Einstein was not an American by birth; he grew up in Munich, then went to secondary school and university in Switzerland. But he, along with many other scientists, saw what lay in store for the Jews when Hitler rose to power. In fact, there was a $5,000 bounty placed on his head by the Nazi regime. He therefore emigrated to the United States in 1933, and became an American citizen in 1940.
By the time he arrived in the U.S., Einstein was already world famous for his theory of relativity, and he had received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Einstein took a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey (which is not affiliated with Princeton University). As World War II approached, Einstein wrote a famous letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, warning him that Germany might be attempting to develop a nuclear bomb. He told the President about the urgency of developing the weapon first, and his letter is credited with prodding Roosevelt to action. Einstein himself never worked on the Manhattan Project, however.
When the first president of Israel died, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Einstein to be the new state’s leader. Einstein refused, realizing that he was more comfortable with theories than people. He said, “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. I have neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings.”
Einstein was politically active following World War II. Calling racism America’s “worst disease,” he joined the NAACP at Princeton. He also vocally opposed Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose Congressional investigations attempted to find Communists in public life. Einstein wrote a letter that was published in many newspapers in which he condemned the hearings. “Every intellectual who is called before one of the committees ought to refuse to testify,” he wrote.
Time Magazine named Einstein “Person of the Century” in 1999…