Evelyn Einstein, Famed Physicist’s Granddaughter


Evelyn Einstein

Einstein Family Residence: 1090 Creston Road

UC Hydraulics professor Hans Albert Einstein (1904–1973), son of the renowned physicist Albert Einstein (1879–1955), and his wife Frieda had three sons before adopting a daughter, Evelyn. Chicago records list Evelyn Einstein’s mother as an unmarried sixteen year old. Evelyn maintained that as a child she had been told she was “Grandpa’s” illegitimate daughter from an affair with a ballet dancer. This she contended was substantiated at her Swiss boarding school when she heard that Frieda had told the headmaster that she and Hans had adopted Evelyn as a favor to Albert. Albert Einstein’s confession that he had had affairs with young women late in life perhaps reinforced her contention that she was his daughter rather than his granddaughter.

Evelyn spoke four or five languages, read Shakespeare in German, and earned a UC Berkeley master’s degree in medieval literature. An acrimonious divorce from Grover Krantz, an idiosyncratic Washington State anthropologist committed to proving the existence of Bigfoot, left her homeless in Berkeley. Alienated from her father Hans and his second wife Elizabeth Robos, whom Evelyn called “the witch of the west,” she lived in her car, a self-described “dumpster diver” proud of her gourmet knowledge of the city’s finest trash bins. She battled depression but finally pieced together a succession of odd jobs including dogcatcher, reserve Berkeley police officer, and cult de-programmer.

In the 1980s Evelyn found an unpublished manuscript written by her deceased mother Frieda, which led to the discovery of 500 Albert Einstein letters in a Berkeley safe-deposit box. The letters revealed that in 1902 Einstein had fathered a girl named Lieserl out-of-wedlock with his first great love Mileva Maric. Paralleling Evelyn’s assertion about her own origin it is surmised that Lieserl was given up for adoption.

Evelyn maintained that Albert Einstein left her “five grand” when he died. When his letters were sold in 1996 she joined a group of family members in a lawsuit, settled privately, seeking a share of the profits. Evelyn lived out her life as a recluse in Albany, suffering from a myriad of illnesses, sitting in a wheelchair decorated with Star Trek decals. She purportedly spent time readying a lawsuit claiming a share of the profit from the estimated $10,000,000 yearly income earned in licensing fees from Albert’s name and likeness, which Forbes would later rank eighth behind those of celebrities like Michael Jackson and Dr. Seuss. At the end of her life Evelyn agonized over the reality that nothing ever came to the impoverished great physicist’s “daughter” from the sale of items like t-shirts and bobble head figures.

Contributed by Robert Kehlmann, 2015

  • Einstein Residence, photo (2014) R. Kehlmann

  • Albert Einstein, photo (1947) Oren Jack Turner, Library of Congress

  • Albert Einstein and his first wife Mileva, photo Einstein's Days and Works in Prague

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society