So you think you know Albert Einstein: the absent-minded genius who gave us the theory of relativity (two of them, in fact, special theory and general theory of relativity), but did you know that Einstein was born with such a large head that his mother thought he was deformed? Or that Einstein had a secret child before he was married?

Einstein Was a Fat Baby with Large Head

When Albert’s mother, Pauline Einstein gave birth to him, she thought that Einstein’s head was so big and misshapen that he was deformed!

As the back of the head seemed much too big, the family initially considered a monstrosity. The physician, however, was able to calm them down and some weeks later the shape of the head was normal. When Albert’s grandmother saw him for the first time she is reported to have muttered continuously “Much too fat, much too fat!” Contrasting all apprehensions Albert grew and developed normally except that he seemed a bit slow. (Source)

Einstein Had Speech Difficulty as a Child

As a child, Einstein seldom spoke. When he did, he spoke very slowly – indeed, he tried out entire sentences in his head (or muttered them under his breath) until he got them right before he spoke aloud. According to accounts, Einstein did this until he was nine years old. Einstein’s parents were fearful that he was retarded – of course, their fear was completely unfounded!

One interesting anecdote, told by Otto Neugebauer, a historian of science, goes like this:

As he was a late talker, his parents were worried. At last, at the supper table one night, he broke his silence to say, “The soup is too hot.”
Greatly relieved, his parents asked why he had never said a word before.
Albert replied, “Because up to now everything was in order.”
(Source)

In his book, Thomas Sowell [wiki] noted that besides Einstein, many brilliant people developed speech relatively late in childhood. He called this condition The Einstein Syndrome.

Einstein was Inspired by a Compass

When Einstein was five years old and sick in bed, his father showed him something that sparked his interest in science: a compass.

When Einstein was five years old and ill in bed one day, his father showed him a simple pocket compass. What interested young Einstein was whichever the case was turned, the needle always pointed in the same direction. He thought there must be some force in what was presumed empty space that acted on the compass. This incident, common in many “famous childhoods,” was reported persistently in many of the accounts of his life once he gained fame. (Source)

Einstein Failed his University Entrance Exam

In 1895, at the age of 17, Albert Einstein applied for early admission into the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule or ETH). He passed the math and science sections of the entrance exam, but failed the rest (history, languages, geography, etc.)! Einstein had to go to a trade school before he retook the exam and was finally admitted to ETH a year later. (Source)

Einstein had an Illegitimate Child

In the 1980s, Einstein’s private letters revealed something new about the genius: he had an illegitimate daughter with a fellow former student Mileva Marić (whom Einstein later married).

In 1902, a year before their marriage, Mileva gave birth to a daughter named Lieserl, whom Einstein never saw and whose fate remained unknown:

Mileva gave birth to a daughter at her parents’ home in Novi Sad. This was at the end of January, 1902 when Einstein was in Berne. It can be assumed from the content of the letters that birth was difficult. The girl was probably christianised. Her official first name is unknown. In the letters received only the name “Lieserl” can be found.

The further life of Lieserl is even today not totally clear. Michele Zackheim concludes in her book “Einstein’s daughter” that Lieserl was mentally challenged when she was born and lived with Mileva’s family. Furthermore she is convinced that Lieserl died as a result of an infection with scarlet fever in September 1903. From the letters mentioned above it can also be assumed that Lieserl was put up for adoption after her birth.

In a letter from Einstein to Mileva from September 19, 1903, Lieserl was mentioned for the last time. After that nobody knows anything about Lieserl Einstein-Maric. (Source)

Einstein Became Estranged From His First Wife, then Proposed a Strange “Contract”

After Einstein and Mileva married, they had two sons: Hans Albert and Eduard. Einstein’s academic successes and world travel, however, came at a price – he became estranged from his wife. For a while, the couple tried to work out their problems – Einstein even proposed a strange “contract” for living together with Mileva:

The relationship progressed. Einstein became estranged from his wife. The biography reprints a chilling letter from Einstein to his wife, a proposed “contract” in which they could continue to live together under certain conditions. Indeed that was the heading: “Conditions.”

A. You will make sure
1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons…

There’s more, including “you will stop talking to me if I request it.” She accepted the conditions. He later wrote to her again to make sure she grasped that this was going to be all-business in the future, and that the “personal aspects must be reduced to a tiny remnant.” And he vowed, “In return, I assure you of proper comportment on my part, such as I would exercise to any woman as a stranger.” (Source)