Albert Einstein's travel diaries reveal his racism on tour of Asia

Einstein arriving in Kobe Japan as part of his five-and-a-half month tour of the Middle and Far East. His opinion of the Japanese was more favourable than that of the Chinese

Einstein arriving in Kobe Japan as part of his five-and-a-half month tour of the Middle and Far East. His opinion of the Japanese was more favourable than that of the Chinese

The recently translated journals of Albert Einstein revealed that he had some racist views. Titled The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein, the diaries were penned between October 1922 and March 1923, and features some passages that greatly contrast his idea that racism was a "disease of white people", a quote he uttered later in his life.

Einstein observes how "Chinese don't sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods".

'All this occurs quietly and demurely. "Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse", Einstein wrote.

'It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races.

Einstein described how the locals in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) "live in great filth and considerable stench at ground level", noting that they "do little, and need little. The simple economic cycle of life".

"They're kind of in contrast to the public image of the great humanitarian icon", he adds. I think it's quite a shock to read those and contrast them with his more public statements. They complicate the picture of Einstein, who was the most well-known of the many Jewish scientists who left Nazi Germany as refugees in the early 1930s as an anti-racist and advocate for human rights. Those reading them will be able to read Einstein's reductive, racist language about Asian people being "herd-like" and "more like automatons than people".

According to a spokesperson for Princeton University, this is the first time that the physicist's travel diary will be made available to "anyone who isn't a serious Einstein scholar".

He does appear to have more favourable impression of the Japanese who he says are "unostentatious, decent, altogether very appealing".

"In light of these instances, we must conclude that Einstein did make quite a few racist and dehumanizing comments in the diary, some of which were extremely unpleasant". "One has to love and admire this country".

However, he also noted that the "intellectual needs of this nation seem to be weaker than their artistic ones - natural disposition?" He was a flawed person just like anyone else. Very much a grown man in his mid-40s and already a famous Nobel Prize victor for his work on the photoelectric effect, Einstein wrote of people from China (as reported in The Guardian) that, "even those reduced to working like horses never give the impression of conscious suffering". Yet the remark that must strike the modern reader as most offensive is his feigning not to understand how Chinese men can find their women sufficiently attractive to have offspring with them.

Rosenkranz said that although views like Einstein's were prevalent at the time, they were not universal. "That's usually the reaction I get-'we have to understand, he was of the zeitgeist, part of the time'-but I think I tried here and there to give a broader context", he said. "There were other views out there, more tolerant views".

Rosenkranz believes it is important to explore how such a humanitarian icon as Einstein could have written xenophobic things about the peoples he met during his travels.

Einstein, despite his public comments on the issue, clearly missed the scientific memo.

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