"Even on the most solemn occasions I got away without wearing socks and hid that lack of civilisation in high boots." So wrote Albert Einstein to his cousin and second wife Elsa, during a visit to the University of Oxford.
This nugget came to light when 1400 letters, donated to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel by Einstein's stepdaughter Margot, were made public this week, 20 years after her death. "This is the last such collection of material that will be revealed," says Hanoch Guffreund, a physicist at the university.
The letters may help clear a blemish on Einstein's image. "People perceive Einstein as an irresponsible, even cruel father," says Guffreund. But letters from his sons and to Elsa show him in a more compassionate light. "He describes his sons with great warmth and pride, and is concerned for their financial well-being," says Guffreund.