Here’s what you probably know: Albert Einstein is the mastermind behind E=mc² and the Theory of Relativity. Here’s what you likely weren’t taught in school: The Nobel Prize winner was also a violin-playing womanizer who failed university entrance exams.
That is, however, what you’ll learn in National Geographic’s Genius, a scripted series about Einstein executive produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, and starring Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn as the elder and younger Einstein. The first of 10 episodes premieres Tuesday (9 ET/PT).
The miniseries, which jumps forward and backward in time and is largely based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Einstein: His Life and Universe, fills in the blanks of some aspects of Einstein’s life that weren’t depicted in books or his letters, but is otherwise “very historically accurate” says executive producer Ken Biller. It shows everything from the thinking behind his greatest scientific advancements, to his heartlessness in dealing with intimate relationships.
Here are four things about Einstein, as seen in the series, that would surprise the casual Einstein fan.
He was a philanderer
Based on Einstein’s letters, it’s clear that the teenage Albert still had a girlfriend, Marie Winteler, when he had a tumultuous affair with Mileva Marić, a fellow classmate with whom he married and had children. They divorced, but not before Einstein had an affair with his soon-to-be second wife, Elsa, who was also his cousin.
“While married to Elsa, he had extramarital affairs, and ended up coming to an accommodation where affairs were part of their marital arrangement,” says Biller. “Einstein had very unconventional ideas about monogamy and marriage, and had a very active sex life with fascinating women.”
He left the country against his parents’ wishes
When Einstein was a teenager, his parents and sister left him to finish school in Germany while they moved to Italy deal with his father’s fledgling business. But, Einstein hated his school, so, as Genius tells it, he had a doctor — who was a family friend — give him a medical discharge from school.
“He showed up unannounced on parents’ doorsteps and said, ‘I’m never going back to Germany,'” says Biller. That’s not the only time Einstein would ignore his father’s wishes. After all, Einstein Sr. wanted Albert to be an engineer.
He failed exams and angered teachers
Einstein excelled in science, but not in all subjects. Genius recounts Einstein failing his exams in literature, politics and French when applying to study at Zurich Polytechnic. Einstein later successfully retook the exams, but he wasn’t a perfect pupil: He once blew up a lab during an experiment, and was uninterested in rote learning.
“Ultimately, he was able to pass all of his exams and get his degree, (but) there were professors who wanted him booted out of school” for his reckless behavior, Biller says.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Carly Mallenbaum