7 October 1998

Ten Obscure Factoids Concerning Albert Einstein

1. He Liked His Feet Naked

"When I was young, I found out that the big toe always ends up making a hole in the sock," he once said. "So I stopped wearing socks." Einstein was also a fanatical slob, refusing to "dress properly" for anyone. Either people knew him or they didn't, he reasoned - so it didn't matter either way.

2. He Hated Scrabble

Aside from his favourite past-time sailing ("the sport which demands the least energy"), Einstein shunned any recreational activity that required mental agility. As he told the New York Times, "When I get through with work I don't want anything that requires the working of the mind."

3. He Was A Rotten Speller

Although he lived for many years in the United States and was fully bilingual, Einstein claimed never to be able to write in English because of "the treacherous spelling". He never lost his distinctive German accent either, summed up by his catch-phrase "I vill a little t'ink".

4. He Loathed Science Fiction

Lest it distort pure science and give people the false illusion of scientific understanding, he recommended complete abstinence from any type of science fiction. "I never think of the future. It comes soon enough." He also thought people who claimed to have seen flying saucers should keep it to themselves.

5. He Smoked Like A Chimney

A life member of the Montreal Pipe Smokers Club, Einstein was quoted as saying: "Pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment of human affairs." He once fell into the water during a boating expedition but managed heroically to hold on to his pipe.

6. He Wasn't Much Of A Musician

Einstein would relax in his kitchen with his trusty violin, stubbornly trying to improvise something of a tune. When that didn't work, he'd have a crack at Mozart.

7. Alcohol Was Not His Preferred Drug

At a press conference upon his arrival to New York in 1930, he said jokingly of Prohibition: "I don't drink, so it's all the same to me." In fact, Einstein had been an outspoken critic of "passing laws which cannot be enforced".

8. He Equated Monogamy With Monotony

"All marriages are dangerous," he once told an interviewer. "Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to make something lasting out of an incident." He was notoriously unfaithful as a husband, prone to falling in love with somebody else directly after the exchanging of vows.

9. His Memory Was Shot

Believing that birthdays were for children, his attitude is summed up in a letter he wrote to his girlfriend Mileva Maric: "My dear little sweetheart ... first, my belated cordial congratulations on your birthday yesterday, which I forgot once again."

10. His Cat Suffered Depression

Fond of animals, Einstein kept a housecat which tended to get depressed whenever it rained. Ernst Straus recalls him saying to the melancholy cat: "I know what's wrong, dear fellow, but I don't know how to turn it off."

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