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Einstein, Embarrassed, Chastises Ethel Michanowski for Showering Him with Gifts
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You have to stop giving me presents incessantly if you would like to stay in touch with me in the friendly and joyous way we have been communicating so far. I feel responsible for you spending your earnings in such a perverted way.

ALBERT EINSTEIN. Autograph Letter Signed with initials, in German, to Ethel Michanowski, Oxford, England, May 24, 1931. 1 p.

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Complete Translation

                                                                        Oxford 24.V.31

Dear Micha!

            The small package really angered me. You have to stop giving me presents incessantly if you would like to stay in touch with me in the friendly and joyous way we have been communicating so far.  I feel responsible for you spending your earnings in such a perverted way; so, please do not anger me at all in the future or at least think of a different way to do it.  And to send something like that to an English College where we are surrounded by senseless affluence anyway!  And, by the way, to someone as spoiled as I am!

            So please retreat to smiling and chatting just like we would expect it from a lovely woman like you and be greeted with an absolutely devastating glance,  yours


On Thursday I’ll be leaving for Berlin.  Hoping for a joyous reunion.


After declining an invitation to lecture at Oxford University in 1927, Albert Einstein feared that his failure to lecture in England, “where my work has received greater recognition than anywhere else in the world,” would be perceived as ingratitude. When the German-born physicist Frederick Lindemann, an admirer based at the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford, saw Einstein in Berlin in 1930, Einstein agreed to lecture. Between May 1 and May 27, 1931, Einstein delivered a series of three lectures at the University in German, without an interpreter. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University.

When Oxford University Press expressed eagerness to publish his lectures, Einstein resisted, telling the warden of Rhodes House in 1933, that he “had since discovered that everything he had put forward in the lectures was untrue.” Christ Church at Oxford elected Einstein as a “research student” (fellow) of the college with an annual stipend of £400 through 1937, in exchange for brief periods of residence each year at his convenience. Einstein returned in April to May 1932 and in May to June 1933. He soon left Europe forever; in October 1933, he settled in Princeton, New Jersey.

Apparently, Ethel Michanowski visited Einstein in Oxford, staying in a local hotel. One day, he composed a five-line poem on a Christ Church college notecard: “Long-branched and delicately strung, Nothing that will escape her gaze,” it began. When his second wife Elsa found out that Michanowski had followed Einstein to Oxford, she was furious. He wrote to try to calm her, telling her, “Your dismay toward Frau M is totally groundless because she behaved completely according to the best Jewish-Christian morality.” In a separate letter to Elsa’s daughter Margot, who was Michanowski’s friend, Einstein expressed his annoyance at her attentions: “Her chasing me is getting out of control.... I don’t care what people are saying about me, but for mother and for Frau M, it is better that not every Tom, Dick and Harry gossip about it.”

Albert Einstein(1879-1955) was born in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg in the German Empire to non-observant Ashkenazi Jewish parents. In 1894, the Einstein family moved to Italy. Einstein went to Switzerland to finish his secondary schooling, and graduated from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zürich in 1900. In 1903, he married Mileva Marić (1875-1948), with whom he had two sons. In 1919, they divorced and he married his cousin Elsa Löwenthal. In 1905, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Zürich. From 1908 to 1932, he taught at a series of universities in Switzerland, the Austrian Empire, and the German Empire. As a theoretical physicist, he published ground-breaking papers as early as 1905 and developed the theory of relativity, with its postulate of a constant velocity for light, and the consequent mass–energy equivalence formula, E = mc2. In 1922, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the photoelectric effect. In January 1933, when Adolph Hitler came to power, Einstein was visiting the United States and remained here, becoming a citizen in 1940. A year earlier, he signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning that Germany could develop a nuclear bomb, and urging the U.S. to become involved in uranium research, thus beginning the “Manhattan project.” Though he focused on the need to defeat Hitler during the war, afterwards he became known for efforts to further world peace. At the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., from 1933 until his death in 1955, he worked unsuccessfully to develop a unified field theory and to refute the accepted interpretation of quantum physics. Considered the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects of history, Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers and over 150 non-scientific works.

Ethel Eleonora Michanowski/Michanowsky (b. 1896) was born into a Jewish family in Nowosibkow, Ukraine, probably as Ethel Schorol. She was an artist, a Berlin socialite, and a friend of Einstein’s second wife Elsa Einstein and of his stepdaughter Ilse Einstein. Michanowski was involved romantically with Einstein in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when she lived in Berlin. When he lectured at Christ Church, Oxford, in May 1931, Michanowski followed him there, much to Einstein’s embarrassment. Michanowski emigrated from Portugal to the United States in October 1940 aboard the SS Exochorda and was detained at Ellis Island for several weeks as a “Stateless Hebrew.” In October 1946, she again entered the United States from Canada at Niagara, and at that time, her son, journalist and archaeologist George Michanowsky (1920-1993), lived in New York City. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1952.