Albert Einstein has been one of the biggest physicists the world has known. His scientific works have made some profound developments in the arena of modern physics that revolutionized the arena of science and technology in the world. Recently, Albert Einstein’s private travel diaries from his trip in the 1920s have been translated into English and released worldwide by Princeton University Press. However, his private notes have revealed shocking details about his ideologies about the Asian community.
Interestingly, the travel diaries written by the German scientist have notes on his scientific travels, musings, philosophy, and art during his Asia tour between October 1922 and March 1923. However, his travel diaries, published as journals, are biased towards certain populations and it is quite shocking.
Well, it was 1946 when the Nobel-winning scientist spoke one his most popular quotes “Racism is a disease of white people” during a speech on racism in an American college. However, it seems like the same disease of racism caught him decades earlier when he wrote a bunch of things about people in his diaries during his Asian tour.
Albeit, the translated version of the travel diaries reveals that Albert Einstein had a xenophobic and racist attitude towards the people whom he met during his tour in the Asian countries. Evidently, this is quite contrasting to his legacy as a champion for civil rights.
Seemingly, during his tour, Albert Einstein encountered few Indians in Colombo that is present-day Sri Lanka. But what is more surprising is that he wrote quite offensively about their ancient lives in his diary. He wrote that the people of Colombo “live in great filth and considerable stench at ground level. They do very little and need very little. The simple economic cycle of life”.
Furthermore, he thought that “Indians were hampered by the subcontinent’s climatic changes that are preventing them from thinking backward or forward by more than a quarter of an hour“.
His further comments on Chinese and Japanese display his belief as ‘a clear hallmark of racism’. In China, Albert Einstein observed the people and described them as ‘industrious, filthy and obtuse people’ in his diary entries. Accordingly, he notes how the “Chinese don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods“.
Moreover, he describes children in China as ‘spiritless’ and ‘obtuse’ as he goes on saying that ‘it would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races. For the likes of us, the mere thought is unspeakably dreary”. Einstein was a Jew who was famously forced to flee Nazi Germany in the face of anti-semitic persecution.
When asked if Albert Einstein was a racist, Ze’ev Rosenkranz, the assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project and the editor of Albert Einstein’s travel diaries said, “it would be easy to say, yes, he became more enlightened, but one should emphasize the different elements and contradictory elements in the statement that he made and in his personality”.