Einstein at DCL

Robbie Steiding sits on the lap of Albert Einstein during a 1946 secret visit that Einstein made to Western Maryland. The famous scientist was invited by Robbie’s father, John Steiding of Midland, to vacation at Deep Creek Lake. 

Lake Effect

 

Revisting the Genius Mountain Maryland Visit of Albert Einstein

  

Many people consider Albert Einstein the smartest man who ever lived. Yet when this man who knew almost everything needed to unwind one warm season during the war, the vacation spot he smartly chose was in the Mountains of Maryland -- Deep Creek Lake to be more specific.

Einstein vacationed for two weeks in September 1946 at the lake. He was seeking a place where he could find escape from the unwanted media that wrote about how his theories had led to the creation of the atomic bomb.  That giant brain needed a rest. Even people who are considered the smartest of all time get criticized, as it turns out. 

And John Steiding – a resident of Midland here in Allegany County invited Einstein to take a vacation at the lake. Steiding was a chemist at the Celanese plant at the time and came to know Einstein through a co-worker’s wife, who was sculpting the great man’s bust.

“Einstein, who wasn’t very tall, found it uncomfortable to pose for the artwork since his feet would not touch the floor. Steiding, being a handyman, made a footstool for Einstein,” according to Francis Tam in an article called “Einstein in Western Maryland.”

Besides being able to relax out of the national spotlight for a while, Einstein was also able to have Dr. Frank Wilson examine him for an aneurysm of the aorta of the abdomen. And this news also could be kept from the prying public eyes – and a news media at the time that was looking for any reason at all to be critical of the man.

Einstein stayed at Dr. Wilson’s lake cottage, named the “Mar-Jo-Lodge” for two weeks. “He took daily walks along the lake, frequently stopping to chat with strangers who had no idea who he was. He was sometimes seen fishing and also bird-watching with binoculars. He never skipped a meal but was a light eater. He drank a lot of water and lemonade; his favorite vegetable was fresh corn-on-the-cob from Garrett County,” Tam wrote.

In particular, Einstein loved sailing, either with friends or alone.

“During one of his many hours spent on the lake with Steiding, Einstein remarked that ‘here you can get nearer to God,’” reported the Cumberland News.

Born in 1879, Einstein was a German theoretical physicist, widely credited to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. He is best known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are together the two pillars of modern physics.  “E = mc2” -- which arises from his relativity theory, has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation.”  Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

As word began to get out that the great Albert Einstein was vacationiong at Maryland’s “Best Kept Secret,”  people began to look for him – hoping to run into the man, chat, take a photo or get an autograph.  On these days, when he knew he was being sought after as a celebrity, Einstein sought solace on the water.

“People would realize that he wasn’t around, go searching for him, and find him in Harry Muma’s little sailboat, ‘single-handing,’ on the Turkey Neck inlet,” according to the Garrett County Historical Society’s “Deep Creek Lake, Past and Present.”

During a visit, Steiding’s brother Fred asked Einstein to explain his famous theory of relativity in layman’s terms.

“Put it this way,” reportedly said Einstein, “If you sit on a park bench with your sweetheart, an hour seems like a minute. If you sit on a hot stove by mistake, a minute seems like an hour.”

Einstein later said that his vacation at Deep Creek Lake was “one of the most restful and zestful vacations.”

When the vacation ended, Einstein showed himself to be a generous guest, giving Blair Thompson, who had attended him during the vacation, a $50 gratuity, which would equate to more than $1,000 today.

Following the vacation, he was back to work. In October of that year, he wrote that the United Nations should “form a world government that maintained peace under the threat of nuclear devastation,” according to Ze’ev Rosenkranz in “The Einstein Scrapbook.” Einstein also published his papers on his unified field theory in the 1950s.

On April 17 1955, Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm – the same one that caused him seek refuge in Garrett County nine years before. The condition had also been reinforced surgically by Dr. Rudolph Nissen in 1948.  Einstein took the draft of a speech he was preparing for a television appearance commemorating the state of Israel’s seventh anniversary with him to the hospital, but he did not live to complete it.

Einstein refused surgery, saying, “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.” And so he did. Einstein died in Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center on April 18, 1955 at the age of 76.

To the world, Einstein’s vacation at Deep Creek Lake remained a secret until a reporter with the Cumberland News interviewed Robbie Steiding – the son of John Stieding – and published the story of the visit in 1979. 

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