Albert Einstein in popular culture
Albert Einstein has been the subject of, or inspiration for, many works of popular culture.
On Einstein's 72nd birthday on March 14, 1951, United Press photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera, but having smiled for photographers many times that day, Einstein stuck out his tongue instead. This photograph became one of the most popular ever taken of Einstein, often used in merchandise depicting him in a lighthearted sense. Einstein enjoyed this photo and requested UPI to give him nine copies for personal use, one of which he signed for a reporter. On June 19, 2009, the original signed photograph was sold at auction for $74,324, a record for an Einstein picture.
Einstein is a favorite model for depictions of absent-minded professors; his expressive face and distinctive hairstyles have been widely copied and exaggerated. Time magazine's Frederic Golden wrote that Einstein was "a cartoonist's dream come true."
"Einstein" has become a byword for an extremely intelligent person. It may also be used sarcastically when someone states the obvious or demonstrates a lack of wisdom or intelligence (as in "Way to go, Einstein!")
Many quotes that have become popular via the Internet have been misattributed to him, including "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result".
His birthday, March 14, is also Pi Day, so called because 3/14 (March 14 in shorthand month-day format) corresponds to 3.14, the first three digits of the number Pi. The town of Princeton, New Jersey, where Einstein lived for more than 20 years, celebrates March 14 every year as "Princeton Pi Day and Einstein Birthday Party."
Usage of his name and image
Iranian cartoonist and humorist Javad Alizadeh publishes a column titled "4D Humor" in his Persian monthly Humor & Caricature, which features cartoons, caricatures and stories on Einstein-related topics. In 1991 he published in Persian "4D Humor", a comic book on Einstein's life and work, inspired mainly by the Theory of Relativity.
Einstein bequeathed his estate, as well as the use of his image (see personality rights), to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which from the mid-1980s has sponsored the Einstein Papers Project with the Princeton University Press. Einstein actively supported the university during his life and this support continues with the royalties received from licensing activities. GreenLight licences the commercial use of the name "Albert Einstein" and associated imagery and likenesses of Einstein, as agent for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As head licensee the corporation can control commercial usage of Einstein's name and theoretically ensure compliance with certain standards (e.g., when Einstein's name is used as a trademark, the ™ symbol must be used).
In 2012 Judge Howard Matz of the United States district court found that although a General Motors advertisement featuring Einstein's image was “tasteless” it was not illegal. Judge Matz wrote “the obviously humorous ad for the 2010 Terrain having been published 55 years or more after Einstein’s death, it is unlikely that any viewer of it could reasonably infer that Einstein, or whoever succeeded to any right of publicity that Einstein may have had, was endorsing the GMC Terrain.”
Hebrew University asked that publicity rights be extended to the 70 years associated with copyright protection. Judge Matz declined, stating “the Ninth Circuit recently noted that Marilyn Monroe considered herself to belong 'to the Public and to the world,’ ” Matz wrote. “There is no evidence that Albert Einstein saw himself that way, but he did become the symbol and embodiment of genius. His persona has become thoroughly ingrained in our cultural heritage. Now, nearly 60 years after his death, that persona should be freely available to those who seek to appropriate it as part of their own expression, even in tasteless ads.”
There is a persistent popular belief that Einstein was left-handed, but there is no evidence that he was, and the belief has been called a myth. Einstein wrote with his right hand, and authoritative sources state flatly that he was right-handed. An autopsy on Einstein's brain showed a symmetry between the two hemispheres, rather than a left-sided dominance as is typical of most right-handed people or a right-sided dominance as found in most left-handed people.
In media and drama
Einstein has been the subject of or inspiration for many novels, films and plays, such as Steve Martin's comedic play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He was the subject of Paul Dessau's 1974 opera Einstein and in 1976 in Philip Glass's opera Einstein on the Beach, and his humorous side is the subject of Ed Metzger's one-man play Albert Einstein: The Practical Bohemian. He features prominently in Daniel Kehlmann's play about Kurt Gödel, Ghosts in Princeton (2011).
He was the subject (along with Arthur Eddington) of the BBC Two film Einstein and Eddington, featuring David Tennant as Eddington and Andy Serkis as Einstein, and detailing Einstein's development of his theories and Eddington's attempts to prove them and in Yahoo Serious's intentionally inaccurate biography of Einstein as an Australian in the film Young Einstein, although the movie is fictionalized.
An Einstein-like character appears in Nicolas Roeg's 1985 film Insignificance. Set in New York in 1953, the film includes a scene in which "The Professor" (played by Michael Emil), the character evidently representing Albert Einstein, discusses Relativity with "The Actress" (Theresa Russell), a Marilyn Monroe-like character.
The 2009 film The Nutcracker in 3D includes a character named Uncle Albert who resembles Einstein, speaks with a German accent, and recites Albert Einstein quotes, but is never explicitly identified as Einstein.
In the movie Back to the Future, the character of Dr. Emmett 'Doc' Brown, played by actor Christopher Lloyd and portrayed as a brilliant scientist, time traveler and inventor, has a dog called "Einstein", named after Brown's favorite scientist, as well as bearing a superficial resemblance to him. Lloyd also credited Einstein as being his inspiration for the character.
In the 2011 film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the Autobot character known as Que sports an Einstein-inspired head design, including his wild hairstyle, dapper mustache, and eyes. However, his accent is often confused for being German because of these similarities. Like his G1 counterpart and Einstein alike, he is one of the most intelligent members of his team, and is an accomplished scientist and inventor. However, his onscreen name "Que" was derived from Professor Q, a James Bond character, who also inspired Wheeljack/Que's overall character.
Einstein was portrayed by David Shackleton in the 2018 comedy Holmes & Watson.
A holographic representation of Einstein, played by Jim Norton, appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He first appears to debate physics with Reginald Barclay in "The Nth Degree". Norton returns in the first part of "Descent". The episode starts on the Enterprise with a game of poker being played by holodeck representations of Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawking (portrayed by himself). All are programmed by Lt. Commander Data, playing as the fourth person in the game.
In the television series Voyagers!, in an episode titled, "The Travels of Marco...and Friends," the story begins with Bogg and Jeff landing in New York, 1930, and saving Einstein from a potentially-fatal accident.
In the television series Eureka, the town of Eureka was established when President Harry S. Truman commissioned development of a top-secret lab, staffed by Albert Einstein, after World War II and it became home to the scientists and their families working there.
Einstein is portrayed in DC's Legends of Tomorrow by John Rubinstein in the episode "Out of Time" and was mentioned in latter in "The Curse of the Earth Totem" when he trapped in the ice age due to being displaced.
He is one of the main characters in the webseries Super Science Friends.
Featured in Jean-Claude Carrière's 2005 French novel, Einstein S'il Vous Plaît (Einstein If You Please) where Carrière portrays a fictional conversation between Einstein and a student.
Alan Lightman's first book Einstein's Dreams, consists of short stories which are portrayed as being the dreams of Einstein while he was working on the theory of relativity; these stories explain how time would work in imaginary parallel universes.
Novelist Jacob M. Appel's Einstein's Beach House relates a fictional battle over the settlement of Einstein's estate after his death.
David Bodanis's book E=mc2 is a biography of Einsteins famous equation and the other scientists before during and after his time that contributed to the understanding we have about the equation.
Marie Hermanson's Swedish crime novel Den stora utställningen (The Great Exhibition) is set during the 1923 Gothenburg Exhibition where Einstein held his official Nobel Lecture after being awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. In this fictional version of events, Einstein is the intended victim of an antisemitic murder plot and one of the viewpoint characters.
The manga series Dr. Stone features in chapter 93 the main character, Senku Ishigami recreating the same famous picture of Einstein when photography is reintorduced into the world.
In visual arts
In 1940, Philadelphia artist Louis Hirshman did a caricature of Einstein using found objects, including a wild mop of hair, an abacus chest and shirt collar scribbled with the equation 2+2 = 2+2. In 1977, the piece was purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Einstein is one of the celebrities on the cover of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- The Moody Blues include his likeness on the cover of A Question of Balance, released in 1970.
- Bob Dylan pays a tribute to him in a verse in "Desolation Row".
- Mariah Carey's eleventh studio album is entitled E=MC2 after Einstein's celebrated equation.
- Big Audio Dynamite featured a song titled E=MC2 on their first album This is Big Audio Dynamite.
- Carolina Crown Drum and Bugle Corps 2013 show was titled "E=MC2", and won 1st place in the 2013 DCI World Class Championship.
- Kelly Clarkson's 2011 song "Einstein" is named after him.
- Greek singer Giorgos Lembesis has released a song titled "Einstein" in which he states that he always admired Albert Einstein, but now he needs his help in his relationship problems.
- On the seventh episode of Epic Rap Battles of History, Albert Einstein (portrayed by Zach Sherwin) faced off against Stephen Hawking (portrayed by series co-founder Nice Peter).
- The song "Portrait (He Knew)" by Kansas is about Albert Einstein and his life.
- The opera "Einstein On The Beach" by Philip Glass is one of Glass' trilogy of operas that portray people whose personal vision transformed the thinking of their times.
Albert Einstein's handwriting has been digitised as a font in an art project by typographer Harald Geisler and dancer Elizabeth Waterhouse. The font enables the user to write like Einstein on a computer or smartphone. The project was created in collaboration with the Albert Einstein Archives Jerusalem and presented 2015 on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter where the campaign was supported by 2334 backers. Each letter of the font is based on Einstein's manuscripts, different variations of each letter are stored in the font and exchanged automatically during typing to create a natural look.
The Albert Einstein font was used to reenact the 1932 letter exchange between Einstein and Sigmund Freud. In 2017 at the 85th anniversary of the exchange, which was published in 1933 under the title "Why War", Harald Geisler presented the project on Kickstarter in collaboration with the Sigmund Freud Museum (Vienna) and the Albert Einstein Archives. Supporters of the project could choose to either receive the letters themselves or send them to politicians typeset in the handwriting of Einstein and Freud.
In video games
Einstein is an integral character in the Command & Conquer: Red Alert series, being responsible in Red Alert for altering the course of history using a time traveling device he created to remove Adolf Hitler from existence in an attempt to prevent the horrors of World War II, inadvertently leading to Soviet Union's rise to power and conflict with Europe. He continues to be featured in the altered timeline in Red Alert and Red Alert 2 developing time travel technology for use by the Allies, and his fictional murder at the hands of the Soviets, also involving a time machine, is a central plot point of Red Alert 3.
In Half-Life, one of the scientist models is based on Einstein's appearance.
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