Albert Einstein's travel diaries reveal racist stereotypes

Jun 15, 2018, 08:53 IST | Agencies

This is the first time the diaries have been published as a standalone volume in English

Albert Einstein's travel diaries reveal racist stereotypes
Albert Einstein. Pic/Getty Images

Newly published private travel diaries have revealed Albert Einstein's racist and xenophobic views. Written between October 1922 and March 1923, the diaries track his experiences in Asia and the Middle East. In them, he makes sweeping and negative generalisations, for example calling the Chinese "industrious, filthy, obtuse people". Einstein would later in life advocate for civil rights in the US, calling racism "a disease of white people". This is the first time the diaries have been published as a standalone volume in English.

Published by Princeton University Press, The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922-1923 was edited by Ze'ev Rosenkranz, assistant director of the California Institute of Technology's Einstein Papers Project. Einstein travelled from Spain to the Middle East and via Sri Lanka, then called Ceylon, on to China and Japan.

The physicist describes arriving in Port Said in Egypt and facing "Levantines of every shade... as if spewed from hell" who come aboard their ship to sell their goods. He also describes his time in Colombo in Ceylon, writing of the people: "They live in great filth and considerable stench down on the ground, do little, and need little." But the famous physicist reserves his most cutting comments for Chinese people.

According to a piece in the Guardian about the diaries, he describes Chinese children as "spiritless and obtuse", and calls it "a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races".

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