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Many websites make the claim that Albert Einstein never learned to drive. For example, this website claims:

Did Albert Einstein have a car? Albert Einstein had no car of his own and he also never learned how to drive. If he had to, he was driven by friends and relatives or their chauffeurs.

The TV show The Big Bang Theory also makes the claim, in which:

In "The Euclid Alternative", Sheldon bemoans, "I just don’t see why I need a driver’s license, Albert Einstein never had a driver’s license." Howard quips, "Yeah, but Albert Einstein didn’t make me wet myself at 40 miles an hour." Penny also snaps and replies, "Yeah, and I never wanted to kick Albert Einstein in the nuts."

Did Albert Einstein learn to drive, or obtain a driver's license, considering he stayed in the USA for a significant proportion of his career?

  • This might not be as notable as it seems. I live in the UK and have never had my own car despite being 26, and that's probably on par with the rest of Europe. The US is different, but if he was wealthy enough, then like many of the wealthy, he may have simply had a driver. In addition, personal vehicles would have been less common back then. – PointlessSpike Aug 16 '16 at 13:21
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    Isaac Newton also never learned to drive. Nor did Aristotle. – gerrit Aug 16 '16 at 15:13
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    @MarchHo Einstein lived 1879–1955. I don't know from when almost everyone in the USA was expected to drive, but certainly Einstein was an old man by then. – gerrit Aug 16 '16 at 18:12
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    In 1950 (the year of Einstein's 71st birthday) there were only 25 million registered cars in the USA against a national population of 150 million. For pretty much his entire life, it wasn't at all unusual not to drive your own car. – arboviral Aug 17 '16 at 8:23
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    This is remarkable for modern-day Americans. It is not remarkable for a German émigré who permanently moved to the US in 1933, when he was already 54 years old. (Indeed even today, a migrant who moves to the US at that age will probably not bother learning to drive.) – Kenny LJ Aug 17 '16 at 9:17
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According to Walter Isaacson's biography, His Life and Universe

(Szilard, like Einstein, did not drive)

Source: Chapter 21

Also,

"The professor does not drive," Elsa [Einstein's wife] often said. "It's too complicated for him."

Source: Chapter 19

  • Can you provide a link to and preferably a screenshot/photo of your citation? – March Ho Aug 16 '16 at 13:52
  • -1 As His Life and Universe was published in 2007 and could thus just perpetuate common myths. – David Mulder Aug 18 '16 at 7:06
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    @DavidMulder It's a bit harsh to dismiss the biography because of its publication date. Do you know it wasn't well researched and simply rehashes common myths? My understanding is that this was the first biography written after Einstein's personal documents were made publicly available. The book contains copious footnotes referencing early 20th century personal letters and other documents. – ghoppe Aug 19 '16 at 19:18
  • @DavidMulder I've read the book, and did not get the impression that it was a mythological retelling of Einstein tropes. It seemed well-researched and substantial to me. – ghoppe Aug 19 '16 at 19:20
  • @ghoppe: if those footnotes are so good then it should be more than easy enough to quote the original source for this claim. Not saying in any way it's a bad book, just a bad final reference imho for skeptics.SE . – David Mulder Aug 21 '16 at 7:45

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