Einstein on the 1952 ‘flying saucer’ phenomenon: “Having no experience and only superficial knowledge in the field I regret not to be able to comply with your request” — one of two known Einstein ‘UFO’ letters
TLS signed “A. Einstein,” one page, 5.25 x 6.25, The Institute for Advanced Study letterhead, November 12, 1952. Letter to Albert K. Bender, president of the International Flying Saucer Bureau, in full: “Having no experience and only superficial knowledge in the field I regret not to be able to comply with your request.” Double-matted and framed with the original mailing envelope, a descriptive plaque, and an image of Einstein and a UFO to an overall size of 17.5 x 11.5. In fine condition.
UFOs were a hot topic in the U.S. during the early 1950s, thanks in part to an article in the April 1952 issue of LIFE magazine called ‘Have We Visitors From Space?’ While the entire country wrestled with the idea of aliens, Einstein, a champion of scientific curiosity, was patently indifferent. Roughly four months earlier on July 23, 1952, Einstein responded to a letter from evangelical minister Reverend Louis A. Gardner, who had asked the physicist his thoughts on the legitimacy of flying saucers. Einstein’s short response: ‘Those people have seen something. What it is I do not know and am not curious to know.” That letter, and the letter offered here, are the only two known examples of Einstein offering his written thoughts on the existence of extraterrestrials.
The recipient, Albert K. Bender was a ufologist (1921-2016) and author of the 1962 nonfiction book Flying Saucers and the Three Men. After experiencing a supernatural encounter, Bender became obsessed with the UFO phenomenon and became a leading UFO researcher. In 1952, he founded the International Flying Saucer Bureau (IFSB), the first major civilian UFO club in the world, which Bender suddenly shut down only a year later. His account of being approached by three telepathic ‘men in black’ introduced the phrase into popular culture.