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Einstein's granddaughter dies

By Adam Reiss, CNN
  • Einstein's granddaughter had been fighting for money from his estate
  • Evelyn Einstein had been ill for years with heart problems and diabetes
  • She had gotten nothing from the use of Albert Einstein's image on apparel, mugs, etc.

(CNN) -- Evelyn Einstein, who spent the last years of her life trying to fight for money generated by her late grandfather Albert's estate, has died, her close friend said Wednesday.

The friend, Allen Wilkinson, said the two had just started to work on her memoirs. "She always said her grandfather wasn't this great god of science, to her he was just Grandpa," Wilkinson said.

Einstein had been ill for years suffering from heart problems and diabetes. She died at her home in Albany, California, last week, Wilkinson said.

Albert Einstein made many contributions to modern science, but it's the videos, bobblehead dolls and Halloween masks using his image that continue to generate millions of dollars long after his death.

Evelyn Einstein told CNN she hadn't received a dime from the marketing and sales of Einstein merchandise, while others have profited.

"I'm outraged," she told CNN in a February interview, adding that she was a 69-year-old cancer survivor and needed the money for health care. "It's hard for me to believe they would treat the family the way they have, which has been abysmally."

Her grandfather, the German-born physicist who formulated the general theory of relativity, bequeathed the literary rights for the more than 75,000 papers and other items in his estate to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem when he died in 1955.

The Israeli university also owns the rights to his likeness, using a Los Angeles-based company called Greenlight LLC to handle licensing for items such as Einstein apparel, mugs, puzzles, coins, posters and other collectibles.

"What does a bobblehead have to do with a literary estate?" asked Evelyn Einstein, who said she had been ignored by the university in her requests for an arrangement that would allow her to profit from the sales. Just recently she had begun preparations to sue the university.

The school responded with a statement saying, "Einstein left all of his intellectual property, encompassing his literary estate and personal papers, to the Hebrew University, including the rights to the use of his image."

The statement added that "the income of the university from the use of his image is dedicated to scientific research."

Greenlight spokesman Dan Perlet said the company has strict guidelines covering the dozens of annual requests to license the Einstein name, including ones from Disney and Baby Einstein. It asks whether the companies seek to promote the scientists' values, intellectual curiosity and innovation, Perlet said.

Einstein, known for his wry sense of humor when he was alive, is paid homage in an animated television show called "Little Einsteins" long after his death. The show, which airs on Disney Playhouse, has generated DVDs, books and toys.

The famed physicist was crowned Time magazine's person of the century in 1999, where he was described as "the pre-eminent scientist in a century dominated by science.

A memorial service for Evelyn Einstein is planned for June. She requested that her ashes be scattered in the Berkeley, California, marina.