Film director Shekhar Kapur shared a purported letter from 1907 rejecting physicist Albert Einstein’s doctoral application. His tweet drew over 5,000 likes and more than 900 retweets.

Same letter shared by Shashi Tharoor in 2018

“For all those smarting from rejection: those in power today (&in a position to judge you) will not necessarily be proven right tomorrow. And their judgement of you might look downright silly….” tweeted Shashi Tharoor on June 11, referring to a letter of rejection from the University of Bern to scientist Albert Einstein for his unsuccessful doctoral application and ineligibility for the position of associate professor at the university.

Morphed letter

According to the article by American fact-checking outlet Snopes, Einstein’s initial doctoral application, deemed insufficient, was indeed rejected along with a denial of the position of associate professor by the University of Bern in 1907. However, the viral letter is a modern fabrication and NOT the actual letter sent to Einstein.

Snopes pointed out, “The University of Bern, a school located in a country (Switzerland) where the predominant language was German, would not have sent the German-speaking Einstein, who published his academic work in German, a letter written in English.” Furthermore, the letter references the modern postal code for Bern (3012) but Switzerland didn’t adopt their four-digit postal code system until the 1960s.

After his faux pas was called out, Tharoor acknowledged his faux pas.

In an age of information overload, it is often difficult to sift fiction from fact, but a simple Google search by Tharoor would have saved him the embarrassment of tweeting a forged letter.

[This article was updated on September 18, 2020.]

About the Author

Jignesh is a writer and researcher at Alt News. He has a knack for visual investigation with a major interest in fact-checking videos and images. He has completed his Masters in Journalism from Gujarat University.