Einstein's Energy For
His Boats

By Ben Zartman
Published: April/May 2013

Even while unlocking some of the world's most incomprehensible mysteries, Albert Einstein, like ourselves, just had to get down to the water and go messing about in his boat.

To many people, the word "genius" conjures up a familiar picture: a benevolent, wrinkled face topped by an untidy mop of white hair radiating wildly in every direction. Usually a long chalkboard full of minute scribbling comprises the background. This face most associated with genius, of course, was that of the German-born physicist whose Theory of Relativity rocked the world of physics in 1907, and became the foundation upon which the modern study of space and time is based. His most famous formula, E=mc2, is recognized everywhere, by young and old alike, even if few of us can explain what it actually stands for, and even fewer can fathom its ramifications.

Photo of Albert Einstein on his sailboat
Albert Einstein told a reporter, "Atomic power is no more unnatural than
when I sail my boat on Saranac Lake."

Though arguably one of the world's greatest minds, Albert Einstein was, in many ways, much like the rest of us. In his spare time, to sort out his thoughts, he didn't resort to an isolated ivory tower lined with dusty books, high above the world's concerns. He craved instead to get out on his boat. And if he ran that boat aground more often than he would've liked, perhaps we can let the occasional lack of seamanship slide, supposing that a eureka moment of inspiration may well have been distracting him.

Before World War II dispossessed Einstein of his home and possessions, and turned him into one of the world's most celebrated refugees, he used to putter at every opportunity aboard his pride and joy, a 21-foot sloop called Tummler that had been given to him by friends on his 50th birthday, after he had been ordered by his doctor to take it easy. Tummler, which means "porpoise," had been built with Einstein's tastes and needs in mind. Einstein wasn't fond of engines, deeming them too complicated, and he never even learned to drive a car. Tummler was fitted with a cleverly hidden inboard engine — even the controls weren't visible when not in use. Her tiny cabin had a small head, extra seating, and a special shelf for storing his pipes.

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Read more about how Einstein relaxed on boats during a secret vacation in Maryland's Deep Creek Lake.


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