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Einstein's travel diaries reveal racist stereotypes

BBC News logo BBC News 6/14/2018

Albert Einstein on a ship with his wife Elsa, 1921: Einstein went on the trip with his wife Elsa © Getty Images Einstein went on the trip with his wife Elsa 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 generalizations, 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 traveled 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 the Chinese.

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 the Chinese "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."

Albert Einstein writing on a blackboard: Albert Einstein wrote the travel diaries on a trip to the Far East in the 1920s © AFP/Getty Albert Einstein wrote the travel diaries on a trip to the Far East in the 1920s


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.

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