Einstein - Swimming = Genius

Being at the right place at the right time, a young boy saved the life of one of the most famous men of the 20th century


It was the summer of 1941 on a beautiful day around mid-afternoon. Ten-year-old Don Duso was coming back from his friend Alex Dreyfoos' cabin across the lake to the marina his family owned. He was in his little one and a half horse power motor boat coming down a narrow strip of Lower Saranac Lake into Lonesome Bay. He was watching 62-year-old Albert Einstein sail in his sail boat as he did often in the lake.

einstein on saranac lake
Einstein sailed often on Lower Saranac Lake.

As Don was making his way down the lake, he saw Einstein's boat tip over. "I couldn't go very fast," Don recalls. "It took me awhile to get over to him." Growing up around the water, Don knew that when he saw a person's boat tip over it was common sense to go over to see if they were alright.

Once he got there, he saw that Einstein was submerged under water and his foot was caught in the rigging of the sailboat. He had a life jacket on, but the boat had pulled him down under the water's surface. Another fact – Albert Einstein could not swim.

"I couldn't go very fast. It took me awhile to get over to him."

"He was down for the count," Don remembers. "If I had not been nearby, he probably would have drowned."

Once Don got his boat over to Einstein, he reached down and grabbed the famous white locks. He held his head above the water until a larger boat owned by Jimmy Halloway spotted him and came over. The people in the twenty-six foot boat helped get Einstein untangled and lifted him into their boat. They waved to Don and took Einstein back to the Knollwood Club where he stayed during the summer.

"He was down for the count. If I had not been nearby, he probably would have drown."

the boat that rescued Einstein
This boat is the 26 foot boat that helped pull Einstein out of the water.

A day or two later, a phone call was made to the Duso house. It was to ask if the young Don would come to Knollwood for a picture with Einstein, at Albert's request. They did not really get to chat when Don was holding his head above the water and he wanted to thank him.

Einstein stayed in Cabin 6 at the Knollwood Camp on Lower Saranac Lake. The cabin was two or three stories tall but it was only a summer house. He spent a good part of the summer there on the lake. He would come to the Adirondacks to relax and get away from the spotlight that he was in back in the city.

Einstein was not a social snob. He would often sail close or even stop by the Crescent Bay Marina owned by Don Duso's family. "He would always wave when he came near our dock," recalls Don.

"I think saving Albert Einstein's life made me the person I am today," Don states. "Ever since that event, I have helped people when I did not have to. I became a firefighter and joined the fight in Korea, once I got older." Don has also been the Saranac Fire Chief for thirty years.

Makes a person wonder – If Einstein had known how to swim, would Don Duso be the person he is today? That is another story that we will probably never know.

What famous people do you know who have resided in the Adirondacks?