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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

she blinded me with science

Albert Einstein’s Letter to a Little Girl Who Loved Science and Hated Being a Girl

As revealed in Alice Calaprice‘s Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein’s Letters to and from Children, the eponymous genius (which is to say, his name is on the book and has become a synonym for genius itself) had some pretty awesome views on gender’s relationship to the study of science, which is to say: it doesn’t matter.

Among the children with whom he exchanged correspondence is Tyfanny, of South Africa, who seemed a bit worried when she wrote him a second time to say:

I forgot to tell you, in my last letter, that I was a girl. I mean I am a girl. I have always regretted this a great deal, but by now I have become more or less resigned to the fact.

Anyway, I hate dresses and dances and all the kind of rot girls usually like. I much prefer horses and riding. Long ago, before I wanted to become a scientist, I wanted to b e a jockey and ride horses in races. But that was ages ago, now. I hope you will not think any the less of me for being a girl!

Despite being, in 1946, at “the height of his career and cultural prominence,” he wrote back simply:

I do not mind that you are a girl, but the main thing is that you yourself do not mind. There is no reason for it.

A pretty smart thing to say, in my opinion. Certainly better than Stephen Hawking’s attempt to make humor out of the idea that the only thing he struggles to understand is the 50% of the human population with a single chromosome difference from him. Which, as a joke, would be funny coming out of the mouth of anyone but the man famous for being the most intelligent person living on this planet. Women! We’re not quantum physics, just regular people. But I’m getting off topic and a little snarky.

Hooray for Dr. Albert Einstein, and for Tyfanny, who I hope grew up to be whatever she wanted to be.

(via Brainpickings.)


  • Anna B

    I’m always afraid that someone will come out and dash my impression of Einstein as a lovable genius.  So far, snippets like this renew my fondness of him.

  • Jamie Jeans

    Hooray for Einstein! What he said was perfect.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, yay! There need to be more men like Einstein in the world. And less like Hawking. (Didn’t he recently get picked up in the gossip rags for visiting…grown up clubs?)

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, Einstein’s views toward women weren’t always so enlightened. He also said: “Very few women are creative,” and that “I am referring to certain restrictive parts of a woman’s constitution that were given her by Nature and which forbid us from applying the same standard of expectation to women as to men.”

  • Eva Marie Heater

    It would be interesting to know what happened to Tyfanny…

  • John Wao

    Pretty smart thing to say? Well consider the source. ;-) 

  • Frodo Baggins

    Smart man, smart man, made a fortune in physics.

  • Karen Groenen

    If you have the time, please find out what happened to Tyffanny! It might make for an interesting story :)

  • Anonymous

    That article on Hawking’s quote you linked to seems to strongly misinterpret its source:

    “In an interview
    with the New Scientist magazine to mark his 70th birthday on Sunday,
    January 8, he was asked: “What do you think most about during the day?”
    to which he replied: “Women. They are a complete mystery.”

    The question was not “what is the only thing he struggles to understand, but “what do you think most about during the day.”  The answer means entirely different things depending on what the question being asked is, and I think it’s pretty unfair to present Hawking’s quote with such a skewed perspective.

  • Anonymous

    Are you serious?  You really think Hawking’s  quote is offensive and damaging enough to counteract all the good he’s done?  That’s like saying “we need less presidents like Lincoln” because of his racial views.

  • Anonymous

    Wooooah there, tiger. I didn’t say we should kill Hawking or anything. I just noted that he has a douchy opinion of women, and that the world needs more men with open minds and normal responses to women.

    There’s a difference between acts and attitudes. He’s certainly a genius and has done great things, but his attitude still sucks, and frankly I find it even more offensive that someone that smart can say something so stupid.

    And, to be fair, Lincoln did some great things for minorities DESPITE his views…I’ve yet to see Hawking doing something similar.

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  • Mimi Black

     I would like to convey my experience in dealing with a lot of high IQ men and boys in my academic career; the high IQ wasn’t necessarily in anything except their field of interest, and apparently many were given erroneous information about female humans, which they lapped up like sweet cream, since most of it was about how they were intrinsically smarter and more capable than females. I have watched in awe through the years as otherwise very intelligent men actually spoke to me and other female “High-IQers” as if we were wanna-be’s, no matter what the subject, and as if they were the “real thing”. Even as young as 12. That might be when it really picked up speed. These boys and “men” would be more interested in proving how they were the brightest bulb in the room than working on the actual point of being in the room, the study subject or project. And no amount of documentation could sway them otherwise; they would try to use IQ score to prove their superiority; when I showed them mine to shut them up, they would say something asinine like “Oh you must have cheated.” Studies have shown that males are less creative than females in general, more easily conditioned, less likely to doubt their own assumptions, and more likely to judge their own intelligence as higher than it is. I am still waiting for the teachers and professors to correct those little boys… unfortunately most of them seem to have the same infection.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for such a measured and informative comment. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with such jerks. Hopefully future smart guys will follow Albert E’s example.

    As a professor in training (grad student) I have to say, I’m particularly sensitive to gender dynamics in my class room. I have noticed a certain amount of cockiness & push back from my male students that I simply don’t get from females… That said, there are annoying prats in both sexes. But I do know what you mean.

    Again, thanks for your post.

  • Randle Pyke

    A girl named “Tyfanny” in 1946? Right.