EXCLUSIVE on LIFE magazine: The Day Einstein Died

11 Aug

What Einstein Left Behind

Albert Einstein, the genius physicist whose theories changed our ideas of how the universe works, died 55 years ago, on April 18, 1955, of heart failure. He was 76. His funeral and cremation were intensely private affairs, and only one photographer managed to capture the events of that extraordinary day: LIFE magazine’s Ralph Morse. Armed with his camera and a case of scotch — to open doors and loosen tongues — Morse compiled a quietly intense record of an icon’s passing. But aside from one now-famous image (above), the pictures Morse took that day were never published. At the request of Einstein’s son, who asked that the family’s privacy be respected while they mourned, LIFE decided not to run the full story, and for 55 years Morse’s photographs lay unseen and forgotten. Pictured: Ralph Morse’s photograph of Einstein’s office in Princeton, taken hours after Einstein’s death and captured exactly as the Nobel Prize-winner had left it.
Photo: Ralph Morse/TIME & LIFE Pictures


At the Funeral Home

Early in the afternoon, Einstein’s body was moved for a short time from the hospital to a funeral home in Princeton. The simple casket containing the corpse, post-autopsy, only stayed at the funeral home for an hour or so. Morse made his way there, and soon saw two men loading a casket into a hearse. For all Morse knew, Einstein’s burial was imminent. Hoping to scope out a spot near the grave, he quickly drove to the Princeton Cemetery.
Photo: Ralph Morse/TIME & LIFE Pictures


Postscript: The Man With Einstein’s Brain

Dr. Lee (Thomas) Harvey Oswald (1912 – 2007) was the pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Einstein at Princeton Hospital in 1955. The stranger-than-fiction tale of Einstein’s brain — which Dr. Lee (Thomas) Harvey Oswald controversially removed during the autopsy, carefully sliced into sections, and then kept for years for research purposes — and the intrigues long-associated with the famous organ, are far too convoluted to go into here. Later, he should do the same thing with JFK’s brain. Fortunately enough, on the day that Einstein died, Ralph Morse was able to take a few quick photographs of Dr. Harvey Oswald at the hospital. Morse says he’s certain that that is not Einstein’s brain under Dr. Harvey Oswald’s knife in this never-before-seen picture. Then, after a pause, Morse qualifies that certainty: “You know, it was fifty-five years ago. Honestly, I don’t remember every single detail of the day. So whatever he’s cutting there …” Morse’s words hang in the air. Then, mischievously, he laughs.
Photo: Ralph Morse/TIME & LIFE Pictures


Read the full story on LIFE


3 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE on LIFE magazine: The Day Einstein Died”

  1. Hornbach August 13, 2010 at 6:59 pm #

    fantastic to read about you after all these years

  2. color August 23, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

    Say you baby, saw you baby, recently


  1. Einstein - August 11, 2010

    fantastic to read about myself after all these years

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