Skip to main content

Einstein's Hidden 'Formula' for Happiness Sells for $1.5 Million

Einstein happiness letters
Gal Wiener, owner and manager of the Winner's auction house in Jerusalem, holds two notes, including one on happiness, written by Albert Einstein in November 1922. Both notes were written in German on stationary from the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. (Image credit: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty)

Two advice-filled notes Albert Einstein wrote to a bellboy in Japan 95 years ago, including one that advocated for "a calm and modest life," fetched more than $1.5 million at an auction on Tuesday (Oct. 24).  

In October 1922, Einstein was traveling to Japan to deliver a series of lectures when he received a telegraph announcing that he had won the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics. The physicist was hardly ever short on groundbreaking theories, but found himself short on cash when he wanted to tip a bellboy who had delivered an item to his room at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.

In lieu of a monetary tip, Einstein gave the bellboy two thoughtful notes he had just written on hotel stationary. Einstein told the bellboy to keep the letters, "as their future value may be much higher than a standard tip," according to Winner's Auctions and Exhibitions, in Jerusalem, which auctioned the letters. [8 Ways You Can See Einstein's Theory of Relativity in Real Life]

The longer note, popularly called the "happiness letter," reads: "A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." (The original German reads, "Stilles bescheidenes Leben gibt mehr Glueck als erfolgreiches Streben, verbunden mit bestaendiger Unruhe.")

A bidding war for the letter lasted 25 minutes, and ended with an anonymous buyer purchasing it for $1,560,000, a price that includes an additional charge known as the buyer's premium.

Albert Einstein at the blackboard. (Image credit: NASA)

The other note Einstein gave the bellboy says, "Where there's a will there's a way." (The original German says, "Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg.") Another anonymous buyer purchased that note for $240,000, an amount that also includes the buyer's premium, according to the auction house.

Despite an invitation to the Nobel Prize ceremony, Einstein opted to continue his journey in Japan, which is why he didn't travel to Stockholm that December to receive his award in person, auction officials said.

Original article on Live Science.

Laura Geggel
As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.