International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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North America: early 20th Century
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Physicist, Nobel Prize winner 1921

The latest indications we have suggest that Einstein was vegetarian only for the last year or so of his life, though he appears to have supported the idea for many years before practising it himself.

"So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore."

This was from a letter written to Hans Muehsam, and dated March 30, 1954, which was about 1 year before Einstein died. This indicates he adopted a vegetarian diet at the end of his life. Previously, on August3, 1953 Einstein had written the following in a letter to Max Kariel, suggesting that he was still eating meat at that time:

"I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience."
- Einstein Archive 60-058

The above quotes are from: The Expanded Quotable Einstein, collected and edited by Alice Calaprice. The book flap of Ms. Calaprice's book says: "Alice Calaprice is a Senior Editor at Princeton University Press, where she has specialized in the sciences and worked with the Einstein Papers for over twenty years."

The following quote originated from Ms. Joan Gilbert (USA) who provided it to Jon Wynne-Tyson (UK) for his book, THE EXTENDED CIRCLE, published in 1985.

It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind. - Letter to 'Vegetarian Watch-Tower', 27 December 1930

David Hurwitz, who contributed the quotes at the top of this page, has added the following:

Alice Calaprice, has released the latest edition of her collected and edited quotes by Albert Einstein entitled, "The New Quotable Einstein." Now there is a solid source for the quote, complete with a document number in the Einstein Archive.

"Although I have been prevented by outward circumstances from observing a strictly vegetarian diet, I have long been an adherent to the cause in principle. Besides agreeing with the aims of vegetarianism for aesthetic and moral reasons, it is my view that a vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind." Translation of letter to Hermann Huth, December 27, 1930. Einstein Archive 46-756

A biography of Einstein says that he was still living in Germany in 1930, only emigrating to the USA in 1932. It also says that he suffered a health breakdown in the late 1920s which would be consistent with giving some thought to his diet, but we have no indications that he actually became vegetarian himself at this time.

Between 1882 and 1935 the Deutscher Vegetarier-Bund (German Vegetarian Federation) published Vegetarische Warte. The picture on the right is the cover of the December 15, 1898 issue. An English/German dictionary translates 'Warte' as: observation point, viewpoint, control room - it seems likely that this is the 'Vegetarian Watch-Tower' (a slightly odd translation but quite possible).

The date of the letter and that given to the magazine are identical - December 27, which could suggest that the attribution to a magazine was mistaken as it would have appeared some time later than the letter. It seems likely that the magazine printed the date of the letter and that got confused, with the date of the later magazine.

Hildegund Scholvien, of the Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands (re-formed in 1945), has most of the old issues of the Vegetarische Warte. She sent the following comments:

I tried to find that Einstein quotation in the "Vegetarische Warte", issue 12, Dez. 1930, but I could not find it. However I do not have the original magazine, only copies of the articles. The pages are complete, 365-392, only the cover is missing. Maybe the quotation, due to its importance, was on the front cover.

At that time the president of the Vegetarier-Bund Dr. Gustav Schläger und Mr. Friedrich Schulenburg were editors of the "Vegetarische Warte". Mr. Hermann Huth was vice-president of the society.

However: Dr. Schläger was ill and died at the end of November 1930. Therefore it might be possible that Hermann Huth (as vice president) was the editor of this special issue. In December 1930 a new board of the Vegetarier-Bund was elected, and Dr. Bruno Wolff was elected president and editor, Mr. Hermann Huth vice president again.

Unfortunately I don't have issue no. 1 of 1931, so I can't check, whether the quotation could be in that issue.

These quotes give some insight into other aspects of Einstein's thinking:

"What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it make any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life." - Mein Weltbild, Amsterdam: Querido Verlag, 1934.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. - New York Post, 28 November 1972

The following quotes are completely unverified, information about the sources of any of them would also be useful:

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." (this looks like a bad translation from German of the one above, we can find no other source for it...)

"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from that of their social environment. "

"It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning."

"Only a life lived for others is a life worth living!"