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Eduard Einstein: The tragic life of Albert Einstein’s forgotten son

Everyone knows who Albert Einstein was. After his discovery of the theory of relativity and the equation E=MC2, his celebrity status is indelibly marked in history.

Naturally, his private life has been the subject of many curious minds. After all, it was full of drama, scandals, and twists and turns.

We’re exploring one such subject today.

What do you know of his son, Eduard Einstein?

Let’s explore the tragic life of Albert Einstein’s forgotten son.

Childhood

Eduard Einstein was born on July 28, 1910, in Zurich, Switzerland. He was the second son of physicist Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric. He had an older brother, Hans Albert Einstein, who was six years his senior.

Albert fondly nicknamed him “tete” after the French word “petit.”

Sometime later, the family moved to Berlin. However, Albert and Mileva’s marriage soon dissolved. Their divorce was finalized in 1919.

The divorce apparently affected the boys greatly, especially Hans.

Mileva disliked Berlin, so she left Albert and brought her sons with her. She chose to settle in Zurich.

Despite the distance, Albert maintained a lively correspondence with his sons. He visited as often as he could and even took both Hans and Eduard on holiday trips.

It was speculated for a long time that he was a cold father to both boys. But recently uncovered correspondence implies he was an encouraging father who was greatly interested in both boys’ lives.

Mileva always maintained that Albert chose his science over his family.

But Hans later stated that Albert would “put aside his work and watch over us for hours” while Mileva was “busy around the house.”

A sickly child

In his youth, Eduard was a sickly child. He was often struck by illnesses that left him weak and feeble. Because of this, he frequently skipped family trips with the rest of the Einsteins.

Albert Einstein was apparently in despair about his son’s condition.

In one letter to his colleague, he wrote:

“My little boy’s condition depresses me greatly. It is impossible that he would become a fully developed person.”

While Albert’s coldly scientific mind wondered “if it wouldn’t be better for him if he could part before coming to know life properly,” his parental instincts won over.

He vowed to make his son’s recovery his first priority. He poured himself on finding the best care and treatments possible for Eduard, even accompanying him to various sanatorium visits.

A gifted mind

At an early age, Eduard showed promising signs of having inherited his father’s intelligence.

He was gifted in various arts like music and poetry. However, he showed a particular affinity to psychiatry and worshiped Sigmund Freud.

In 1929, Eduard passed with all A-levels and was one of the best students in his school.

He enrolled in Zurich University, following his father’s footsteps. He studied medicine to become a psychiatrist.

His health still worried his family, particularly Einstein, who was at the same time proud of his son’s accomplishments and potential success.

But for a while, it seemed Eduard was going to have a bright future like his father.

In his father’s shadows

It wasn’t easy to have Albert Einstein as a father.

It’s one thing to deal with a broken family and a father you rarely ever see. But for both Hans and Eduard, the biggest challenge was living in their father’s shadow.

By the time Eduard was in university, Albert’s worldwide renown was established.

He wrote a telling and candid self-analysis, saying:

“It’s at times difficult to have such an important father because one feels so unimportant.”

Mental decline

At the age of 20, Eduard started to display symptoms of schizophrenia.

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It was at this time fell in love with an older woman at the university. Ironically, this was exactly how Albert Einstein met Mileva as well.

Eduard’s affair also ended in disaster, something that worsened his mental condition. His health declined and, sometime in 1930, he attempted to commit suicide.

He was officially diagnosed with schizophrenia and was admitted to Burghölzli, a psychiatric sanatorium in Zurich, for the first time in 1932.

Many believe that the harsh psychiatric treatments at the time only worsened his illness irreparably.

His brother, Hans, believed that the electroconvulsive therapy Eduard received was largely responsible for damaging his speech and cognitive abilities.

Eduard abandoned his studies. Mileva watched over her son herself. Despite the money that Albert regularly sent, Mileva still struggled to care for her son and pay for his high medical costs.

A father’s worry

The decline of Eduard’s health only doubled Albert Einstein’s worry for his son. The anxiety stayed with him for the rest of his life.

He felt some part to blame for Eduard’s health conditions. He believed his son’s condition was hereditary, passed down from his mother’s side.

Elsa, Albert’s second wife, even remarked that “this sorrow is eating up Albert.”

In one letter to a friend, Albert expressed his guilt and regrets over Eduard’s fate, saying:

“The more refined of my sons, the one I considered really of my own nature, was seized by an incurable mental illness.”

Albert Einstein leaves for America

While suffering a mental breakdown, Eduard told his father that he hated him.

With the threatening rise of the Nazi government, Albert was pressured to leave the continent for America.

Hans would follow him sometime later. For Eduard, immigration wasn’t an option. It was reported that Albert continually tried to bring his son to the United States as well. However, Eduard’s deteriorating mental condition made it impossible.

Before Albert left for America in 1933, he visited his son one last time. They would never see each other again.

Later life and death

Eduard and his father maintained a rich correspondence throughout the rest of his life.

He remained interested in art and music. Eduard even continued writing poetry, sending it along with his correspondence to Albert. Even his love of psychiatry continued. He hung a picture of Sigmund Freud on his bedroom wall.

He stayed in the care of his mother, Mileva, until her death in 1948.

Eduard then moved permanently as an in-house patient at the psychiatric clinic Burghölzli in Zurich. He lived there for the remainder of his life.

Eduard died of a stroke in 1965 at the age of 55. He outlived his father by 10 years.

He is buried at Hönggerberg Cemetery in Zurich.

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Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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