Meet the 26-year-old who runs Albert Einstein's Facebook account
How did a law school graduate end up posting for the world's favorite genius? The story of how 17 million fans ended up in the hands of a guy at his first job.
What do Albert Einstein, Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift have in common? They're all huge on social media.
While Swift posts photos with fans and Kardashian posts pictures of herself, Einstein's online presence is a tad different. The legendary genius, who passed away at the age of 76 in 1955, is obviously not running his own social media accounts. So who is the wizard behind the tweet?
That would be 26-year-old Anthony Iliakostas. Several times a day – across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – the native New Yorker shares morsels of content to millions of Einstein's fans. How did he get the keys to one of the world's most influential social media accounts?
That story starts in Israel, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Einstein was a founder of the university, a member of its Board of Governors and the chairman of its Academic Committee. He bequeathed to the university all his papers, documents and personal correspondence. Today they constitute the Albert Einstein Archives. Hebrew University also maintains the intellectual property rights to Einstein's estate as well as photos of the wild-haired genius.
"Einstein's face is the most recognizable face worldwide," Professor Hanoch Gutfreund, the former president of Hebrew University and the director of the Einstein Archives, told From The Grapevine. "The interest in Einstein does not fade into history. If anything, if one can say anything about this, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."
Hebrew University partnered with Corbis Entertainment to help them manage not only merchandising requests (like Einstein's mug on a mug), but also to establish and grow the genius' social media profiles. The U.S.-based company also assists the estates of Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers. Other deceased celebrities with verified social media accounts include Elvis Presley, John Lennon and Marilyn Monroe.
So how did a bow-tie wearing, baseball-loving New York Mets baseball fan come to represent Albert Einstein in bursts no more than 140 characters?
As an undergraduate, Iliakostas studied communications at Fordham University. Afterwards, he went to New York Law School, where he focused on intellectual property and sports and entertainment law. He interned at ABC News in their rights and clearances department, tracking down photos for use by the media conglomerate. When the internship was over, he got his first real job at Corbis on the Einstein team. He's been there since March.
Iliakostas explained Einstein's continued popularity to us."Einstein was an innovator. He really was a revolutionary in a lot of ways. He transformed the science industry, inventing and creating new theories that really revolutionize the way we think," he tells From The Grapevine.
"But at the same time, he was very wise beyond his years, and very, very funny. He had a really good sense of humor. He just appealed to the modern man at that time, and he really still does. His comments are that timeless that they just have a resonating effect."
Einstein, whose name is now synonymous with genius, strikes a particular chord with audiences on social media. In his book, "Contagious: Why Things Catch On," Wharton professor Jonah Berger uses research to show how stories about scientific discoveries and wide-eyed wonderment tend to go more viral. Iliakostas believes it's that aspirational nature that makes Einstein so popular on Facebook. "He inspires geniuses across every industry," he tells us.
As of this writing, Einstein has nearly 17 million fans on Facebook, the majority of which are between the ages of 18 and 35. "The reach is pretty immense," Iliakostas says. Case in point: A bizarre story From The Grapevine published about the man who stole Einstein's brain was shared on Einstein's Facebook account and broke records as our most-liked story on social media.
Iliakostas has a routine. On Mondays, for example, he posts memes of famous Einstein quotes. On Throwback Thursdays, thanks to access from Hebrew University, he shares archival photos of the physicist like one with Charlie Chaplin at a movie premiere.
Iliakostas is quick to point out that he's not a man working in a vacuum. He's part of a team of about half a dozen people at Corbis who all work on the Einstein estate, and is in constant communication with the folks in Jerusalem. "They've been incredible people to work with. They've been first-class."
Notably, the archives have been particularly helpful this month leading up to Nov. 25, 2015, the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of relativity. The university has scanned pages from the original manuscript that are then posted to Einstein's various social media accounts. Corbis is also helping organize a #ThanksEinstein contest in honor of the momentous occasion.
Iliakostas sees himself as a mere conduit of the physicist's genius. Indeed, he views his task as that of caretaker of the beloved Einstein legacy. "In this job, I've learned so much in such a short amount of time that I've been here. And I will continue to learn – five years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now – I know I will always be a work in progress. I'm always striving for improvement," he says. "And the fact that I can do it now with such a prestigious name like Albert Einstein, it's mind-boggling to me."
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