Albert Einstein was a genius the likes of which the world had never seen before, and arguably hasn't seen since. He's the man behind so many of our scientific breakthroughs, and the work that has led to so many more innovations too. He knew so much, and we in turn know so much about him. While a lot has been written, there's also a lot of things that history has gotten wrong about the Big Brain.
Millions of people have looked up to Einstein, and for good reason, not only was he full of inspirational quotes, but he was also set a personal example through his experiences. He's one of the smartest men in history and he struggled in school. How do you not get inspired by that? Our difficulties are nearly as stressful with that in mind.
There's just one small problem with that line of thinking. The myth that Einstein didn't do well in school actually has no factual basis.
While lots of people think he flunked out of high school before going on to his huge accomplishments, Einstein's school records show that he was actually a great student. It is true that early in his schooling his non-science based subjects weren't up to his other standards, but he was still an admirable student.
There are a few reasons this myth was so widely reported. Firstly, his initial application to the prestigious Federal Polytechnic School in Switzlerland was denied. Mainly due to how poorly Einstein, born in Germany, did in French. He also applied at the age of 16, two years younger than the youngest student currently enrolled.
The following year however Einstein made a change to his studying habits. He had been enrolled at the Canton School in Aarau, Switzerland and worked hard to get his non-science subjects up to the Polytechnic School's standards. His second application and entry tests were pased with flying colors.
It was this final year of study that most likely led to the myth that Einstein struggled in school. Since its creation the Aarau school used a numerical system of grading. The number 1 was considered the best grade and the number 6 was a failing mark. However, the year that Einstein attended, the school actually flipped the marking scheme; 6 was the best mark and 1 was a failing grade.
Anyone not knowing that would look at Einstein's grades, almost all the highest mark allowed, and assumed he actually had straight failing grades.
No one knows why they made the change, but I can't imagine they would have known that one small difference would help create the biggest myth around the smartest man in history.