Einstein’s travel diaries reveal ‘shocking’ xenophobia

Private journals kept by the scientist and humanitarian icon show prejudiced attitudes towards the people he met while travelling in Asia

The publication of Albert Einstein’s private diaries detailing his tour of Asia in the 1920s reveals the theoretical physicist and humanitarian icon’s racist attitudes to the people he met on his travels, particularly the Chinese.

Written between October 1922 and March 1923, the diaries see the scientist musing on his travels, science, philosophy and art. In China, the man who famously once described racism as “a disease of white people” describes the “industrious, filthy, obtuse people” he observes. He notes how the “Chinese don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods. All this occurs quietly and demurely. Even the children are spiritless and look obtuse.” After earlier writing of the “abundance of offspring” and the “fecundity” ...