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Einstein's travel diaries reveal physicist's racism


Making Sugar
Feb 24, 2016
Newly published private travel diaries have revealed Albert Einstein's racist and xenophobic views.

Written between October 1922 and March 1923, the diaries track his experiences in Asia and the Middle East.

In them, he makes sweeping and negative generalisations, for example calling the Chinese "industrious, filthy, obtuse people".

Einstein would later in life advocate for civil rights in the US, calling racism "a disease of white people".

This is the first time the diaries have been published as a standalone volume in English.

Published by Princeton University Press, The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922-1923 was edited by Ze'ev Rosenkranz, assistant director of the California Institute of Technology's Einstein Papers Project.

Einstein travelled from Spain to the Middle East and via Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, on to China and Japan.

The physicist describes arriving in Port Said in Egypt and facing "Levantines of every shade... as if spewed from hell" who come aboard their ship to sell their goods.

He also describes his time in Colombo in Ceylon, writing of the people: "They live in great filth and considerable stench down on the ground, do little, and need little."
But the famous physicist reserves his most cutting comments for Chinese people.

According to a piece in the Guardian about the diaries, he describes Chinese children as "spiritless and obtuse", and calls it "a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races".

In other entries he calls China "a peculiar herd-like nation," and "more like automatons than people", before claiming there is "little difference" between Chinese men and women, and questioning how the men are "incapable of defending themselves" from female "fatal attraction".
Noted for both his scientific brilliance and his humanitarianism, Albert Einstein emigrated to the US in 1933 after the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

The Jewish scientist described racism as "a disease of white people" in a 1946 speech at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Diaries reflect changing views
Analysis by Chris Buckler, BBC News, Washington

Einstein's theory of relativity changed how people thought about space and time but these diaries demonstrate how his own personal views about race seem to have altered over the years.

The writings may have been intended as private thoughts but their publication will upset some in America, where campaigners still celebrate Albert Einstein as one of the voices that helped shine a light on segregation.

When he moved to the US in 1933 he was taken aback by the separate schools and cinemas for blacks and whites and Einstein subsequently joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

He is said to have told people that he saw similarities in the way Jews were being hounded in Germany and how African-Americans were being treated in his new homeland.

He chose Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, a historically black college, to give one of his most damning speeches just a year after the end of World War Two.

Some who study Einstein's writings from the 1920s may argue that there is a possibility that he believed that because of his own feelings.

His diaries are full of gut reactions and private insights. In the context of the 21st Century they may tarnish the reputation of a man who is revered almost as much as a humanitarian as a scientist.

But the words were written before he saw what racism could lead to in America and Germany - a country he had effectively fled.
Jan 7, 2010
and questioning how the men are "incapable of defending themselves" from female "fatal attraction".
Says the guy who couldn't help himself when it comes to f**king his cousin[-]s. Plural.[/-]

Edit: guess I remembered wrong.

The couple moved to Berlin in April 1914, but Marić returned to Zürich with their sons after learning that Einstein's chief romantic attraction was his first and second cousin Elsa.
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Honorary Master
Mar 12, 2008
hear about this earlier today on the radio,

I do share the opinion of the presenter,

china now, isnt like china in the 1940's , was a very closed off society, and most Chinese had never seen a westerner,
until today, this point of view does persist in the more rural parts of China.

Mike Hoxbig

Honorary Master
Apr 25, 2010
Not sure what the big deal is.

Should he have stayed racist, or should it be seen as a win that he saw the light and started advocating against it?


Honorary Master
Aug 4, 2008
Meh. Nearly everyone was racist back in the beginning but fortunately most awakened to the reality that we are all one race.


Honorary Master
Mar 12, 2008
also, I think I should point out this:

Private, emphasis on PRIVATE dairies, nobody was meant to read them, besides him.

wasnt tweeted to humanity, wasnt blogged someplace, private,
wasnt written about on mybb, private...


Expert Member
Sep 2, 2008
I've watched enough content from SerpentZA's Youtube channel over the years to be thoroughly amused at how spot-on Einstein was about the Chinese.
Of course, China is changing fast though and the new generation(s) are a lot different.


Executive Member
Aug 26, 2016
Meh. It was the time he lived in. Next tell us how people of different tribes didn't like each other in the past.


Expert Member
Nov 14, 2005
Add Gandhi to the list of racists and apparently he also sexually abused women. Add to that he married a 14 year old so I guess he's a pedophile as well.