear socks at all? There was more to this than avoiding smelly feet.

Einstein was the kind of person to ask, “What if I stopped wearing socks?” Asking that “what if” was a core part of his brand of scientific inquiry that underpinned his achievements. Remember that next time you put on your socks.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

3. The Left-Handed Mystery

Source: AFP

Einstein wrote with his right hand, but popular culture seems to portray him as a leftie. Why is that?

Sources close to Einstein in his adult life state that he was right-handed, but there’s something else to the story: an autopsy revealed that neither side of his brain dominated the other, as in most people.

Both sides of his brain operated in a “symmetrical” pattern, meaning they were balanced. For all we know, he may have been born a leftie and trained to use his right hand from a young age.

You could be burned as a witch for being left-handed in the Middle Ages. Fortunately for Einstein and his ambidextrous abilities that was a practice long condemned by his era.

Source: American Psychological Association

4. He Could Have Been President of Israel

David Ben Gurion and Albert Einstein. Source: National Photo Collection

The idea began with an editorial opinion in Israel’s Maariv newspaper, if you can believe it.

The newly formed nation of Israel’s first president was a prominent man, and his passing raised the question of who could fill his shoes. Off-hand comments about using Einstein’s mind to “work out the mathematics of [Israel’s] economy” snowballed into an offer on November 17, 1952 to become Israel’s second president.

Einstein declined the offer with a heavy heart, citing old age and a lack of political experience as the largest factors.

However, he stated that his relationship with the Jewish community had become his “strongest human bond.”

Source: TIME Magazine and Jewish Virtual Library

5. His Book Club Was Pretty Exclusive…

Source: AP

… and it influenced many of his own theories. What began as an attempt to earn some pocket money through tutoring people in physics became a close-knit group of three people discussing philosophy and literature (it never hurts to sneak in a little Walt Whitman between mathematical equations).

Maurice Solovine answered Einstein’s ad, and they became fast friends. Then Conrad Habicht joined them, and the rest is history.

The three named these gatherings the Olympia Academy as a joke, but it proved to be quite influential on his life. “O Captain! My Captain!” indeed.

Source: From the Grapevine

6. You Can Find Him in Comic Books

In “Superman v. Wonder Woman,” the Amazonian princess rescued Einstein from evildoers. Source: DC Comics

Not only has Einstein been featured in several comic books (like when he “met” Superman), but he was even the inspiration for one.

The comic book character E-Man was based loosely on Einstein and his famous equation, E=mc2. E-Man wore the formula on his chest after seeing it on a poster of his bombastic red-headed sidekick, Nova Kane.

Einstein’s love life wasn’t that sizzling, though. He married his cousin.

Source: The University of Kentucky

7. The Violin Was His Favorite


Lina brought him more joy than most things in this world. That’s not his wife, by the way—it’s his violin.

His mother was the family musician, and he developed a taste for Bach and Beethoven. He even played as a way to facilitate his thought process, even if it was just striking a few notes before returning to his pen and paper.

He even played publicly more than a few times, although there are no confirmed recordings in existence.

Source: CMUSE

8. He Never Learned to Drive


Whenever you’re driving home from a bad day at work, just remember that you’ve accomplished something that Einstein never did.

Allegedly, he thought horseless carriages were too complicated to be a means of mass transportation. He preferred a leisurely-paced stroll (food for thought!), and hitched a ride whenever he and his bare feet needed to travel long distances.

Much of the world’s infrastructure has been built around our ever-growing dependence on the automobile since Einstein’s time, and many of us have no choice but to use a car as our primary means of transit.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, The Einstein WebsiteThe Economist

If one of the world’s most intelligent people succeeded in life without socks or a car, then we can probably strive for a little bit more in our daily lives as well.