Albert Einstein was born on this date in 1879. The German-born Nobel Prize winner possessed a quick, sharp wit along with his enviable IQ, and his tendency to offset the very serious matter of general relativity with a little lighthearted humor is evident in this series of photos.
1. Getting Tongues Wagging
In honor of Einstein’s 72nd birthday, friends and colleagues met at the Princeton Club for a celebration heavy on both merriment and press photographers. Eager cameraman Arthur Sasse tried to coax one final smile from the physicist as he departed for the night; worn down by the festivities, Einstein stuck out his tongue instead. The photo has since become a cultural icon, which Einstein himself liked so much that he ordered nine prints made, and used it to adorn greeting cards.
2. The Lady and the Scientist
Behind this great man was this great woman: Elsa Einstein, Albert’s second wife, who moved with him from Berlin to Princeton, and brought along her two daughters from a previous marriage to form the cohesive Einstein family unit.
3. An Enviable Mustache
Despite the uniformity of dress and prevalence of facial hair in this old photograph, something still stands out about Einstein’s trademark mustache—the same mustache that adorns the face of this bobblehead available in the Mental Floss store.
4. Nice Sandals
Southold Historical Society
Pictured here in September 1939, Einstein relaxes on the beach near his Long Island summer home with friend and local department store owner David Rothman. After some initial confusion in the store resulting from Einstein’s thickly accented request for a pair of “sundahls,” which Rothman interpreted as “sundial,” the scientist was able to successfully purchase the white sandals on his feet for $1.35. He laughed off the episode, blaming “mine atrocious accent!” The men remained close friends thereafter, later forming a neighborhood string quartet together.
5. Easy Rider
California Institute of Technology Archives
Even riding free and easy through Santa Barbara, California in this 1933 photo, the award-winning physicist maintains a classic look in his cardigan and dress pants.
6. Stick that in your pipe
An avid smoker, Einstein was rarely seen without his pipe. Despite our contemporary health concerns about the ill effects of tobacco, he was convinced that “pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.”
7. Style for Miles
His face may be perfectly serious, but his robe is perfectly silly.
8. Rock 'em, Sock 'Em
For all his brilliance, Albert Einstein in his later years began to look less like the foremost physicist of his age, and more like the friendly neighborhood grandpa who wore socks with sandals—except that according to many accounts, the scientist with his relentlessly practical mind could never reconcile himself to wear socks regularly, knowing that his big toe would inevitably wear a hole in them and believing that shoes alone would suffice to cover his feet. In light of that information, these socks with Einstein’s face printed on them are hugely ironic.
9. Fierce Footwear
These slippers presumably required no socks.
10. A Hairy Situation
In Albert Einstein’s windswept white mane lie the origins of the mad scientist hairstyle.
Harry Burnett, 1931
After witnessing a performance by the Yale Puppeteers at the Teatro Torito in Los Angeles, Einstein had only one complaint about his miniature alter ego: “The puppet wasn’t fat enough!” he claimed, and took a letter out of his pocket, crumpled it up, and padded out the character’s belly for accuracy’s sake. He might have been more satisfied with this plush, soft-toy representation of himself, available in the Mental Floss store—additional stomach padding not included.