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Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer

Book cover: Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering EngineerHans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer, published in 2014, was the culmination of a decades-long project at IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering. The long, circuitous path to publication began almost 25 years ago.

Einstein: A Significant Hydraulic Engineer

Hans Albert Einstein had been among then-IIHR Director Jack Kennedy’s many friends in the world of hydraulics. In 1990, Kennedy was in the midst of a project documenting the lives of significant hydraulic engineers. He was especially interested in Hans Albert Einstein and reached out to Elizabeth, Hans Albert’s widow. She told Kennedy she had written a book about her husband. Would IIHR publish it for her? Kennedy agreed, and hired Connie Mutel to prepare the manuscript for publication.

Mutel and Kennedy edited and published Elizabeth Einstein’s book on her husband, and they hoped to complete a larger, more definitive biography of Hans Albert Einstein. But sadly, that was not to be. Kennedy died in 1991 before reaching his 60th year. With the support of IIHR, Mutel continued the project as a way to honor Kennedy, who was a major figure in hydraulic engineering himself, as well as a legendary leader at IIHR. Rob Ettema became interim director at IIHR, and he also stepped in to help finish the larger Hans Albert Einstein biography. It’s a decision he now laughingly calls “naïve.”

Uncovering the Einstein Family Narrative

“Neither of us realized what a big job it would be,” Mutel says. In her work on the manuscript by Elizabeth Einstein, Mutel uncovered a treasure trove of Einstein family materials that had never before been accessible to the public. Among the most interesting was a collection of letters exchanged by Albert Einstein and his first wife Mileva (Hans Albert’s mother). Mutel says that the letters revealed a great deal about their relationship and family dynamics.

Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers Press, offers new insights into the Einstein family and the complex relationship between father and son, documented with letters and other original materials. This story is combined with a fascinating account of his work in the field of river engineering. Ettema and Mutel weave these two threads together seamlessly, providing an absorbing and readable account.

Prairie Lights reading Hans Albert Einstein book

Authors Connie Mutel and Rob Ettema read from their book at Prairie Lights Bookstore.

IIHR celebrated the book’s publication in September with a series of public events, including a reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore and two seminars by Ettema and Mutel.

Ettema is a professor at the University of Wyoming, where he served six years as dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science; previously, he was a faculty member and research engineer at IIHR, where he also served as associate and then interim director. Mutel is senior science writer at IIHR; she has written a dozen books and numerous articles on a variety of science-related topics, ranging from natural history to ecological restoration to the history of engineering.

To learn more about Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer, visit the ASCE website:

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Last modified on June 29th, 2015
Posted on June 17th, 2015

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