Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany in 1879. He developed the special and general theories of relativity. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for explaining the photoelectric effect. He is the most influential physicist of the 20th century. He died on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Early Life


Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, in a secular, middle- class Jewish family. His father, Hermann Einstein, was a salesman and engineer who, later with his brother, founded an electrochemical factory that manufactured electrical equipment in Munich, Germany. The factory had had moderate success for a while. His mother, Pauline Koch, ran the family household. Einstein had a sister Maria, lovingly called Maja. She was born two years after him.

Einstein always said that there were two “wonders" that deeply affected his life. The first wonder happened when he was five years old. It was then that he had first seen a compass. He was completely amazed when he saw invisible forces deflecting the needle. The second wonder happened when Einstein was 12. Then he had first discovered a geometry book. He called the book, my “sacred little geometry book".

Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich, where he excelled in his studies. He also enjoyed music and even praised God, chanting religious songs on the way to school. However, he strongly disliked the Prussian-style education system that stopped any sign of creativity. One teacher even told him that he would never be able to amount to anything.

In 1889, the Einstein family often had a young medical student, Max Talmud, for dinner. He had a great influence on the young Albert. Talmud became an informal tutor to young Albert and introduced him to higher mathematics and philosophy. One of the books Talmud shared with Albert who was 16 was a children's science series by Aaron Bernstein, Naturwissenschaftliche Volksbucher. In this series, the author imagined that he was riding alongside electricity that was travelling inside a telegraph wire. Einstein began to wonder what a light beam would look like if you could run alongside it at the same speed? This thought of the relative speed to the stationary observer and the observer moving with the light continued to dominate Einstein's ideas for the next 10 years. If light were a wave, then the light beam should appear stationary, like a frozen wave. Yet, in reality, the light beam is moving. This paradox led him to write his first "scientific paper" at age 16, "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields."

However, in 1894, Hermann Einstein's company failed to get an important contract to electrify the city of Munich and thus the factory suffered a great loss. He then was forced to move his family to Milan, Italy. In order to prevent any disruption in Albert's studies, he was left at a boarding house in Munich to finish his education at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Alone, miserable, and opposing the prospect that he would have to join and do military duty at 16, Einstein decided to leave school. Albert left the school after he got a note of excuse written by a doctor and travelled to Milan to unite with his parents. His parents were surprised to see him there and then grew troubled when they realized the problems that Albert would face as a school dropout with no employment skills.

Fortunately, Einstein could apply directly to the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (Swiss Federal Polytechnic School) in Zürich, Switzerland. Though he had no high school diploma but he would be eligible for the school if he managed to clear their stiff entrance test. Albert scored excellently in mathematics and physics but scored fairly in chemistry, French and biology. It was because of his exceptional mathematic scores that he was admitted to the polytechnic school. He was however required to complete his formal schooling. He then attended a special high school run by Jost Winteler in Aarau, Switzerland. He graduated from the school in 1896.

During this time, he also gave up on his German Citizenship. He remained stateless until he got the Swiss Citizenship in 1901. Einstein recalls that he had spent some of the happiest years of his life in Zürich. It was also here that he met students who became his loyal friends. Among them were Marcel Grossmann, a mathematician and Besso, with whom he discussed at length about time and space. He also met his future wife Mileva Maric at the polytechnic.

Also, Einstein's became lifelong friends with the Winteler family, who had given them boarding. Winteler's daughter became Albert's first love. Einstein's sister, Maja, also later married the Winteler's son Paul.

A Time of Crisis

After graduating from the Polytechnic Institute in 1900, Albert Einstein faced a major crisis of his life. While at the Polytechnic, he was an irregular student as he had already read advanced subjects on his own while old ideas were being taught at the institute. Moreover, Einstein left a bad impression on the teachers of the institute. So, after his graduation, Einstein was unable to find any teacher from the institute who was ready to write him a letter of recommendation so he could take a job. In the end, Heinrich Weber, an institute teacher, did write for him a letter of recommendation due to which he was turned down from many jobs.

Also during this time, Einstein's relationship with Mileva had deepened and he wanted to get married to her. However, his parents were opposed to this marriage because of Mileva's Serbian background as she followed an Eastern Orthodox Christian religion. But Einstein continued to see Mileva and they had a daughter in 1902 though it remains unknown whether she died or was given for adoption.

This was the lowest point in Einstein's life. He was unable to find ajoband therefore he could not marry Mileva. Also, his father's business had once again turned out as a failure. Desperate, Einstein started taking tuitions but he could not keep these jobs for long. It was then in 1902 that his friend Marcel Grossmann's father came to his rescue. He recommended him for a position as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern, Switzerland. About this time, Einstein's father became seriously ill and gave Einstein blessings to marry Mileva shortly before he died. Now that he had a steady income, Einstein was able to marry Mileva on January 6, 1903. In May, 1904 their first son Hans Albert was born while their second son Eduard was born in 1910.

A Change on the Horizon

Einstein's work at the patent office came as a blessing to him. While working at the patent office, Einstein needed to analyze the patent applications, a task which he easily and quickly managed. Once he had completed his work, Einstein had time to ponder on the thought, what would happen if one raced alongside a light beam?
While at the polytechnic, Einstein had studied Scottish physicist James Maxwell'selectromagnetic theories which described the nature of light. While studying the theories, Einstein had discovered a fact which was unknown to Maxwell. He discovered that the speed of light remained constant. But this fact violated Isaac Newton's laws of motion because according to Newton's theory there is no absolute
velocity. This insight helped Einstein to formulate his

Theory of Relativity.

Then, in 1905, Einstein submitted his paper for his doctorate and had four papers published in Annalen der Physik, a renowned physics journal. The year 1905 was the "miracle year" for Einstein. His four papers were on-the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of matter and energy. These papers changed the ideas held by modern physics and brought him into the spotlight of the world.

In his paper on photoelectriceffect, Einstein applied the Quantum Theory to explain the photoelectric effect. In his paper on matter and energy, Einstein deduced the well-known equation E=mc2, suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy. This also explained the energy source of the sun and stars. This theory was later used in the development of nuclear power.
There have been claims saying that Einstein's wife Mileva had helped him write these papers. But so far no actual proof has been given to establish the claims. Einstein, however, credits that his conversations with Michele Besso helped him develop his theory of relativity.

Einstein's papers, however, were not given much importance by the physics community in 1905. It was not until the papers were read by Max Planck, the most influential physicist of the time and founder of Quantum Theory, that the papers were given a second chance. Planck greatly praised Einstein and even confirmed his theory. Einstein was then invited to lecture at international meet- ings. Quickly Einstein rose in the academic world. With his new fame, a number of job offers also came to Einstein. He was offered a series of positions at increasingly prestigious institutions, including the University of Zürich, the University of Prague, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and also at the University of Berlin. It was here that Einstein served as the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1913 to 1933.

 While his fame spread to all corners of the world, Einstein's marriage started to fall apart. His constant travel and intense study of his work, the arguments which concerned their children and their finances led Einstein to conclude that his marriage would not work. It was during this time that Einstein started an affair with his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal. Einstein married her after he had given divorce to Mileva in 1919.

Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Between 1907 and 1915, Einstein developed his general theory of relativity. He considered his earlier theory to be flawed as the theory had no mention of gravitation or acceleration. He considered his general theory of relativity to be a masterpiece. He was convinced that this theory was absolutely correct.
His general theory of relativity also predicted that a measurable deflection of light would take place around the sun when a planet or another sun would pass next to it. In 1919, his predictions were confirmed in the observations of British astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington during the solar eclipse of 1919. The picture clearly showed the light from a star slightly bent or curved by the gravitational force of the sun. Einstein's theory was proved and he became an acclaimed physicist overnight. Then in 1921, Albert Einstein received word that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. However, he received his Noble Prize for the explanation of the photoelectric effect rather than for the theory of relativity.

In the 1920s, Einstein continuing with his new discoveries brought forth the science of cosmology.
His equations predicted that the universe is dynamic meaning that it is ever expanding or contracting. This discovery opposed the previously held theory that the universe was static. Einstein's equations, however, helped him to develop the general theory of relativity. In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble found that the universe was indeed expanding, thereby confirming Einstein's work.

While Einstein was touring much of the world speaking on his theories in the 1920S, in his own country Germany, the Nazis were gradually rising to power led by Adolf Hitler. Einstein's theories became the target of the Nazis and they would not tolerate Einstein. In 1931, the Nazi's made sure that the physicists condemned Einstein and his theories as “Jewish physics." During this time, while Einstein was still away from Germany, he learnt that the Nazis had passed a law barring all Jews from holding any official position, including teaching at universities. He also learnt that his name was on a list of assassination targets. Further, a Nazi organization had published a magazine with Einstein's picture on the cover bearing a caption "Not Yet Hanged".

Moving to the United States

In December, 1932, Einstein left Germany forever. He took a position in the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey. Physicists poured from all over to interact with Einstein. Einstein continued to work here all his life trying to bring forth a unified field theory-an all-embracing theory that would unify the forces of the universe, and in turn the laws of physics into one tight framework. Meanwhile, many European scientists threatened by the Nazis also took shelter in the United States. Some among these knew of Nazi plans to create an atomic bomb. They gave warnings to United States concerning their fears about the rising Nazi strength but for a time their words remained unheard.

Then, in summer 1939, Einstein along with another scientist Leo Szilard, was persuaded to write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The aim of the letter was to alert President Roosevelt concerning the development of atomic bomb in Germany. President Roosevelt at last heard what the scientists had been saying for a while. It is believed that the letter became the key that led United States to undertake the development of nuclear weapons. Roosevelt met Einstein and soon the Manhattan Project was underway in the United States.

By now, Einstein had been granted permanent residency in the US in 1935. It was however, in 1940 that he became a US citizen.

By now, Einstein had been granted permanent residency in the US in 1935. It was however, in 1940 that he became a US citizen.
Einstein now a US citizen

Suddenly, on August 6, 1945, while he was on vacation, Einstein heard that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Gravely concerned, Einstein began efforts to bring the atomic bomb under control. Then, in 1946, he formed the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists along with physicist Leo Szilard.

After the war, Einstein continued to work on many key aspects of the theory of general relativity including time travelling, existence of black holes and how the universe was created. During his researches, he gradually became isolated from the physics community. It was because with the development of the atomic bomb, the scientists had started working on the Quantum Theory instead of the theory of relativity. Also, during this time, Einstein had become obsessed with discovering his unified field theory.

Final Years

In the last decade of his life, Einstein withdrew from public life, He rarely travelled and often took long walks around Princeton with his close associates. Then, on April 17, 1955, while preparing a speech, Einstein suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm and had internal bleeding. He was rushed to the hospital but he refused surgery stating that he had lived his life. The next day, April 18, Einstein died at the age of 76.
Einstein had revolutionized the world of science. He remained a renowned scientist all his life but became the most famous scientist of the 20th century after his death.

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