On April 18, 1955 Ralph Morse, an ambitious photojournalist for LIFE magazine, went to a funeral with a camera and a case of scotch. Fifty-five years later, LIFE.com is publishing the pictures he took that day, during the funeral and cremation of Albert Einstein.
Einstein had died at 76 of heart failure earlier that morning at Princeton Hospital. His body was cremated after a short service and his ashes were scattered on the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. The hospital’s pathologist removed his brain for preservation and study, in the hopes that scientists could figure out how he got so smart.
Post-autopsy the body was moved to a funeral home, then a crematorium in Trenton, New Jersey for the service and cremation. Morse followed the mourners as they returned to Einstein’s house at 112 Mercer Street. He was the only photographer on the scene during these moving moments.
When he returned to the LIFE offices, Morse learned that they wouldn’t be publishing the pictures. At the request of Einstein’s son, Hans Albert Einstein, the magazine respected the family’s privacy while they mourned. Both Morse and LIFE forgot about the pictures until now.
Photos Surface of the Day Einstein Died