By Jennifer Welsh
Ralph Morse, an ambitious photojournalist for Life magazine, covered a funeral in New Jersey on April 18, 1955. Now, 55 years later, Life.com is finally publishing the pictures he took that day during the funeral and cremation of Albert Einstein.
Einstein died of heart failure at age 76 earlier that morning at Princeton Hospital. The hospital’s pathologist removed his brain for preservation and study, in the hopes that scientists could figure out why he was so smart.
Post-autopsy, the body was moved briefly to a funeral home, then to a crematorium in Trenton, New Jersey, for a short service and cremation. (His ashes were scattered later on the grounds of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study.)
Morse followed the mourners as they returned to Einstein’s house at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton. He was the only photographer on the scene during these moving moments.
But when he returned to the Life offices, Morse learned that the magazine wasn’t going to publish the pictures. At the request of Einstein’s son, Hans Albert Einstein, Life respected the family’s privacy while they mourned. Morse and the magazine both forgot about the pictures until recently.