Best Brainiac

How a childlike curiosity helped Einstein become the greatest thinker of our time.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2007

When Albert Einstein arrived in America at age 54, pulling into New York Harbor on the ocean liner Westernland on October 17, 1933, an official greeting committee was waiting for him. Einstein and his entourage, however, were nowhere to be found.

Abraham Flexner, director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, was obsessed with shielding his celebrity professor from publicity. So he’d sent a tugboat to spirit the great man away from the Westernland as soon as it cleared quarantine. His hair poking out from a wide-brimmed black hat, Einstein surreptitiously disembarked onto the tug, which ferried him and his party to lower Manhattan, where a car would whisk them to Princeton. “All Dr. Einstein wants is to be left in peace and quiet,” Flexner told reporters.

Actually, Einstein also wanted a newspaper and an ice cream cone. As soon as he checked into Princeton’s Peacock Inn, he walked over to a newsstand, bought a newspaper and chuckled at the headlines about his mysterious whereabouts. Then he entered a local ice cream parlor and ordered a cone. The waitress making change for him declared, “This one goes in my memory book.”

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