Albert Einstein's travel diary unveils that he had racism issues

Albert einstein

Legendary physicist Albert Einstein was widely regarded as a humanitarian who always outspokenly tried to denounce the discrimination against African-Americans. But now, a journal kept by Albert Einstein throughout his travels during his journey to the Far East between October 1922 and March 1923 has revealed his xenophobic and racist attitude which stands literally in contrast to the physicist's known legacy.

The travel diary published by the Princeton University Press talked about Einstein's racist attitude, especially towards the people in China. In the travel diary, Einstein wrote that Chinese people are ''industrious and filthy.''

The University has revealed that the private writings of the Nobel Prize winner shed light on Einstein's stereotyping of members of various nations and raise questions about the scientists' attitude toward races.

In his writing, Einstein used several derogatory words against the Chinese people and described the Asian country ''a peculiar herd-like nation.'' Even he wrote that Chinese children are ''spiritless and look obtuse. It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us, the mere thought is unspeakably dreary."

In another instance, Einstein described people in an Egyptian port as ''bandit-like filthy Levantines.''

"I think a lot of comments strike us as pretty unpleasant – what he says about the Chinese in particular. 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 a more off guard, he didn't intend them for publication," told Ze'ev Rosenkranz, senior editor and assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology to The Guardian.

In his preface to the 'Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein', Ze'ev Rosenkranz raised the doubt on how a humanitarian author like Einstein could write such passages in his travel diary. However, Rosenkranz made it clear that Einstein was a complex figure who described the Chinese positively in many previous writings.

This article was first published on June 14, 2018