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LIFE photographer Ralph Morse was among scores of journalists who descended on Princeton, hoping to find and report on something, anything, that might offer insight into what Einstein’s passing meant to his friends, family and peers, as well as to countless strangers around the world who, for myriad reasons, felt a kinship with the man.

No one but Morse, however, finagled his way into Einstein’s office that day. No one but Morse came away with a photograph that, six decades later, serves as a haunting reflection of both the man and his life’s work: a seemingly simple picture of Einstein’s desk, cluttered with notebooks, journals, a pipe, a tobacco tin; behind the desk a blackboard covered with equations and formulas that, to the untrained eye, possess an almost runic power.

Source: Einsteins office, Princeton, 1955 | Einstein’s Office: Genius in the Details | LIFE.com.

Whole Gallery: The Einstein Died: A Photographer’s Story