Albert Einstein by Yousuf Karsh

Albert Einstein had reached his intellectual peak when he presented a new theory of the physical universe and won a Nobel Prize in 1921. This was almost 30 years before the top photographer Yousuf Karsh met him at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. By this time, Einstein had retired from his academic position and was suffering from an abdominal aneurysm, an indication of syphilis. He still spent several hours a day in his office at the Institute where he was working on the third edition of his book, The Meaning of Relativity. Karsh described the mathematician, saying that he was “a simple, kindly, almost childlike man, too great for any of the postures of eminence. One did not have to understand his science to feel the power of his mind or the force of his personality.”

Whereas most photographers choose to portray Einstein as an eccentric, wild-haired genius, Karsh depicted him as pensive but melancholy. The physicist regretted the public link that had been made between his work and the development of the atomic bomb, the concept of which had been derived from a different kind of physics to his. In 1952, Einstein told a friend that “it is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.” Karsh asked Einstein what the world would be like if another atomic bomb was dropped and the physicist replied, “alas, we will no longer be able to hear the music of Mozart.”

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