The year was 1915, and 36-year-old physicist Albert Einstein was living in wartorn Berlin. 325 miles away in relatively safe Vienna were Einstein’s two sons, Hans Albert Einstein and Eduard “Tete” Einstein, who were living with their mother Mileva. Einstein had just completed his two-page manuscript in which he outlined his General Theory of Relativity. Just before it was published several months later in 1916 — which would instantly skyrocket Einstein into superstar status and transform the modern world — Einstein had written the following letter to his then 11-year-old son Hans Albert:
My dear Albert,
Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it.
I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys.
These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life,
when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.
I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano.
This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school.
Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes.
I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that
I forget about the noon meal.
Be with Tete kissed by your Papa.
Regards to Mama.
The letter is featured in the remarkable anthology Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children, which also features a collection of the finest letters of motherly advice from some of the most influential and timeless women and mothers of all-time. You can read more about these here: From Maya Angelou To Abigail Adams: Read History’s Finest Letters Of Motherly Advice & Wisdom.
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