#ThrowbackThursday: Einstein in Princeton

The March 23, 1951, issue of PAW. Click to Enlarge.

The March 23, 1951, issue of PAW. Click to Enlarge.

Before Albert Einstein made his first visit to Princeton, to deliver the Stafford Little Lectures in May 1921, few in the United States knew much about the man, beyond what had been written of his work. As PAW explained in a brief preview, “We are apt to think of such an eminent scientist as Dr. Einstein as a man advanced in years, and no doubt most Americans were surprised to learn that he is but slightly over 40. … He has said that Princeton is the one American university at which he especially desires to speak, because more has been done here in relation to his theory than at any other place in the United States.”

Princetonians would come to know Einstein better in his later years. In 1933, he returned to town to join the Institute for Advanced Study and its extraordinary department of mathematics (colleagues included John von Neumann and Oswald Veblen). Though he never served on the Princeton faculty, he made a lasting impression on students of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. PAW readers have written letters recalling their brief, memorable interactions with the famous physicist — paddling his boat on Lake Carnegie, discussing Bach with members of the Student Hebrew Association, or simply walking across campus or around town, as in this photo from PAW’s March 23, 1951, cover.

Einstein died April 18, 1955, at Princeton Hospital, and enterprising reporters from The Daily Princetonian helped to break the news in a special edition published that day. Harold Dodds *1914, then the University president, mourned Einstein as a valued member of the campus community: “The contributions which Dr. Einstein made to man’s understanding of nature are beyond assessment in our day. Only future generations will be competent to grasp their full significance. He combined broad human sympathy and a deep appreciation of the arts with his scientific genius.”

READ MORE about the University’s Einstein collections in a FAQ post from Mudd Library.

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