Should time be really-really-really relative, Albert Einstein would’ve turned 135 years old on March 14th and stuck his tongue at us.
Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin were the two celebrities that everyone — everyone! — knew. In the 1930s, they happened to travel together, recognized by people everywhere they went. Crowds gathered, people ecstatically applauded. They waved to the admirers and reportedly exchanged the following words:
Einstein: What I most admire about your art, is your universality. You don’t say a word, yet the world understands you!
Chaplin: True. But your glory is even greater! The whole world admires you, even though they don’t understand a word of what you say.
The earliest evidence of this anecdote appeared in a memoir by János Plesch who was Albert Einstein’s friend and his doctor. Plesch’s memoirs, Janos, The Story of a Doctor, were published in 1947, translated into English by Edward Fitzgerald.
In this version of the tale the two celebrities Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein were conversing, but only Chaplin presented the comparison between their different types of fame. Boldface has been added to excerpts below:
Once when Einstein was in Hollywood on a visit, Chaplin drove him through the town. As the people on the sidewalks recognized two of their greatest, if very different, contemporaries, they gave them a tremendous reception which greatly astonished Einstein. “They’re cheering us both,” said Chaplin: “you because nobody understands you, and me because everybody understands me.” There was a good-humored pride in his remark, and at the same time a certain humility as at a recognition of the difference between ready popularity and lasting greatness.