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Biography of Albert Einstein

Updated on May 5, 2013
Albert Einstein At The Time He Won The Nobel Prize
Albert Einstein At The Time He Won The Nobel Prize | Source
Albert At The Age Of Three.
Albert At The Age Of Three. | Source

Albert Einstein was born on March 14 1879 in Ulm, Germany to parents Hermann and Pauline Koch Einstein. His sister Maria, nicknamed Maja was born two years later in 1881. The Einsteins were Jewish , but did not follow the faith. When Albert was one year old the family moved to Munich where his father and Uncle Jacob ran a small electrical engineering business.

Albert did not speak until he was three years old and then not very well. Apparently he decided he would not speak until he could do it well. Even at nine years old he still spoke haltingly. Albert was not happy with schooling in Germany because they based the curriculum on memorizing information which he found uninteresting. Alberts' mother taught him to play the violin out of school and he considered his education began when he got home. At home he also played Algebra games with his father and Uncle who were both mathematically astute.

Einstein first became interested in Science when his father gave him a compass at the age of five. He was fascinated that invisible forces could make the needle move and this is when he first encountered magnetism.

At the age of eleven Albert became devoutly religious and was tutored in the Jewish faith by a distant relative. This didn't last long as science and religion tended to contradict each other. At a later date he concluded that although the two did not compute, there were realms in the universe beyond the reach of science.

In 1889, a poor medical student - Max Talmud - ate weekly at the Einsteins and became Alberts' mentor introducing him to science in a different way to the rote method of schools.

The electrical engineering business run by Hermann and Uncle Jacob floundered in 1894. Paulines' parents offered to back a business for Hermann if the family shifted to Mila in Italy so they could keep an eye on the financial side of things. So the family did move to Mila, however left Albert behind in Germany to finish his High Schooling. Albert was still dissatisfied with education in Germany. He left school and followed his family to Mila just turning up on the doorstep.

Albert was keen to attend the Zurich polytechnic in Switzerland, but failed the entrance exam. He passed Mathematics and Physics, but failed other areas of the exam. He spent a year at a Swiss High school finally gaining entrance to the Zurich Polytechnic, which later became known as the Federal Institute of Technology. While studying at the Swiss High school Albert stayed with the Winteler family. Jost and Pauline Winteler had seven children. Albert got on well with Marie who was 18 at the time, and they became a couple winning approval from both sets of parents.

Albert when accepted appreciated the relaxed atmosphere of the Polytechnic and he changed from a withdrawn loner to an outgoing friendly young man with a good sense of humour and quick wit. He still found the schooling a drag and preferred to work on his own research. Before exams were due Albert would borrow his good friend Marcel Grossmans notes, study them, pass the exam and return to his own interests. While studying at Zurich Polytechnic he met and fell in love with Mileva Maric, the only female in his class. Albert broke off his relationship with Marie Winteler at this time. Einsteins parents did not approve of Mileva as she was older than Albert, from Serbia and not Jewish.

Although the Teachers thought Albert had potential they did not approve of his studying methods. Albert expected to be taken on following his graduation in 1900 as an assistant at the Polytechnic, however Professor Weber did not like Albert and withdrew his job offer. Albert eventually found work teaching Mathematics at Winterbaur Technical school. Mileva could not find work,so returned to her parents. She notified Albert she was pregnant, and gave birth to a daughter Lieserl on February fourth 1902. No records show what became of Lieserl. It was assumed she died as a youngster or was adopted out.

A friend from Polytechnic got Albert a job at the Bern Patent Office and he started there on 23 June 1902. He loved this job as he had to write detailed descriptions of the inventions that came in and because of his ability to visualize how things worked found this easy. He kept up with his workload giving himself time to ponder science and mathematical problems. Soon after starting this job his father became terminally ill. Albert visited, and his father gave him his blessing to marry Mileva. They married in January 1903, and their son Hans Albert was born a year later. Their second son Edward was born six years later.

The Year Of Miracles

In 1905 Albert aged 26 published several papers and proposals in the German Journal - Annalen der Physik(annals of physics.) This became known as Albert's annus mirabiis (Latin for "year of miracles.")

One of Albert's papers proposed suspending tiny particles in liquid to prove atoms exist.

Another built on Physicist Max Planck's work, Albert explained that when light hits certain kinds of metal, atomic particles are released and electricity is produced - a photoelectric effect.

Albert's Special Theory of Relativity was the subject of another paper. He stated that space and time are not unchanging as Isaac Newton proposed. Instead they are relative depending on whether the observer is moving or stationary. His theory considered time a fourth dimension adding it to length, width and height. He explained his belief that all objects with mass when moving at very high speeds through space-time are compressed and experience a slowing of time.

From this theory came his formula E=MC2. This formula means E - energy = M -mass times C-the speed of light squared. Or energy equals mass times the speed of light squared (multiplied by itself.)

As word got out about this young 26 year old physicist offers of Professorships started coming in from all over Europe. He left the Swiss Patent office in 1909 and spent time in universities in Zurich, Prague and Czechoslovakia. In 1914 He returned to Germany and undertook a position at the University of Berlin. During this period his relationship with Mileva had been somewhat strained. She wasn't happy about being back in Berlin. Mileva took the boys to Switzerland on vacation and from then on Albert and Mileva never lived together again. Albert was disappointed that his marriage was "an undertaking in which I ...failed rather disgracefully."

Albert was popular with his students because of his approachable manner and delightful sense of humour. While still with Mileva, Albert rekindled a friendship with his cousin Elsa Lowenthal who was widowed with two young children. Eventually they married in 1919, and this marriage worked well for Albert. Elsa improved his style of dress. Einstein had always dressed in a rather casual almost scruffy way and of course the wild hair added to his dishevelled look. Albert had become a bit of a star at this time and often travelled to many different parts of the world on speaking engagements, usually accompanied by Elsa. Whilst on a trip to Japan, Albert received notice that he had won the 1921 Nobel prize in Physics. This was awarded mainly for his discovery of the photoelectric effect proposed in 1905. Albert received $35,000.00 in prize money which he gave to Mileva as part of their divorce settlement.

As a young man Albert gave up his German citizenship in order to avoid mandatory military service. To do this one had to leave the country and give up citizenship otherwise be considered a deserter. Albert was strongly against mandatory military service. He had no citizenship for a number of years before gaining Swiss citizenship.

With the war escalating through Europe, Albert in 1914 signed the "Manifesto to Europeans," a public letter condemning Germany's aggression. He continued his campaign against war throughout his lifetime. This also caused a rift with the German government. Albert used his speaking engagements to not only talk about Science, but against mandatory military service as well as supporting Jewish causes. Even though he did not follow the Jewish faith he still felt connected with it and the people.

In 1916 Einstein published his finished General Theory of Relativity. This was very complex but basically stated that massive objects like stars and planets actually bend space and time somewhat like a heavy ball sitting on a mattress bends the surface. He claimed objects with mass moving through space-time follow the curvature because it is the most direct path. Albert said his General Theory of Relativity could be proven during a solar eclipse by measuring how much a star's light curves. Astronomers tested the theory on May 29 1919 and their results were announced in November confirming Albert's theory. Overnight Albert Einstein became a household name around the world. He was sought out by reporters and academics and was rarely out of the news

Towards the end of the 1920's Albert felt the need to leave Europe as Adolf Hitler and the Nazis rose in power. His attention was drawn to America and he took up a position at The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey in 1932. There he lived with his wife Elsa and his secretary - Helen Dukas. In 1939 His sister Maja moved in with them. During his time at Princeton Albert continued to work on his Unified Field Theory.

As Hitler turned Germany in to a police state, Albert, who was anti war encouraged military action against Germany as he thought there was no other way to deal with the situation. Despite this the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation was suspicious of Albert Einstein and kept a large file on him. As World War Two got under way Albert learned of Nazi scientists ability to split uranium atoms. This would allow them to build a bomb of extremely destructive proportions. Albert's formula E=MC2 helped the Nazis work out how to split the atom, which of course horrified Albert. Because of this he wrote to Franklin Roosevelt, the US president suggesting they start an atomic research project. Roosevelt took his advice and created the Manhattan Project. As a result of this project the bombs used to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki were created. Albert's part in this haunted him throughout his lifetime.

In 1945 Albert retired from Princeton University but continued to occupy an office and to work on his Unified Field Theory, but was unable to reach a successful outcome.

Albert's wife, Elsa Einstein passed away in 1936 and his sister Maja passed in 1948. Albert spent the latter part of his life concerned with humanity rather than science. He became Chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists in 1946. The aim of this committee was world harmony and abolition of atomic weapons.

Albert kept in contact with his eldest son Hans Albert who was an engineer and professor in California. Unfortunately his youngest son Edward was institutionalised with lifelong mental health problems.

In 1952 at the age of 73 Albert was offered the Presidency of Israel and although flattered declined the offer.

On 16 April 1955 an artery burst in Albert;s abdomen. Doctors wanted to operate but Albert declined preferring to continue with pen and paper on his theories. Early in the morning on April 18 Albert Einstein passed away.

Albert Einstein had the ability to imagine answers to questions he posed to himself. He could visualize how something might work and this is how he researched his theories.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." - Albert Einstein.

Albert In His Later Years
Albert In His Later Years | Source


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    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks KoffeeKlatch Gals for your comments. Yes it is interesting. Maybe they don't see the point of just speaking for speaking sakes. He certainly is fascinating. Thanks for reading.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great job I find it interesting that so many geniuses don't speak until they are a little older than the average age. Maybe they have nothing to say. Albert Einstein is a fascinating man.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      That's great wqaindia, you must be a bit of a physics wiz too. You are right about todays resources. Some things Albert Einstein proposed many years ago have since been proven. Thanks for your comments.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks midget38 for reading and sharing. Much appreciated.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi Larry Fields. Thanks for your comments. Interesting about the letter to Roosevelt. I read a few books in order to write the hub. Some information was conflicting and in these cases I didn't make statements as such. One source said Elsa was divorced when Einstein met up with her again and the other sources said she was widowed. I went with widowed because of majority rules. I must do some more research and see if I can find that slant. Thanks for pointing it out. I must check out your hub.

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 4 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      I am great fan of Albert Einstein and in my college days way back in 1972 I wrote an article for my college annual magazine on Gravitational Theory, the idea of which came from the relativity theory of the great scientist. The hub published by you is a big tribute to the legendary scientist. Sometimes I think if today's modern resources had been available to the super scientist, he have unfolded many more mysteries.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the background information on this very fascinating man!! Sharing!

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi tebo,

      Well done! Voted up and shared. I have one small nit to pick.

      There's speculation that Einstein did not actually write that famous letter to Roosevelt. Supposedly, one of his physicist friends composed the letter, and Albert put his imprimatur on it.

      I have a friend who qualifies as another Einstein. He's the foremost expert on radiation transfer theory.

      He also invented a new branch of mathematics. He calls it Cake-ulus, and it enables students to find some areas and volumes of classical geometric shapes, without having to memorize any formulas or equations. And Cake-ulus yields a simple solution for at least one problem, which is absolutely unsolvable with standard integral calculus.

      I wrote a hub about one of Mamikon's puzzles, about a putative 'psychic' computer program.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Hi DabbleYou. Thanks for reading and for leaving a nice comment. I appreciate it and am pleased you enjoyed it.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks Nell Rose for you very lovely comments. Glad you enjoyed the read. I enjoyed reading about him myself when I decided to write about him, because like you I didn't know much about him and wanted to know more.

    • DabbleYou profile image

      DabbleYou 4 years ago

      Nice biography. This is the only time I have read of his life story.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi tebo, this was absolutely fascinating! I am a complete Space and Atom nut so Albert Einstein is my personal hero. Saying that I must admit to not knowing all this fabulous info! A really great read, and thanks for informing me about him all the stuff I didn't know, voted up and shared, nell