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Background and Early Life

Born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Wrttemberg, Germany, Albert Einstein grew
up in a secular Jewish family. His father, Hermann Einstein, was a salesman
and engineer who with his brother founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J.
Einstein & Cie, a Munich-based company that manufactured electrical
equipment. His mother, the former Pauline Koch, ran the family household.
Einstein had one sister, Maja, born two years after him.
Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich.
However, he felt alienated there and struggled with the institution's rigid
pedagogical style. He also had what were considered to be speech
challenges, though he developed a passion for classical music and playing
the violin that would stay with him into his later years. Most significantly,
Einstein's youth was marked by deep inquisitiveness and inquiry.

Towards the end of the 1880s, Max Talmud, a Polish medical student who
sometimes dined with the Einstein family, became an informal tutor to young
Albert. Talmud had introduced his pupil to a childrens science text that
inspired Einstein to dream about the nature of light. Thus, during his teens,
Einstein penned what would be seen as his first major paper, "The
Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields."

Resident of Switzerland
Hermann Einstein relocated the family to Milan, Italy, in the mid-1890s after
his business lost out on a major contract. Albert was left at a relative's
boarding house in Munich to complete his schooling at the Luitpold
Gymnasium. Faced with military duty when he turned of age, Albert allegedly
withdrew from classes, using a doctors note to excuse himself and claim
nervous exhaustion. With their son rejoining them in Italy, his parents
understood Einstein's perspective but were concerned about his future
prospects as a school dropout and draft dodger.
Einstein was eventually able to gain admission into the Swiss Federal
Polytechnic School in Zurich, specifically due to his superb mathematics and
physics scores on the entrance exam. He was still required to complete his
pre-university education first, and thus attended a high school in Aarau,
Switzerland helmed by Jost Winteler. Einstein lived with the schoolmaster's
family and fell in love with Wintelers' daughter, Marie. Einstein later renounced
his German citizenship and became a Swiss citizen at the dawn of the new

Marriage and Family

While attending school in Zurich, Einstein developed lasting friendships and
alliances, also meeting his future wife, Mileva Maric, a Serbian physics
After graduating from Polytechnic, Einstein faced major challenges in terms of
finding academic positions, having alienated some professors over not
attending class more regularly in lieu of studying independently. Meanwhile,
Einstein continued to grow closer to Maric, but his parents were strongly
against the relationship due her ethnic background. Nonetheless, Einstein
continued to see her, with the two developing a correspondence via letters in
which he expressed many of his scientific ideas. In 1902 the couple had a
daughter, Lieserl, who might have been later raised by Maric's relatives or
given up for adoption. Her ultimate fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.
Einstein eventually found steady work in 1902 after receiving a referral for a
clerk position in a Swiss patent office. Einsteins father passed away shortly
thereafter, and the young scientist married Milena Maric on Jan. 6, 1903. The
couple went on to have two sons, Hans and Eduard.
The marriage would not be a happy one, however, with the two divorcing in
1919 and Maric having an emotional breakdown in connection to the split.
Einstein, as part of a settlement, agreed to give Maric any funds he might
receive from possibly winning the Nobel Prize in the future. He had also
begun an affair some time earlier with a cousin, Elsa Lwenthal, whom
Einstein wed during the same year of his divorce. He would continue to see
other women throughout his second marriage, which ended with Lwenthals
death in 1936.

Miracle Year
While working at the patent office, Einstein had the time to further ideas that
had taken hold during his studies at Polytechnic and thus cemented his
theorems on what would be known as the principle of relativity.
In 1905seen by many as a "miracle year" for the theoristEinstein had four
papers published in the Annalen der Physik, one of the best known physics
journals of the era. The four papers focused on the photoelectric effect,
Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity (the most widely circulated of
the write-ups) and the matter/energy relationship, thus taking physics in an
electrifying new direction. In his fourth paper, Einstein came up with the
equation E=mc2, suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted
into huge amounts of energy, foreshadowing the development of atomic
Famed quantum theorist Max Planck backed up the assertions of Einstein,
who thus became a star of the lecture circuit and academia, taking on various
positions before becoming director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics
from 1913 to 1933.

Relativity and Nobel Prize

In November, 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity, which
he considered the culmination of his life research. He was convinced of the
merits of general relativity because it allowed for a more accurate prediction of
planetary orbits around the sun, which fell short in Isaac Newtons theory, and
for a more expansive, nuanced explanation of how gravitational forces
worked. Einstein's assertions were affirmed via observations and
measurements by British astronomers Sir Frank Dyson and Sir Arthur

Eddington during the 1919 solar eclipse, and thus a global science icon was

In 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics though he wasn't actually
given the award until the following year due to a bureaucratic ruling. Because
his ideas on relativity were still considered questionable, he received the prize
for his explanation of the photoelectric effect though Einstein still opted to
speak about relativity during his acceptance speech.

In the development of his general theory, Einstein had held on to the belief
that the universe was a fixed, static entity, aka a "cosmological constant,"
though his later theories directly contradicted this idea and asserted that the
universe could be in a state of flux. Astronomer Edwin Hubble deduced that
we indeed inhabit an expanding universe, with the two scientists meeting at
the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles in 1930.

While Einstein was travelling and speaking internationally, the Nazis, led by
Adolf Hitler, were gaining prominence with violent propaganda and vitriol in an
impoverished post-WWI Germany. The party influenced other scientists to
label Einstein's work "Jewish physics." Jewish citizens were barred from
university work and other official jobs, and Einstein himself was targeted to be

Move to U.S. and Atomic Energy

In 1933, Einstein took on a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at
Princeton, New Jersey and never went back to his native land. It was here
that he would spend the rest of his life working on a unified field theoryan
all-embracing paradigm meant to unify the varied laws of physics. Other
European scientists also left regions threatened by Germany and immigrated

to the states, with there being concern over Nazi strategies to create an
atomic weapon.
In 1939, Einstein and fellow physicist Leo Szilard wrote to President Franklin
D. Roosevelt to alert him of the possibility of a Nazi bomb and to galvanize the
United States to create its own nuclear weapons. The U.S. would eventually
initiate the Manhattan Project, though Einstein would not take direct part in its
implementation due to his pacifist and socialist affiliations. Einstein was also
the recipient of much scrutiny and major distrust from FBI director J. Edgar
Not long after he began his career at Princeton, Einstein expressed an
appreciation for American "meritocracy" and the opportunities people had for
free thought, a stark contrast to his own experiences coming of age. In 1935,
Einstein was granted permanent residency in his adopted country and
became an American citizen a few years later. During WWII, he worked on
Navy-based weapons systems and made big monetary donations to the
military by auctioning off manuscripts worth millions.

Global and Domestic Activism

After learning of the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, Einstein became a
major player in efforts to curtail usage of the a-bomb. The following year he
and Szilard founded the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, and in
1947, via an essay for The Atlantic Monthly, Einstein espoused working with
the United Nations to maintain nuclear weapons as a deterrent to conflict.

Around this time, Einstein also became a member of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, seeing the parallels between the
treatment of Jews in Germany and African Americans in the United States. He
corresponded with scholar/activist W.E.B. Du Bois as well as performing artist
Paul Robeson and campaigned for civil rights, calling racism a "disease" in a
1946 Lincoln University speech.

After the war, Einstein continued to work on his unified field theory and key
aspects of the theory of general relativity, such as wormholes, the possibility of
time travel, the existence of black holes and the creation of the universe.
However, he became increasingly isolated from the rest of the physics
community, whose eyes were set on quantum theory. In the last decade of his
life, Einstein, who had always seen himself as a loner, withdrew even further
from any sort of spotlight, preferring to stay close to Princeton and immerse
himself in processing ideas with colleagues.

Final Years and Legacy

On April 17, 1955, while working on a speech to honor Israel's seventh
anniversary, Einstein suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was taken to
the University Medical Center at Princeton for treatment but refused surgery,
believing that he had lived his life and was content to accept his fate. "I want
to go when I want," he stated at the time. "It is tasteless to prolong life
artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." Einstein
died at the university medical center early the next morningApril 18, 1955
at the age of 76.
During the autopsy, Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed Einstein's brain,
reportedly without the permission of his family, for preservation and future
study by doctors of neuroscience. Einstein's remains were cremated and his
ashes were scattered in an undisclosed location, following his wishes. After
decades of study, Einstein's brain is now located at the Princeton University

Medical Center. A veritable mountain of books have been written on the iconic
thinker's life, including Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
and Einstein: A Biography by Jrgen Neffe, both from 2007. Einstein's own
words are presented in the collection The World as I See It.