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Did Einstein believe Indians were stupid and biologically inferior? His diaries suggest so

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Lucknow: Albert Einstein – world’s one of the most brilliant minds, was a great scientist and it really matters what he thinks about India and its people. 

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Einsteins diaries written between October 1922 and March 1923, when he travelled to places like Japan, China and Sri Lanka talk about his contemplations for the people living in the Indian subcontinents. Though he actually never travelled through India, yet he perceived that ‘people from the Indian Subcontinent could be held back and have their thinking backward due to the climate and the environment’.

The Nobel-winning scientist in his diary during the Asia tour had wrote that Indians were “biologically inferior” and were hampered by the subcontinent’s climate that “prevented them from thinking backward or forward by more than a quarter of an hour.”

In short the atomic bomb inventor believed that people from the Indian Subcontinent (Could be Lankans, Pakistanis, Indians) were ‘biologically inferior’ due to the climate of the place which is humid, hot, and sweaty.

Likewise he also believed that the Chinese were a “filthy” yet Industrious race of people who did not use the table to eat but squatted to do the same.

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Also two decades later in 1946, physicist Albert Einstein, speaking at an American college (that was the first to give degrees to black people), denounced racism in its pure irony, stating “Racism is a disease of white people.”

According  to Ze’ev Rosenkranz, the assistant director of the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology, and the editor of a book that compiles Albert Einstein’s travel diaries, the man of excellent brilliance had also made comments that were “in contrast to the public image of the great humanitarian icon”, as he said to a leading daily.

Writing in the introduction of his compilation of Einstein’s travel dairies, Rosenkranz said that Einstein’s comments about Indians, Chinese and Japanese display a belief that is “a clear hallmark of racism”.

Einstein, the editor writes, met Indians in Colombo during his Far East voyage and mentioned their existence by referring to their “primitive lives”.

“[Einstein] also believes that ‘the climate prevents them from thinking backward or forward by more than a quarter of an hour’, an attitude that reveals both Einstein’s belief in geographical determinism and in the Indians’ alleged intellectual inferiority,” Rosenkranz writes in his compilation of Einstein’s travel dairies,.

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As per Rosenkranz, Einstein attributes the “alleged stoicism of the Indians he encounters to geographical determination [by asking]: ‘Wouldn’t we too, in this climate, become like the Indians?’.”

Was Einstein racist?

A Jew himself, Einstein, was forced to flee Nazi Germany in the face of anti-Semite persecution. This might have very well changed his views on racism later in his life.

Rosenkranz admits this, as he told media in an interview, “It would be easy to say, yes, he became more enlightened [but] One should emphasize the different elements and contradictory elements in the statements that he made and in his personality.”

Though we might never know if Einstein was a racist or not but his comments about Asian race, especially the Chinese, do leave some eyebrows raised. He once had said that “It would be a pity if these Chinese supplant all other races” and “I don’t understand what kind of fatal attraction Chinese women possess which enthrals the corresponding men to such an extent that they are incapable of defending themselves against the formidable blessing of offspring.”

And so, editor Rosenkranz wrote, “Einstein’s diary entries on the biological origin of the alleged intellectual inferiority of the Japanese, Chinese, and Indians are definitely not understated and can be viewed as racist – in these instances, other peoples are portrayed as being biologically inferior, a clear hallmark of racism.”

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