This Week in History: When Albert Einstein Came to Shanghai

By Ned Kelly, November 14, 2018

8 0

On November 13, 1922, everybody’s favorite wild-haired physicist steamed into Shanghai, a stop on a series of lectures in Asia. It had been announced in far away Sweden just four days earlier that Albert Einstein had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics retroactively for 1921 (not for his Theory of Relativity, nerds will note, but for his discovery of the Law of the Photoelectric Effect).

Rumors had reached him of the honor on board ship on November 11, and, accompanied by his wife, he was greeted by an enthusiastic reception from Jewish quarters of Shanghai. It was in the seaport that the Swedish consulate reiterated that he had officially been awarded the prize – a discovery that led to his departure to Japan the very next day.

Whether he stayed at the Astor House Hotel (above) for that one night, or when he returned a month and a half later to belatedly deliver his lecture on the Theory of Relativity (or on both visits) is unknown. But stay there he did. Henceforth Room 304 came to be known as the Einstein Room.

Sadly, Einstein's Asian legacy has been tarnished. In 2018 Princeton University Press published Einstein’s travel journals from his trips through Asia, and some shockingly racist attitudes towards Asians, and in particular Chinese people, are revealed within them.

See listing for Astor House Hotel.


For more history stories, click here.

more news

This Day in History: Massive Haiyuan Earthquake Devastates Gansu

Statistics released in 2010 show at least 273,400 were killed by the earthquake in Gansu, with Haiyuan losing 73,604 people, nearly half of the county’s entire population.

This Week in History: The Discovery of Peking Man

And its mysterious disappearance in World War II...

This Day in History: The Birth of Sun Yat-sen, Father of Modern China

To this day, 152 years after his birth, Sun is one of the most revered political figures among Chinese people.

This Day in History: China's First Man In Space

On this day in 2003, Yang Liwei endured a 21-and-a-half-hour flight, completing 14 orbits of the Earth

This Day in History: Birth of 'Lust, Caution' Author Eileen Chang

Writer of Lust, Caution born in Shanghai.

This Day in History: Bloody Saturday, Shanghai's Darkest Day

New York Times bestselling author's new book on the 1937 Japanese bombing of the city.

This Day in History: The 2008 Beijing Olympics Commence

A look back at the first ever Olympics to be hosted in China.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.