If there was any doubt that Albert Einstein worked until the very lasts days of his life, let this remarkable photograph leave no doubt.
LIFE Magazine tells the story of how one of their photographers, Ralph Morse, was able to capture a frozen moment in time:
"I headed to the hospital first," Morse tells LIFE.com, "but it was chaos - journalists, photographers, onlookers. So I headed over to Einstein's office [at the Institute for Advanced Study]. On the way, I stopped and bought a case of scotch. I knew people might be reluctant to talk but that they're usually happy to accept a bottle of booze, rather than money, in exchange for their help. Anyway, I get to the building, find the superintendent, offer him a fifth of scotch and like that, he opens up the office."
The rest, in a very real sense, is history. Morse took a few pictures in the office and more throughout the day as he tried (successfully, it turned out) to track down where Einstein's funeral service was taking place. But ultimately it was the portrait of the desk, the chair, the bookshelves and the blackboard that resonated. LIFE magazine published the photograph above a headline that, one suspects, would have made the theoretical physicist himself smile: "His Fourth Dimension, Time, Overtakes Einstein."
"The empty chair by the formula-filled blackboard," LIFE wrote, "looked as if the scholar who usually sat in it had merely stepped away, perhaps to gaze reflectively at the meadow which rolls past the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. But the chair would not again be filled. Last week the entire world went into mourning for the greatest scientific thinker of his age … For 50 years the world had been heaping honors on him, but Einstein remained indifferent to worldly glory. Dressing in baggy old clothes, he shut himself away in lonely contemplation of the massive intellectual problems he alone could solve. But he emerged to champion the ideals he cherished: justice, freedom, peace. He believed in his own form of ‘cosmic' religion. ‘I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil,' he said. ‘… the presence of a superior reasoning power … revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.' "
There's more at LIFE.