For generations, kids with lousy grades have taken comfort in the fact that Albert Einstein, perhaps the smartest person in history, was a failure in high school. Sorry to burst your bubble C-students, but you've been lied to — Einstein was actually an exceptional pupil.
When he first started going to school at six-years-old, Einstein's report card noted he was "number one" in his group. At 12 he began studying calculus, three years ahead of his classmates. At 16, he wrote a brilliant essay titled 'The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields,' which would presage his groundbreaking work in relativity.
Why, then, do so many believe that the father of modern physics was a lousy student?
In 1896, during his final year at the Canton school in Aargau, the school reversed its system of grading. The change meant that a grade of '6', which had previously been the lowest mark, was now the equivalent of an 'A,' and '1,' formerly the highest mark, was now a failing grade. Somewhere along the line, a biographer looked at Einstein's report card and saw a lot of '1' markings, leading to the belief that Einstein had failed classes that he'd actually aced.
But Einstein didn't love every aspect of school. He became so frustrated with having to learn non-science subjects like French and music that he dropped out of Aargau at age 16. He then enrolled in the Federal Polytechnic School, an elite Swiss academy focused on engineering and science. That same year, he conducted a thought experiment that led to his theory of relativity.
But take heart middling grade schoolers: Ryan Gosling was a bad student who dropped out of high school, and he's doing just fine.