Einstein's 'Relatively' Short Visit to Pittsburgh

Did you know that Albert Einstein's first major speech in the U.S. happened at Carnegie Tech?

When Albert Einstein came to Pittsburgh in 1934, he was already one of the most famous men in the world, having won the Nobel Prize for Physics 13 years prior. He arrived in late December to give a lecture at the national convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; thousands of scientists were in town for four days of events, and Einstein was booked at the Little Theater (now Kresge Theatre) at Carnegie Tech (now CMU) the afternoon of Dec. 28.

He titled his talk “national convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.” Tickets were hard to come by — the small theater held only 400 people. According to newspaper accounts, Einstein was “energetic” and “quick.” The lecture was regarded as his “first important speech in the United States,” and to the surprise and delight of many, he gave his address in English — for the first time. (Audience members helped when he didn’t know a word.)

Einstein would return to western Pennsylvania five years later for a conference with Jewish leaders on how to help protect Jews still trapped in Germany. Given the somber nature of the visit, there were no press conferences or public lectures on that trip, though Einstein did receive a rare privilege: While in the area, he was a guest of the Kaufmann family at Fallingwater.

Categories: Rick Sebak