'Industrious, filthy, obtuse people': Albert Einstein's travel diaries reveal the scientist's shocking racism and xenophobia as they are published for the first time in English
Albert Einstein's private diaries reveal the iconic scientist's racist attitudes on a trip to Asia in the 1920s.
In the autumn of 1922, Albert Einstein, along with his then-wife, Elsa, embarked on a five-and-a-half-month voyage to the Far East and Middle East, regions that the renowned physicist had never visited before.
Einstein's lengthy itinerary consisted of stops in Hong Kong and Singapore, two brief stays in China, a six-week whirlwind lecture tour of Japan and a twelve-day tour of Palestine.
The diaries have been published first time as a standalone volume in English by Princeton University Press, including facsimiles of the diary pages.
Einstein, who once described racism as 'a disease of white people', describes the Chinese as 'industrious, filthy, obtuse people', The Guardian reported.
'Chinese don't sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods.
'All this occurs quietly and demurely. Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse.'
He also writes of the 'abundance of offspring' and the 'fecundity' of the Chinese.
'It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us the mere thought is unspeakably dreary.'
He says of the Chinese 'even those reduced to working like horses never give the impression of conscious suffering. A peculiar herd-like nation…often more like automatons than people.'
In Colombo, in what was then called Ceylon and now Sri Lanka, Einstein says the locals 'live in great filth and considerable stench at ground level' adding that they 'do little, and need little. The simple economic cycle of life'.
He does appear to have more favourable impression of the Japanese who he says are 'unostentatious, decent, altogether very appealing'.
The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein have been edited by Ze'ev Rosenkranz, senior editor and assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology.
'I think a lot of comments strike us as pretty unpleasant - what he says about the Chinese in particular,' he told The Guardian.
'They're kind of in contrast to the public image of the great humanitarian icon. I think it's quite a shock to read those and contrast them with his more public statements. They're more off guard, he didn't intend them for publication.'
The diaries have only previously been published in German as part of the 15-volume Collected Papers of Albert Einstein.
Herbert Herbertson, Adelaide, Australia, 9 hours ago
Einstein - probably the most over rated person in history. Nicola Tesla achieved so much more yet is almost forgotten.
Liberty1972, Internet, United States, 9 hours ago
Ghandi also said a lot of things that wouldn't be considered "good politics" today, but he became more tolerant as he aged. Einstein lived another 30 years after he wrote that stuff in his diary, and he probably changed as well.
anglolithceltjock, salford, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago
It's all relative, at least that's my theory
Troobloo, Perth, Australia, 10 hours ago
Palestine didn't exist then.
Emma_star, By the bay, Australia, 10 hours ago
I mean how far back are we going to go to find things to be offended by? What's the statute of limitations on this?
HAC, LEEDS, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago
Didn't see the point of reading this! He's been dead how long?
Paul118, Belfast, Ireland, 11 hours ago
Einstein also thought the universe had no beginning. How'd that turn out?
snotcricket, Dubai, UAE, 11 hours ago
If I remember correctly, Einstein was a scientist, not a social worker. He should be judged by his contributions in the field of science, not by how far his attitudes diverge from today's intensely judgemental and self-righteous dogma.
antonyuk30, Meggies, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago
Yet again the people of today are passing judgement on something that was written almost a hundred years ago. Einstein's diaries were personal to him and no one else. Nobody has the right to judge him for his personal thoughts from the 1920's, the world was different then.
Lady Evensong, Lackawaxen, United States Minor Outlying Islands, 12 hours ago
Read up on it before you make judgements. You could not imagine the atrocities.
Victor Mason, Chelmsford, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago
Einstein got it, he understood how the world works and was unencumbered by having to worry whether or not someone's feelings were bruised. A clear, honest observation for the time.
SteveB195, Bradford, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago
Well is he wrong? The biggest genius making a remark that he observed on his travels, who are to condemn him!
Paul118, Belfast, Ireland, 11 hours ago
Einstein the "biggest genius"? He was an amateur compared to Newton.
Myosotis, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago
Perhaps he just reported the situations as he saw them.
DontModerateMeBro, In the Red zone, United States, 13 hours ago
One of the smartest men to ever walk the Earth. I'll take his realistic assessment over "feels" any day.
paulwbafc73, Brisbane , Australia, 14 hours ago
Those comments are also common in the class system of that time period.
My Pointless Views, Portsmouth, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago
Too many people keep judging the past by the standards of today. It just doesn't work and it isn't fair, so why do they do it, other than for sensationalism and to further their own career !
Trevki, London, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago
Speak as you find....in those days you could. Now people only think it.
Take Responsibility, New York, United States, 15 hours ago
He found their living conditions filthy. Does this make him racist? He found them obtuse. He's the smartest man ever to have lived. By his standards, everyone is obtuse. Does this make him racist? People need to have a pint and calm down.
Express14, Right here. Right now., Ireland, 15 hours ago
Totally different world then. And totally different mindset.
LateToTheGame, Johannesburg, South Africa, 15 hours ago
Japan has had a love affair with the west for a long time, probably why they got off lightly. Must have seen a lot of people pretending to be western.
Lily Jameson, Key Biscayne, United States, 15 hours ago
Agreed! That's why I haven't eaten in a Chinese restaurant in about 20 years.
willi23, London, United Kingdom, 15 hours ago
Einstein was a famous fraudster and plagiarist who refused to give credit to people who had discovered scientific concepts long before he ever copied them. Awful man!
Some_Person, London, United Kingdom, 16 hours ago
Wow, a guy who died in the 1930s does not speak with all the PC euphemisms that started being introduced in the 1990s
Janet, Boston, 16 hours ago
OK, now let's hear from the travel diary of a Chinese big-wig who visited Britain. Bet he's an abominable bigot who deserve to be roundly condemned!!!
Now run along, Great Southern Land, Australia, 16 hours ago
Under China's oppressive regime, automatons is actually a very accurate description: conform, or face the consequence.
LAW, Somerset, 16 hours ago
I travelled through Alexandria, once. It was the dirtiest, most disgusting placeI've ever visited. Am I entitled to my opinion, or am I being 'racist'?
MrsAaronRodgers, Englewood CO, United States, 16 hours ago
He was a person of his time. Doesn't make it right, but unfortunately that's the way scientists were then. Him being Jewish, he certainly should have known better, but if we're going to character assassinate every historical figure by judging them via our own Modern mores, we're not gonna have any historical figures left.
mike, aylesbury, United Kingdom, 1 day ago
When do we start taking statues down and removing his name from association with relativity ?
Jimmyo, Milwaukee, United States, 23 hours ago
It was merely an observation of his. He was not there long, so he was not able to undstand their culture. I don't see this as a big deal. The same may have been said about Americans during the depression.