Photo by: Arthur Sasse

Arthur Sasse

What's the Story Behind That Wacky Einstein Tongue Photo?

By: Ashley Hamer

Learn the truth behind this famous wacky tongue photo.

August 01, 2019

When you think of Albert Einstein, what comes to mind? Is it his theory of special relativity, the one that generated the famous equation E=mc2? Is it his Nobel Prize for his discovery of the photoelectric effect? Who are you kidding — if you're like most of us, the first thing that pops in your head when you think of Albert Einstein is that wacky tongue photo you see everywhere. For a serious scientist who made such formidable discoveries about the universe, that's a pretty silly face to make, but it makes sense when you understand the circumstances.

A Timeless Tongue

The image that the Guardian calls "arguably one of the best known press photographs of any 20th century personality" was taken on March 14, 1951 — Einstein's birthday. The scientist was leaving his 72nd birthday party at Princeton University, which had been swarming with photographers, and was understandably tired of smiling all night.

As he left the event and climbed into the backseat of a car between Dr. Frank Aydelotte, the former head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, and Aydelotte's wife, Marie Jeanette, another throng of reporters and photographers advanced. Einstein was in no mood. According to legend, he shouted, "That's enough!" But they didn't listen. Out of exasperation — and maybe a little spite — Einstein stuck his tongue out at the crowd, then immediately turned away. Arthur Sasse from UPI was lucky enough to capture the split-second shot.

It Pays to Be Persistent

Einstein might have been over it that night, but he was still a good sport. He loved the photo Sasse snapped and asked UPI for nine prints he could use as personal greeting cards. Most of them were cropped to include only his face, creating the iconic image we all know today.

One, however, remained as-is, and he signed it for a reporter. In 2017, that photo sold at auction for a whopping $125,000.

This article first appeared on Curiosity.com.

Next Up

What are the Chances of Life Appearing On…Earth?

Just how lucky are we on Earth? What were the chances that life would arise, let alone lead to intelligence?

The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Virus

As the death tolls rise, Coronavirus is on the minds of people all over the world. Learn about this new virus and how we got here. Originally published: 2/20/2020 Updated: 3/9/2020

May Sky Watch: What to Look Out For This Month

Whether you can see it from home or stream it online, here are some of May's wonderous celestial events.

Stuck at Home? What to See in the Night Sky this Month

In times of darkness and incertainty, opt for exploration of wonder in the skies.

What Came Before the Big Bang?

Physicists are still trying to solve this mystery.

What Would Happen If the Sun Disappeared?

You might be able to survive for a bit longer than you think.

What Would Happen If You Stopped Time?

There never seems to be enough hours in a day.

Here's What a Chance of Rain Really Means

Forecasting rain involves lots of probabilities and complicated math.

Lactic Acid Is Not What Causes Sore Muscles

Scientists have known that for decades that sore muscles are caused by something else.

What's the Ring of Fire in the Sky?

Africa and Asia will experience a Ring of FIre Eclipse on Sunday, June 21st and Lowell Observatory's Dr. Jeff Hall explain exactly what that means.