I saw this image on Facebook and I usually take what's posted there with a grain of salt. I have reversed image searched and googled, but with no luck. I'm curious about the authenticity surrounding this letter.

Letter from the University of Bern, from 1907-06-06, addressed to "Mr. Einstein", signed by "Professor Wilhelm Heinrich, Ph.D., Dean of Sciences"

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 24, 2016 at 14:15
  • Not to mention that the stamp was issued in the USA in 1979 (Al's centennial). Perhaps it was included in the picture as a piece of irony, but it sure doesn't help anyone who claims this to be a real piece of correspondence.
    – Mark McD
    Jun 24, 2016 at 18:35
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    As others point out below, it is unlikely this letter would have been written in English. It is even more unlikely that it would be written in 21st century English. The use of "as such" to mean "accordingly" is a very recent development. See ell.stackexchange.com/questions/13481/…
    – David42
    Jun 27, 2016 at 15:04
  • We should call Mythbusters, right... Or Pawn stars :/
    – ABcDexter
    Jun 27, 2016 at 18:40
  • Wrong letter check the website bellow for more informations: snopes.com/fact-check/einstein-rejection-letter
    – Rotka
    May 22, 2018 at 13:44

4 Answers 4


As pointed out by tohuwawohu in a comment to the question (later moved to chat), the University of Bern has publicly rebutted this as a forgery, and not even a very good one (also Internet Archive copy):

There is currently a forged letter going round on the internet. In the alleged historical writing of 1907, the University of Bern rejects Albert Einstein’s habilitation. The university archivist Niklaus Bütikofer explains which errors the forger had made and tells the true story by means of the original documents.

Some of the errors that are pointed out are laid out in a nice bullet point list:

  • At the indicated date, the Faculty of Philosophy and History and the Faculty of Philosophy and Natural Sciences had not been separated yet.
  • There has never been a dean – and not even a lecturer – named Wilhelm Heinrich at the University of Bern.
  • The language of correspondence between Einstein who was a German native naturalised in 1901, and the university, if true, would have been in German and not in English. Bütikofer suspects that the forger obviously cannot speak any German.
  • The stamp next to the signature of «Dean Heinrich» has no relationship whatsoever with the University of Bern. It seems to rather show the coat of arms of Hungary.
  • The Sidlerstrasse listed in the forged letter has only existed since 1931. Before this, it was called Sternwartsstrasse, and today’s post code system also did not exist at the time.

The article also discusses signs that the letter was not written on a typewriter at all, but rather that a typewriter font was used on an image of an already folded paper. The use of Einstein 25c USA postage stamps is another sign that the letter would not be genuine, even if affixing those to the letter itself had made sense.

In summary, the alleged letter is referred to as a joke of a bored physics student by University of Bern archivist Niklaus Bütikofer.

  • This"letter" was clearly not intended to be taken seriously: The stamp so obviously postdates 1907 that we have to take it as the forger's "wink".
    – Spencer
    May 31, 2018 at 19:22

Einstein was born in Germany, speaking German. The Universität Bern is a university in Switzerland. The local language in Bern at the time was Swiss German, the written language in use was German.

At that time Einstein published in German, as did the other German physicists.

Even today, the Universität Bern communicates with students in German, unless requested otherwise. The default language of the university website is German.

Edit: Apart from the language mistake, pretty much everything else - other than the font - is wrong too, as has been pointed out in comments and in the other answer. The original handwritten response can be translated as:

Dear Mr Doctor! The Faculty of Philosophy took into consideration your matter with regard to the habilitation in today’s sitting. As the habilitation thesis required by section 2 of the regulation on habilitation does not exist as part of your evidences, the faculty did not accept your application at this time. As soon as you submit such, we will be able to process your application. – With high esteem, The Dean G. Tobler"

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    Additionally, Switzerland introduced "Postleitzahlen" (functionally equivalent to ZIP codes) in 1964, one year after the US. Jun 23, 2016 at 12:26
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    Worth noting that although the letter is fake, "Einstein's initial application for a doctorate at the University of Bern [...] was indeed rejected as insufficient in 1907." (snopes.com/einstein-rejection-letter) Jun 23, 2016 at 15:19
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    @HopelessN00b - yes, but not for the moronic "inspirational" reasons posted here. And he was later accepted when he improved his application.
    – Davor
    Jun 23, 2016 at 21:18
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    Since this is the accepted answer, I feel it should actually "answer" (in a direct manner) what's being asked, before proceeding with the explanation, instead of leaving the conclusion to the reader.
    – Marc.2377
    Jun 24, 2016 at 3:49
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    Could you add the conclusion, for those who can't sum it? :P
    – Zaibis
    Jun 24, 2016 at 10:33

Well, just have a look at the stamp: An Einstein stamp, which would mean a Phd candidate already has his own stamp. Obviously the guy who made this letter did it as a joke and was not trying to fool people.

  • Also, the crease on the paper should have affected the university logo. It's clearly Photoshopped.
    – Nav
    Jun 28, 2016 at 7:51

Yes, it is obviously a very badly made fake (bolder than brass).

As already mentioned above the University of Bern would have answered in German and not in English. - Before World War I more scientific articles were published in German Language than in English and French together.

  • Forgot to mention. In 1907 in Bern, they had still the requirement of habilitation. Consequently you were as a Dr.phil.habil. a Privatdozent and would become Außerordentlicher Professor anyway!!! To apply for Associate Professor (a title what they didn't have) is also nonsense accordingly. May 31, 2018 at 11:56

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