Albert Einstein’s Forgotten Son was Committed to an Asylum

Ian Harvey
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They say that into every life a little rain must fall. Everyone has their own personal pain, struggles, and losses, even people who are truly remarkable.

That was certainly true for Albert Einstein, the brilliant man who developed the theory of relativity.

Although this genius made tremendous contributions to the field of physics, his personal life was more problematic. In particular, the struggles related to his youngest son, Eduard.

Einstein in 1947

Einstein was married twice in his life, although his three children were all a product his first marriage.

Einstein met Mileva Maric while they were both students at Zurich Polytechnic Institute, according to the New York Times.

She was four years older than Einstein and was the only woman studying physics at the Institute. Maric was a brilliantly talented scientist.

Mileva Maric, Albert Einstein’s wife

In their early relationship, she wasn’t just a lover but also an intellectual companion who supported and contributed to his work.

Maric gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in 1902, whom they named Lieserl. Some sources say that she was adopted in infancy, but others suggest the baby died in her first year.

Einstein and Maric were wed in 1903 and their two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, were born soon afterwards.

Albert and Mileva Einstein, 1912

Their marriage wasn’t a particularly happy one, and in 1912 Einstein began an affair with his cousin, Elsa Einstein Lowenthal.

His letters to Elsa during that time indicate a clear disenchantment with Maric, and he makes it clear that they were no longer intimate in any capacity.

Einstein divorced his first wife in 1919 and married Elsa the same year.

Elsa Einstein Lowenthal. Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00486A / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The couple migrated to the United States in the 1930s, to escape the Nazi threat. There were no children from that union, and Einstein had extramarital affairs for the entire course of the marriage until Elsa’s death in 1936.

The boys lived with their mother after the divorce, and Einstein ensured they were taken care of financially and maintained a rich correspondence with both of them throughout their childhood.

Einstein with his wife Elsa, 1921

Hans Albert had a normal childhood, even if he and his father had a somewhat troubled relationship.

He eventually went to study at the same technical institute that his parents had both attended, graduating with a degree in civil engineering.

He later earned a doctorate of technical science. In 1938, Hans, too, fled the rising Nazi threat. He settled in Greenville, South Carolina and spent several years working there before moving to California, where he became a full-time Professor at UC Berkeley.

Hans Albert in 2005

He married and had four children his first wife, Frieda Knecht. The eldest was Bernhard, and he was the only one to survive to adulthood.

Their second son, Klaus, died at the age of six from diphtheria, according to einstein-website.de, and their third son, David, died when he was only a month old.

The couple adopted a daughter, Evelyn, who also died young. While in the U.S., he and Einstein eventually rebuilt their relationship, and Hans spent a lot of time with his father during Albert’s final illness.

: Albert Einstein’s two sons Eduard and Hans Albert are seen in this July 1917 photograph made public by the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University July 10, 2006 in Jerusalem. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

Relatively little is known about Eduard, other than he was a bright, but sickly child. In his youth, he became fascinated with psychiatry, especially the work of Sigmund Freud. He was a good student, and began studying medicine with the goal of becoming a psychiatrist himself.

Upclosed.com notes that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20, however, and was institutionalized for the first time two years later.

Einstein’s biographers have suggested that the treatment Eduard received for his illness caused far more damage than relief, and Hans Albert’s firmly believed that the electroconvulsive therapy Eduard was given caused permanent cognitive and memory problems.

After his first hospitalization, Eduard returned to his mother’s home, and she was his primary caregiver until her death.

Read another story from us: Albert Einstein was offered the Presidency of Israel – He Turned it Down

After Maric’s passing, Eduard went back into an institution and stayed there until his death in 1965. Eduard and his father maintained a continued correspondence throughout his illness and after his father’s emigration, but the two never saw each other again.