Read Albert Einstein’s Letter About What He Thought About UFOs
by Jen Sako
The night of July 19, 1952, something strange happened over Washington, D.C.
“It was very erratic. It went left and right. We knew it wasn’t an airplane, because a plane flies in one direction. But it was a strong signal, just like an airplane.”
A Capital Airlines pilot also reported six quick lights with, “no tail, no recognizable shape…just bright lights against a dark sky,” for approximately 14 minutes. Air Force radar picked up similar objects, but they disappeared before scrambled jets could investigate.
At the time, Americans were fascinated with UFOs. LIFE magazine published “Have We Visitors From Space?” in the April 1952 issue sparking the public’s imagination. In Watch the Skies!: A Chronicle of the UFO Myth, Curtis Peebles wrote that the flying objects over DC were “the climax of the 1952 flap.” Suddenly, “Unidentified flying objects exploded into the public consciousness then,” said Mark Rodeghier, scientific director for the Center for UFO Studies, to The New York Times in 2018.
Newspaper headlines blared the news around the world: “SAUCERS SWARM OVER CAPITAL.”
Reverend Louis A. Gardner wondered what physicist Albert Einstein thought of all this. He wrote him, asking for his opinion on whether the objects were truly from outer space, perhaps Venus or Mars? Or, were they from the military–either the U.S. Air Force or an enemy?
By then, Einstein was already famous for his theory of general relativity, Nobel Prize for Physics, stance against racism, and, he would regret later, support for the Manhattan Project. Despite his fame and busy research schedule at Princeton, he decided to reply on letterhead from the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton:
“Dear Sir, those people have seen something. What it is I do not know and am not curious to know. Sincerely yours, Albert Einstein.”
What was curious was Einstein’s response about how he was not curious at all about the flying objects. He had built his whole life on curiosity. He even told his biographer just months before Gardner’s inquiry, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
Einstein’s letter back to Gardner was almost as famous as the UFOs that continued to make appearances over D.C., July 26 and 27. That month, the Air Force received 500 reports of UFOs. Authorities blamed “the Washington Invasion” on meteor showers and unusual weather. But the more curious witnesses insist they knew what they saw and it was of another world.