Einstein’s Children

In the earlier part of his life, when Einstein was still married to Mileva, married life treated him well. He was cared for, and in turn he loved his children deeply. They seem to have responded well to him, and they respected the work and research that he was a part of. When he moved to Berlin in 1914 and his wife and children, vacationing in Switzerland, were unable to join him, the separation must have been difficult for father and sons alike.

By 1933, when Einstein moved to the United States with his second wife Elsa Lowenthal, Hans was twenty-nine years old and Eduard was twenty-three. Einstein's children, like most people's kids, were a source of both pride and dismay at various points throughout their lives. They achieved various goals, and undoubtedly they provided Einstein with a source of much pride. They followed their father's example of science and humanitarianism to varying degrees. While neither of them achieved the fame that Einstein did, they accomplished goals in their own rights.

Hans Albert Einstein

Hans Albert (1904—1973) lived an interesting life that followed partially in his father's footsteps. After completing his elementary school education in Zurich, Hans received a diploma in civil engineering from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1926. He then received a doctor of technical sciences degree from the same university in 1936.

Between 1926 and 1930, Hans actually lived in Germany. He worked in the town of Dortmund as a steel designer. As a graduate student in Zurich, he was fascinated by the problem of transporting sediment via flowing water, and wrote his doctoral thesis on this issue. That thesis is still in use today by scientists and engineers worldwide.

Hans married a woman named Frieda Knecht in 1927. She was a German instructor at the University of Zurich. They moved to the United States in 1938, several years after Albert Einstein moved. Hans would continue his research into sediment transportation at the U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station in South Carolina until 1943. At that point, he moved to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Laboratory, which was part of the California Institute of Technology.

Hans remained a researcher there until 1947, at which point he became a faculty member at the University of California. He started off as an associate professor, and later became a full professor of hydraulic engineering. Hans fulfilled multiple roles while at the university–he was a teacher, a researcher, and also a practicing engineer. He was well-known during his career and received numerous awards and honors, including the Certificate of Merit given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1971.

Hans Albert Einstein and his wife Frieda would eventually have three children. Their son Bernard became a physicist, like his grandfather. Daughter Evelyn became an anthropologist. They also had another son, Klaus, who died as a child.

His first wife Frieda died in 1958. Shortly afterward, Hans married a second time to Elizabeth Roboz. She worked as a biochemist at the Stanford University Medical School. She later became a professor of neurology at the San Francisco Medical Center, part of the University of California.

Professional inclinations aside, Hans enjoyed the same sort of entertainment as his father. He was a big fan of music, as well as sailing and walking. Sailing on San Francisco Bay was one of his favorite pastimes. Hans was known for being willing to spend time with his family and friends. More social than his father, Hans spent much time with his graduate students and was known for his patience and devotion. Like his father, though, Hans also understood the importance of making professional connections in his field, and he made every effort to be in touch with current experts in the field of sedimentation transport.

After suffering a heart attack in June of 1973, Hans Albert Einstein died in July of that same year. Albert and his older son had a good relationship. Both being scientists, they could relate to each other on multiple levels. Over the years and despite various separations, they seem to have gotten along well most of the time. They had a mutual respect for each other's intelligence and abilities.

Eduard Einstein

Eduard was born in 1910. Unlike his older brother, Eduard did not excel in the sciences. He enjoyed reading the works of Shakespeare as a child and shared his father's abilities with music, but he does not appear to have particularly excelled in any one area. Eduard was always considered the most sensitive of the Einstein clan.

He ended up studying pre-med in college and was interested in becoming a psychologist. Unfortunately during this period, he suffered a mental breakdown that would later be determined to be either the onset of schizophrenia or a serious case of depression. Albert Einstein returned to Switzerland to be by his son's side, although he doesn't appear to have been of great use.

Albert and Eduard's relationship does not seem to have been that close. Einstein was not physically living with Eduard for his early and formative years (the period coinciding with the time when Einstein and Mileva were separated, and later divorced), and his son spent much more time with his mother. In letters written to his father, Eduard indicated that he identified strongly with his mother on several levels–both felt Albert had abandoned them, and both were hesitant to recognize their own intelligence.

Of course, part of their connection could have been that after Albert and Mileva formally separated, she had no one to dote on except for the children. Eduard, being less like his father than Hans, was the more likely target for her abundance of affections. Eduard lived with his mother until her death in 1948, and then he was placed in a psychiatric institution. He died in an institution near Zurich in 1965.

Lieserl Einstein

Lieserl was born in January 1902. The general theory is that she was given up for adoption shortly after her birth, probably because of the damage that having had an illegitimate child could have done to both Mileva and Albert's burgeoning careers. Almost nothing is known about Lieserl's life. Some think she might have been born with Down syndrome. Some think that, based on letters from Einstein to his wife, the baby died as a young child from scarlet fever. Others think that, unable to put her up for adoption, Mileva left her with relatives in Serbia. Not that a lack of information is cause for a lack of speculation! Authors have written fictional novels involving Lieserl, wondering about what her life might have been.

Ilse and Margot Einstein

Albert Einstein also had two stepdaughters, Elsa's daughters from her first marriage. They were Ilse (1897—1934) and Margot (1899—1986). Einstein formally adopted them after his marriage to Elsa, and both legally changed their last name to Einstein. Albert probably never had the opportunity to know Ilse very well. She died early, in 1934, due to an illness. Margot, however, became an artist, and she apparently shared Einstein's fascination with nature and music. She would live with him in Princeton, New Jersey, after her move to America.

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