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Albert Einstein in popular culture

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Title: Albert Einstein in popular culture  
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Subject: Einstein family, Einstein, The World as I See It (book), Einstein–Infeld–Hoffmann equations, Einstein's unsuccessful investigations
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Albert Einstein in popular culture

The famous image of Einstein
Albert Einstein has been the subject of or inspiration for many works of popular culture.

On Einstein's 72nd birthday on March 14, 1951, UPI photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera, but having smiled for photographers many times that day, Einstein stuck out his tongue instead.[1] This photograph became one of the most popular ever taken of Einstein,[2][3] often used in merchandise depicting him in a lighthearted sense. Einstein enjoyed this photo and requested UPI to give him nine copies for personal use, one of which he signed for a reporter. On June 19, 2009, the original signed photograph was sold at auction for $74,324, a record for an Einstein picture.[4]

Einstein is a favorite model for depictions of mad scientists and absent-minded professors; his expressive face and distinctive hairstyles have been widely copied and exaggerated. Time magazine's Frederic Golden wrote that Einstein was "a cartoonist's dream come true."[5]

"Einstein" has become a word used to describe someone extremely intelligent; the name is also applied sarcastically to someone who states the obvious or displays a lack of intelligence or insight ("Way to go, Einstein!").


In 1999, leading physicists voted Einstein the "greatest physicist ever".[6]

His birthday, March 14, is also Pi Day, so called because 3/14 corresponds to 3.14, the first three digits of the number Pi. The town of Princeton, New Jersey, where Einstein lived for more than 20 years, celebrates March 14 every year as "Princeton Pi Day and Einstein Birthday Party."[7]

Usage of his name and image

The children's television show Little Einsteins and the educational toys and videos of the Baby Einstein series both use Einstein's name, though not his image.

Iranian cartoonist and humorist Javad Alizadeh publishes a column titled "4D Humor" in his Persian monthly Humor & Caricature, which features cartoons, caricatures and stories on Einstein-related topics.[8] In 1991 he published in Persian "4D Humor", a comic book on Einstein's life and work, inspired mainly by the Theory of Relativity.[9]


Einstein bequeathed his estate, as well as the use of his image (see personality rights), to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,[10] which from the mid-1980s has sponsored the Einstein Papers Project with the Princeton University Press. Einstein actively supported the university during his life and this support continues with the royalties received from licensing activities. GreenLight licences the commercial use of the name "Albert Einstein" and associated imagery and likenesses of Einstein, as agent for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As head licensee the corporation can control commercial usage of Einstein's name and theoretically ensure compliance with certain standards (e.g., when Einstein's name is used as a trademark, the ™ symbol must be used).[11]


There is a persistent popular belief that Einstein was left-handed,[12] but there is no evidence that he was, and the belief has been called a myth.[13][14] Einstein wrote with his right hand,[15] and authoritative sources state flatly that he was right-handed.[14][16] An autopsy on Einstein's brain showed a symmetry between the two hemispheres, rather than a left-sided dominance as is typical of most right-handed people or a right-sided dominance as found in most left-handed people.[13]

Educational institutions

Several schools are named after him.

In media and drama

Einstein has been the subject of or inspiration for many novels, films and plays, such as Steve Martin's comedic play Picasso at the Lapin Agile.[17] He was the subject of Philip Glass's 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach,[18] and his humorous side is the subject of Ed Metzger's one-man play Albert Einstein: The Practical Bohemian.[19]


He was the subject (along with Arthur Eddington) of the BBC Two film Einstein and Eddington, featuring David Tennant as Eddington and Andy Serkis as Einstein, and detailing Einstein's development of his theories and Eddington's attempts to prove them[20] and in Yahoo Serious's intentionally inaccurate biography of Einstein as an Australian in the film Young Einstein.[21]

An Einstein-like character appears in Nicolas Roeg's 1985 film Insignificance. Set in New York in 1953, the film includes a scene in which "The Professor" (played by Michael Emil) the character evidently representing Albert Einstein, discusses Relativity with "The Actress" (Theresa Russell), a Marilyn Monroe-like character.[22]

Einstein was portrayed by Walter Matthau in the 1994 romantic comedy I.Q.[23]

In the 2001 film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, he was portrayed as a holographic personality called Dr. Know (voiced by Robin Williams).[24]

The Star Wars character Yoda's eyes were modeled after Einstein's.[25]

In the movie Back to the Future, the character of Dr. Emmett 'Doc' Brown, played by actor Christopher Lloyd and portrayed as a brilliant scientist, time traveler and inventor, has a dog called "Einstein", named after Brown's favorite scientist, as well as bearing a superficial resemblance to him. Lloyd also credited Einstein as being his inspiration for the character.[26][27]


A holographic representation of Einstein, played by Jim Norton, appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He first appears to debate physics with Reginald Barclay in The Nth Degree. Norton returns in the first part of Descent. The episode starts on the Enterprise with a game of poker being played by holodeck representations of Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking (portrayed by himself). All are programmed by Lt. Commander Data, playing as the fourth person in the game.[28]

In the television series Eureka, the town of Eureka was established when President Harry S. Truman commissioned development of a top-secret lab, staffed by Albert Einstein, after World War II and it became home to the scientists and their families working there.[29]


In The Hasty Hare, Marvin the Martian and K-9 receive their orders from General E = MC2

In literature

Featured in Jean-Claude Carrière's 2005 French novel, Einstein S'il Vous Plaît (Einstein If You Please) where Carrière portrays a fictional conversation between Einstein and a student.[30]

Alan Lightman's first book Einstein's Dreams, consists of short stories which are portrayed as being the dreams of Einstein while he was working on the theory of relativity; these stories explain how time would work in imaginary parallel universes.[31]

Novelist Jacob M. Appel's Einstein's Beach House relates a fictional battle over the settlement of Einstein's estate after his death.[32][33]

In music

Einstein is one of the celebrities on the cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[34]

Bob Dylan pays a tribute to him in a verse in "Desolation Row".[35]

Mariah Carey's eleventh studio album is entitled E=MC² after Einstein's celebrated equation.[36]

Kelly Clarkson's 2011 song "Einstein" is named after him.[37]

Greek singer Giorgos Lembesis has released a song titled "Einstein" in which he states that he always admired Albert Einstein, but now he needs his help in his relationship problems.[38]

In video games

In the strategy game series Command and Conquer, he is present in Red Alert 2. His fictional murder, involving a time machine, at the hands of the Soviets is a central plot point of Red Alert 3.[39]

In Mega Man, released in 1987, Dr. Wily's design is inspired by Albert Einstein, and was initially conceived to appear as a tall, thin scientist with a mustache, glasses, balding hair, and lab coat.[40]

See also


  1. ^ Kupper, Hans-Josef (2000). Retrieved 2006-10-04. 
  2. ^ Ingledew, John (2005). "The world's best known pictures". Photography.  
  3. ^ Faber, John (1978). "Einstein's Birthday Joke". Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them.  
  4. ^ "Photo Of Einstein Nets $74K At Auction".  
  5. ^ Golden, Frederic (January 3, 2000). "Person of the Century: Albert Einstein".  
  6. ^ Einstein "greatest physicist ever;" BBC news, November 29, 1999,
  7. ^ "Princeton Pi Day & Einstein Birthday Party". Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 
  8. ^ yektaweb يكتاوب. "جزيره دانش - جواد عليزاده- - گالري 9". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  9. ^ Arida, Ayssar, Quantum City, p. 41. Architectural Press, 2002.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on August 30, 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2005. 
  11. ^ "ALBRT EINSTEIN BRAND LOGO". Archived from the original on 2005-12-01. Retrieved November 21, 2005. 
  12. ^ "Left Handed Einstein". Being Left Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  13. ^ a b Price, Michael (January 2009). "The left brain knows what the right hand is doing". Monitor on Psychology (American Psychological Association) 40 (1): 60. 
  14. ^ a b "The Legend of the Dull-Witted Child Who Grew Up to Be a Genius". Albert Einstein archives. Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  15. ^ Chicago Tribune photograph
  16. ^ "Frequently asked questions". Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  17. ^ "Steve Martin backing banned play". BBC NEWS. 2009-03-15. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  18. ^ "At the Shore, Although the Water Is Shallower" by Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 2007-12-8
  19. ^ Richard F. Shepard (April 26, 1979). "Stage: Ed Metzger as Einstein; Genius and Pixie". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  20. ^ Neil Smith (2008-07-10). "Heroes to air near to US premiere". BBC NEWS. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  21. ^ "Theoretically, it's relative". Times Daily. 1989-07-08. Retrieved February 23, 2012. 
  22. ^ Dennis Lim (June 26, 2011). "'"A Second Look: 'Insignificance. LA Times. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  23. ^ Caryn James (January 8, 1995). "FILM VIEW; At the Cineplex It's Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  24. ^ Gary K. Wolfe (July 11, 2001). "Spielbrick Does Aldiss". Locus online. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  25. ^ "The Making of Yoda (part one).". Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-10-03. 
  26. ^ Ken Denmead (January 4, 2011). "Top 10 Awesome Dogs in Geek Culture". Wired. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  27. ^ Matt Gouras (June 12, 2009). "Lloyd: `Back to the Future' still gratifying". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  28. ^ "Einstein and Hawkins". Interview with Jim Norton. BBC. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  29. ^ Rob Owen (July 16, 2006). "'"TV Reviews: Oddballs populate quirky 'Eureka. Pittsburgh Post-gazette. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  30. ^ Scarlett Thomas (February 19, 2006). "Please Mr Einstein by Jean-Claude Carrière trs John Brownjohn". The Mirror. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  31. ^ "Alan Lightman looks at creation from God’s point of view". National Post. February 27, 2012. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  32. ^ Appel, Jacob. Einstein's Beach House Butler University 2014
  33. ^ Reutter, G Emil. Review. Fox Chase Review Nov 29 2014
  34. ^ Rob Brunner (Apr 5, 2001). "Cover Story". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  35. ^ Thomas Levenson (March 26, 2008). "Albert Einstein, Rock Star". Discover magazine. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  36. ^ Walls, Jeanette (2008-04-18). "Mariah Surpasses Elvis With Number Ones".  
  37. ^ Mansfield, Brian (October 21, 2011). "Kelly Clarkson's 'Stronger': A track-by-track-review".  
  38. ^ "Giorgos Lembesis' album Discogs entry". 
  39. ^ "Command and Conquer: Red Alert for iPhone". December 11, 2009. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  40. ^ R20 Rockman & Rockman X Official Complete Works (in Japanese). Udon Entertainment. March 2008. p. 193.  

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