Lectures on Physics has been derived from Benjamin Crowell's Light and Matter series of free introductory textbooks on physics. See the editorial for more information....

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein.
Photo: Deutsches Museum, Munich

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, however he grew up in Munich (elementary school, Luitpold high school). His father, Hermann, came from Buchau on Lake Feder (Federsee), his mother, Pauline, came from Bad Cannstatt. Einstein always received school marks ranging from good to very good, therefore it is a legend that he received bad marks in school.

His father ran an electro-technical factory in Munich, which was, however, not successful economically in the long term. In 1894, the company was moved to Italy, and the 15-year-old Einstein remained in Munich until the end of high school. Afterwards, he moved to Milan to be with his parents. He wanted to attend the polytechnic institute in Zurich, however the director advised Albert to compensate various knowledge gaps at the canton school in Aarau. He then studied four years in Zurich, where, in 1900, he acquired a diploma as a teacher in mathematics and physics.

During his studies, he had started a relationship with Mileva Maric, whom he had to marry; he accepted any work. Mileva and he had had one child before marriage and two children after getting married. After two difficult years working as a tutor, he took on a job as a third class expert at the Swiss Patent Office.

In 1905, he attained a doctorate in Zurich and published three epochal works: A paper about light quanta, the proof for the atomistic constitution of material, and his special theory of relativity.

Three years later in Bern, Einstein became a "Privatdozent" (paid university teaching position for PhDs just under a professorship). Starting from 1909, he was an adjunct professor for theoretical physics at the University of Zurich. He went to Prague in 1911, however returned again to Zurich in 1913. Starting from 1914, he was in Berlin at the Prussian Academy of Sciences. In 1919, the divorce from Mileva took place, and he married his cousin, Elsa.

With the confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity in 1919, Einstein's world fame began. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. As a Jew, Einstein was later accused of committing a "Jewish deception" with his scientific work particularly by Philipp Lenard and Paul Weyland. When, on January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed as the chancellor of the "Reich" (Nazi regime), Einstein was in California. He had abandoned all of his offices there and never stepped on German soil again. Until the end of his life, he worked at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein died at the age of 76 on April 18, 1955.

Last Update: 2009-06-21