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10 Things You Didn't Know About Einstein


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He Was Offered the Presidency of Israel
Einstein declares his opposition to the H-bomb and to the arms race between the USA and the USSR on Feb. 14, 1950, during a TV broadcast that created a considerable stir in the U.S. and all over the Western world. AFP/Getty Images
Einstein declares his opposition to the H-bomb and to the arms race between the USA and the USSR on Feb. 14, 1950, during a TV broadcast that created a considerable stir in the U.S. and all over the Western world. AFP/Getty Images

Although Einstein made his mark primarily as a physicist, his political views have grown nearly as famous as his scientific achievements. But they were also more complex than many realize.

Einstein was a lifelong pacifist, except when it came to taking up defensive arms against the Nazis, who singled him out for persecution. Moreover, when he realized that scientists in Nazi Germany might be working on nuclear chain reactions with bomb potential, he wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging that the U.S. government coordinate its own research in the area. The letter may have contributed to the formation of the Manhattan Project, to which Einstein -- much to his relief -- was not invited; the government considered him a security risk due to his many associations with peace causes and memberships in social advocacy groups like the NAACP [sources: Kaku]. Nevertheless, his E = mc2 equation was essential to their successful efforts in making the first atomic bombs [sources: Kaku]. Einstein also helped fund the war effort by auctioning his manuscripts, and worked after the war to oppose the development of the hydrogen bomb and to control nuclear proliferation.

In 1952, Israeli premier David Ben-Gurion offered Einstein the presidency of the newly established state of Israel. Einstein politely turned him down, citing advancing age and stating that his lifelong focus on objective matters had left him unsuited to politics [sources: Einstein; Kaku].