Albert Einstein Biography: Success Story of Physicist and Scientist

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein

In this success story, we are going to share Albert Einstein biography, a German-born scientist, the inventor of the theory of relativity, whose name has become synonymous with the word “genius” and whose E=mc2 equation is studied by millions of students every year. Not only was he recognized as a prominent physicist and the winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, but also as a philosopher, theologian, lifelong pacifist and amateur musician. Yet you are sure to learn many more unexpected sides to his persona throughout the story we will share with you.

During his lifetime Albert Einstein was known to have an eccentric and frivolous nature. His mixture of opposite personality traits served him the reputation of an absent-minded professor and a mad scientist combined. But is this reflection really what he was about or will we discover quite an opposite in this extraordinary man? Join Astrum People in the exploration of his unusual life story and find out what you have never been taught in science classes at school.

Early Life

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in the city of Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. His father, Hermann Einstein (August 30, 1847 – October 10, 1902), was a salesman and engineer, and his mother, Pauline Einstein (née Koch) (February 08, 1858 – February 20, 1920) was caring and a quiet woman. His parents lived in a very different world from what it is now: there was no electric light, and the houses were lighted with gas and oil lamps, heated by coal, and horses were the most common method of transportation. However, the technology was steadily improving. The year Albert was born was the same year the electric bulb was invented by Thomas Edison. The modern appliances helped Albert’s family to earn their living. In 1879, one year after Albert was born, the family moved from Ulm to Munich, where Hermann together with Albert’s uncle, Jakob Einstein, founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company specializing in manufacturing electrical equipment based on the direct current (DC). The venture was quite successful and by 1885, the Einsteins did very well financially.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein’s parents: Pauline Einstein (left) and Hermann Einstein (right).

In Munich, the Einstein family grew with one more member, as on November 18, 1881, when Albert was 2.5 years old, Albert’s younger sister, Maria “Maja” Einstein, was born. Over the years, they had good relationships and were good friends.

Though now the name Einstein is often used as a synonym to “genius,” Albert was not a childhood prodigy. He started speaking relatively late when he was three years old. His parents made him see a doctor worrying that Albert had developmental issues. The scientist himself later commented that at that time he often formed full sentences in his thoughts, but did not utter them.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein at the age of 3 (1882).

School Years

Although the family was Ashkenazi Jews, when Albert was 5, he went to Petersschule, a Catholic elementary school. The detrimental factor in such a decision was the school’s high educational standards. This is where the next 3 years of Albert’s life unfolded. As a student, young Einstein did not show remarkable results. Most of his grades were passing, and he was near the top of his class, but mainly because of math and science. His learning success depended mostly on his interest in the subject. It is also at this time when he developed religious background. Later, after studying sciences, he started questioning religion and eventually diverted from Judaism.

Somewhat later, after he began school, Pauline Koch enrolled her children for music lessons, during which Albert was studying how to play the violin and Marie was taking the piano lessons. Albert did not enjoy playing the violin at first, but once he discovered the music of Mozart and Beethoven, he taught himself how to play the piano and even claimed that he thought in music. Later, at the age of 17, when Albert Einstein performed Beethoven’s violin sonatas to the examiner, he was noted to have a special meaning of music.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein at the age of 14 (1893).

The education continued in the autumn of 1888 when he enrolled into Luitpold Gymnasium, an equivalent of current high school (now called Albert Einstein Gymnasium). The educational institution strictly endorsed high standards for its students, requiring them, for example, to study the Greek and Latin languages. Albert did well in Latin, but he could not stand the Greek language because he could not find the common language with his teacher. Einstein loved doing things his own way rather than following the teachers’ guidelines. Such compulsive nature and attitude were quite typical for young Albert Einstein, which complicated his school relationships. When Einstein was 10 years old, he started educating himself under the guidance of his uncle Jakob Einstein, who bought the boy books for the upcoming study years. This way Albert managed to read them before the classes started and get good grades without active participation in classroom sessions. For instance, he taught himself Euclidean geometry by the age of 12 and differential and integral calculus by the age of 15. This left him some free time for model construction and long walks in the woods he started to like at that age.

Life in Italy and Switzerland

In 1894, Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie weaken its position in the market because they failed to adapt to changing market oriented at alternating current (AC) standard rather than the direct current (DC) standard they had been focused on. Hermann was forced to close the business and move to Milan, Italy, and later Pavia, which offered better market prospects. Albert stayed in Germany to complete three more years of his gymnasium, but only three months later, in December 1894, he dropped out of school. Having obtained letters of recommendation from his math teacher, Albert joined his family in Italy. Over the next ten months there he took to hiking in the Alps, which was the first time he showed love to any physical activity.

In 1895, at the age of 16, Albert Einstein was determined to study electrical engineering in Zürich at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute, Switzerland (German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich or ETH Zurich), since it did not require completed secondary school education, just an entrance exam. He failed the entrance exams but demonstrated exceptional results in mathematics and physics. To complete his secondary education and enrich his knowledge, the principal of the Swiss Federal Polytechnic advised Einstein to enter the Argovian Cantonal School in Aarau, Switzerland headed by Jost Winteler. During his studies at Aargau Cantonal School from 1895 – 1896, Einstein was hosted by Jost Winteler and his wife, Pauline. Jost and Pauline had a daughter, Marie Winteler, who was 10 years older than Albert Einstein. Marie and Albert liked each other, and the Wintelers did not mind this affection.

You can't blame gravity for falling in love. – Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

In 1896, with his father’s approval Albert Einstein renounced his German citizenship to avoid military service in the German Kingdom of Württemberg. He remained stateless until 1901. Only in 1901, Einstein obtained the Swiss citizenship.

In September 1896, Albert successfully passed the exit exams from Aargau Cantonal School with good grades, earning the top grade of 6 in physics and mathematics (on a 1 – 6 scale). In 1896, at the age of 17, he entered the Zürich Polytechnic (ETH Zurich) at the four-year mathematics and physics teaching diploma program. His girlfriend, Marie Winteler, relocated to Olsberg, Switzerland, for a teaching job.

Albert Einstein Biography

Einstein enrolled in the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zürich in 1896 to study mathematics and physics.

Student Years

The class at Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute was relatively small at the time and consisted of only five students. There was only one female student in the group, Mileva Marić, who later became involved with Albert Einstein romantically and got married to him on January 06, 1903. Then it became known that they had a daughter named “Lieserl” born in 1902 in Novi Sad, whose fate is still unknown. According to the found correspondence between Einstein and Marić, their daughter was either adopted or died of scarlet fever in infancy.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein and Mileva Einstein-Marić got married on January 06, 1903.

The core value of college education according to Einstein was the art of learning how to learn. Still, he remained quite rebellious. He skipped classes that he did not like and was a frequent guest at coffee houses and beer halls. To pass his exams, Albert copied class notes from Marcel Grossmann, which got him the highest grades in the group surpassing Grossmann himself. Einstein got some of his first ideas when still in college. The year before graduating from college Einstein wrote that he thought current theories regarding electrodynamics of moving bodies were different from the reality.

Albert Einstein passed the exit exams well and obtained the degree and a teaching diploma in mathematics and physics. He wanted to continue his life story as a professor’s assistant, but none of the professors would accept him for his rebellious character.

Early Career

After graduating in 1900, the teaching diploma Albert Einstein obtained was no use when it came to finding a teaching position. He continued the job search for two years until the father of his university classmate, Marcel Grossmann, helped him get employed as an assistant examiner at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property in Bern, Switzerland. At the patent office, Einstein was responsible for evaluating patent submissions for a variety of inventions.

In 1902, together with new friends, Conrad Habicht and Maurice Solovine, Einstein had met in Bern, he organized a small discussion group “The Olympia Academy,” which regularly gathered in Einstein’s apartment to discuss physics and philosophy. The discussion group played a significant role in Einstein’s intellectual development.

Albert Einstein Biography

“The Olympia Academy” founders (left to right): Conrad Habicht, Maurice Solovine and Albert Einstein.

On May 14, 1904, Mileva Einstein-Marić gave birth to Albert’s first son, Hans Albert Einstein (May 14, 1904 – July 26, 1973). The birth of the son did not distract Albert Einstein from his scientific career. In fact, it was quite the opposite, and the year of 1905 Einstein’s biographers called the “miracle year.”

Annus Mirabilis Papers and the Miracle Year

In the 1900s, physics was divided into two branches. The first one was focused on electromagnetism represented by James Clark Maxwell and mechanics represented by Isaac Newton.

The year of 1905 is called the “miracle year” of Albert Einstein. Sometimes it is called the “annus mirabilis,” which in Latin means the “miracle year.”  The reason for this was that he wrote four papers printed in a scientific journal Annalen der Physik that contributed significantly to the groundwork of modern physics and completely changed the view on space, time, mass, and energy. Those papers were on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special theory of relativity, and mass-energy equivalence.

Albert Einstein Biography

Einstein’s apartment on the Kramgasse in Bern. Most of Annus Mirabilis papers were written in his apartment on the first floor.

The Photoelectric Effect

On March 17, 1905, Einstein wrote his first paper titled Concerning an Heuristic Point of View Toward the Emission and Transformation of Light that explained the photoelectric effect. It was published in Annalen der Physik journal the same year on June 09. This work introduced photons and laid the foundation for quantum theory and would help him to win The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

On April 30, 1905, Einstein together with his doctoral advisor Alfred Kleiner (April 24, 1849 – July 03, 1916) completed his Ph.D. thesis, titled A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions, which helped to establish the existence of molecules. As a result, Einstein obtained his Ph.D. degree from the University of Zürich in 1905.

Brownian Motion

On May 11, 1905, Albert Einstein completed his second work titled On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquids by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat delineated a stochastic model of Brownian motion. Annalen der Physik got it published on July 18, 1905.

Special Theory of Relativity

The third paper titled On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies was received on June 30, 1905, and released on September 26, 1905. It combined Maxwell’s equations for electricity and magnetism with the laws of mechanics by introducing fundamental changes to mechanics close to the speed of light. Later it would become the background of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Mass-Energy Equivalence

On September 27, 1905, Einstein submitted his fourth paper to the journal. On November 21, 1905, his fourth paper titled Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? was published in Annalen der Physik. The paper contained an argument for arguably the most famous equation, E=mc2, in the field of physics. It was later proven by the development of an atomic bomb and helped to understand how the sun generates the energy.

Despite being called the “miracle year,” 1905 did not bring a 26-year-old Einstein fame. Einstein was a visionary thinking ahead of the time and most of the achievements made in this period became widely appreciated only 15 years later.

In 1907, it occurred to him that the definition of gravity is to be changed, and he suggested that the gravity was equivalent to accelerated motion. At this time, his image as a scientist improved and he was invited to give lectures at the University of Bern.

University Career

The year after, he resigned from his position at the patent office completely and was appointed the associate professor at the University of Zürich. By this time, Mileva and Albert had problems with their marriage and relocating to Zürich in October 1909 helped to improve the situation. Mileva got pregnant with the second child; the family life settled down and the second son Eduard (Tete) Einstein was born on July 28, 1910. Having given a lecture on electrodynamics and the relativity principle at the University of Zurich in February 1909, Alfred Kleiner recommended Einstein to the faculty for a recently created professorship in theoretical physics. Therefore, Einstein became an associate professor in 1909.

The new title altered Einstein´s image completely. He changed his neat patent office appearance for baggy short trousers and indifferent hairstyle. His lectures bore quite a similar style. They were quite informal: students could interrupt the professor anytime and often spent time together at different cafes and even joined him at his home.

In April 1911, notwithstanding the students’ protests and the promotion provided by the University, Albert Einstein moved to Prague to work as a full professor at German Charles-Ferdinand University and obtained the Austrian citizenship to do so in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It is interesting to know that, at first, his application for the position was not approved by the Ministry of Education in Vienna and Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. The job was given to Gustav Jaumann (1863–1924), who turned down the offer when found that Albert Einstein was the first choice for it. The position allowed Einstein to travel a lot through Europe. Also, while working at German Charles-Ferdinand University, Albert Einstein wrote 11 scientific papers, 5 of which was on the quantum theory of solids and radiation mathematics.

In the spring of 1912, he visited Berlin, where he met with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal (January 18, 1876 – December 20, 1936). Their relationship continued through letters after Einstein’s return.

In July 1912, the Einsteins moved back to Zürich and became a professor at his alma mater, ETH Zurich. There Albert Einstein taught analytical mechanics and thermodynamics and studied the molecular theory of heat, continuum mechanics and the problem of gravitation together with his old friend Marcel Grossmann from 1912 until 1914. He then returned to Berlin, where he held the position of a professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the head of Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics (1914–1932). He also became a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, and in 1916 Einstein was assigned as president of the German Physical Society (1916–1918).

In the Alexander Kennedy’s book Albert Einstein: A Life of Genius, the author speculates that Einstein accepted the offer mainly because of his love affairs with Elsa Löwenthal. At this time, Mileva started suffering from severe depression. In July 1914, she took her two sons and left home. Their marriage ended badly. Albert Einstein and Mileva Einstein-Marić got divorced on February 14, 1919. Their separation was accompanied by fierce arguments about money and children. Albert Einstein was restricted get married for the next two years, but he married Elsa Löwenthal just three and a half months later, on June 02, 1919. By this time, Albert earned the reputation of an eccentric non-traditional educator, and his teaching career started its decline.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein with his second wife and cousin, Elsa Einstein.

General Theory of Relativity

The teaching career may seem to decay at this point of Albert Einstein biography, but his scientific one was bound to face worldwide recognition following his research on the theory of relativity. Einstein spent 1911 – 1913 working on the general theory of relativity, which calculated that the Sun’s gravity bends light from another star (now known as Gravitational lens effect). In August 1914, there was a chance to prove this theory during the eclipse. An astronomer Erwin Finlay-Freundlich set up an expedition to the Crimea to test Einstein’s calculations, but three weeks before the trip the war between Germany and Russia had burst out, and the whole team was arrested before they could reach the destination. By November 1915, Einstein finalized his general theory of relativity and in the spring of 1919, an English astronomer, physicist, and mathematician Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington went to Africa to prove the theory during the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. In November 1919, when he received the proofs, Einstein became an overnight success. On November 07, 1919, the headline of the The Times newspaper issue read Revolution in Science – New Theory of the Universe – Newtonian Ideas Overthrown. Recognition brought personality changes with it. He became less stubborn and more confident. The love for attention made him behave more charming.

Travels Abroad

In 1920, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences approved Albert Einstein to become its Foreign Member.

On April 02, 1921, Albert Einstein traveled to the United States for the first time. Upon his arrival in New York City, Mayor John Francis Hylan sent him an official welcome note that followed by three weeks of lectures. Einstein gave lectures at Columbia University and Princeton University and even met with the 29th U.S. President Warren G. Harding, while delegating representatives of the National Academy of Science for an appointment at the White House.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein rides the streets in a motorcade in New York City with citizens welcoming his first visit to New York City in 1921.

Upon his return to Europe, 1st Viscount Haldane, Richard Haldane (July 30, 1856 – August 19, 1928), invited Einstein to be his guest in London. Albert Einstein gave a lecture at King’s College London and got acquainted with several scientific and political personalities.

In July 1921, Albert Einstein wrote an essay titled My First Impression of the U.S.A. in which he characterized the American as friendly, positive, optimistic, and without envy nation.

In 1922, Einstein went on voyages to Asia and later to Palestine. Also, he visited Singapore, Ceylon, and Japan, where he delivered a series of lectures to Japanese people and met with the 123rd Emperor of Japan, Emperor Taishō (August 31, 1879 – December 25, 1926 ) and Empress Teimei (June 25, 1884 – May 17, 1951) at the Imperial Palace. In a letter to his sons, Einstein portrayed the Japanese nation as intelligent, considerate, modest and with a true taste for art.

The Nobel Prize in Physics

When anti-Semitism rose in Germany in the 1920s, Einstein started embracing his Zionist background. At this time, he was actively raising funding for Jews in Palestine. During that time, the Nobel Prize-Awarding Institution, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, decided that none of the year’s nominations met the criteria to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Therefore, they reserved it until the following year. One year later, the Nobel Prize was announced on November 09, 1922, and Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”

Albert Einstein Biography

This illustration explains the photoelectric effect which was discovered by Albert Einstein and for which he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. (Source: ESA)

However, Einstein’s often travels prevented him from receiving the Nobel Prize personally during the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony held in Stockholm on December 10, 1922.

So why Einstein never received a Nobel prize for relativity? The reason for this is that anti-Semitism was on the rise in Germany in 1920s. Jews were being blamed for the nation’s downfall in the war. As Einstein was both pacifist and Jew, he was a perfect target to defeat. Einstein’s scientific opponents such as Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard and Ernst J. L. Gehrcke called into question his theory of relativity. The Nobel Prize Committee was then in doubt if to give the prize for the relativity or not. After debates and arguing, they decided that it would be better to reserve the Nobel Prize for the next year than to give it for the theory of relativity. Therefore, when in 1921, the situation reached a critical point, Carl Wilhelm Oseen, the director of the Nobel Institute for Theoretical Physics in Stockholm, suggested a compromise that Albert Einstein would receive the deferred 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, but not for relativity but for his work on the photoelectric effect.

The Second Trip to the U.S.

In December 1930, Albert visited the United States one more time. He planned to stay there for two months as a research fellow at California Institute of Technology. During Einstein’s second visit to the US, the NYC Mayor James J. Walker (June 19, 1881 – November 18, 1946) gave him the keys to the city. The attention to his persona remained persistent, but Einstein refused to receive awards and speak publicly during this trip. Einstein visited various types of events during his stay in New York City: he had lunch with the editors of New York Times, visited Manhattan’s Chinatown, the Carmen performance at Metropolitan Opera and joined a crowd of 15,000 people at Madison Square Garden during a celebration of a Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. Albert Einstein continued his trip across the United States and headed to California, where he delivered a speech to the students at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and often indicated that sometimes science was inclined to cause damage than good. There he got acquainted with the president of Caltech and Nobel laureate, Robert A. Millikan (March 22, 1868 – December 19, 1953). Their friendship could not be called deep since Robert A. Millikan supported patriotic militarism and Albert Einstein supported pacifism.

Another remarkable event at this stage was a meeting with Charlie Chaplin (April 16, 1889 – December 25, 1977). In January 1931, Albert and his wife Elsa were invited to visit the premiere of Chaplin’s film City Lights in Hollywood. The married couple arrived at the premiere, and the crowd exploded with ovation once they entered the theater.

Albert Einstein Biography

Charlie Chaplin (left) and Albert Einstein (right) at the premiere of City Lights in January 1931.

Soon Einstein invited Chaplin to visit his home in Berlin. In his biography book, Chaplin recalled Einstein’s apartment as a modest one and presumed that his piano most probably was used by Nazis as a kindling wood.

Once Elsa told Chaplin the story how Einstein came to the idea of the theory of relativity: one morning, while having breakfast, Einstein seemed mused on fall to thinking, ignoring his mealtime. Elsa asked if he was bothered by something, but he didn’t respond. Instead of this, Einstein walked to his piano and started playing it by writing notes for half an hour. After this, he went upstairs to his study room and stayed there for two weeks. Of course, Elsa brought him some food to eat and took care of her husband. Two weeks later, Albert finished working on his theory of relativity and went downstairs with two sheets of paper that would revolutionize the would of physics.

Emigration to the U.S.

In February 1933, Germany underwent the rise of Nazis with Germany’s new chancellor Adolf Hitler. Einstein knew he could not go back to Germany at this point. In March 1933, together with his wife Elsa, they returned to Belgium by ship to discover that their house had been invaded by the Nazis and their personal belongings were confiscated including his personal sailboat. On March 28, 1933, he immediately went to the German consulate in Antwerp to formally renounce the citizenship, turning in his passport.

In April 1933, Nazis banned Jews from being officially employed, including teaching at universities. Thousands of Jewish scientists were expelled from universities and schools. A month later, the German Student Union initiated book burnings, which also included Einstein’s books as well. Albert Einstein was even on the list of enemies of the new German government and offered a $5,000 bounty for Albert Einstein’s head.

Because he lost his home in Germany, he stayed at a rented house in De Haan in Belgium. In July 1933, he moved to England at the personal invitation from Commander Oliver Stillingfleet Locker-Lampson, who gave shelter to him in his cottage outside London by setting two guards to protect and take care of him.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein (sitting in a chair) and Oliver Locker-Lampson (left, seated) and guards assigned to watch over him.

During his stay in England, Einstein lobbied the necessity of bringing Jewish scientists out of Germany. Sir Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965) listened to this urge and sent a physicist Frederick Lindemann to seek out Jewish scientists and invite them to work in British universities. Later, Einstein turned for help to Turkey’s Prime Minister, İsmet İnönü, and asked him to provide shelter for unemployed German-Jewish scientists in Turkey. As a result, over 1,000 German-Jewish scientists were deported from Germany.

Einstein could have received the British citizenship, but the bill granting it never become the law, and he moved to the United States to accept the offer of working as a resident scholar at Institute for Advanced Study located in Princeton, New Jersey.

In October 1933, Einstein entered the office of Princeton Institute, but he was still not sure about his further career.  He had offers from other educational institutions including Oxford and Christ Church, but two years later he made up his mind to stay in the United States for good and apply for the U.S. citizenship. During his working years at the Institute for Advanced Study, he was working on creating unified field theory and debunking the accepted interpretation of quantum physics. Both of these endeavors remained fruitless.

In 1935, doctors diagnosed Elsa Einstein with kidney and heart problems. On December 20, 1936, she died at the age of 60 in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.

Manhattan Project

In 1939, the world was on the brink of the World War II and a group of Hungarian scientists with Leó Szilárd found that Nazis were doing research on building an atomic bomb. They tried to warn American government but failed the attempt. Later Leó visited Einstein and convinced him to write a letter together with him to President Roosevelt about the importance of conducting nuclear weapons research. It is believed that this letter was one of the reasons for President Roosevelt to establish the Manhattan Project, which led the United States to be the first and the only country to invent an atomic bomb during World War II. Also, it was the first nation to drop them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 06 and 09, 1945 being in conflict with Japan. A known pacifist, Einstein, later admitted to regretting the letter as a mistake that caused the bombs to be made but justified his decision by the danger from Germans.

When the Italian Benito Mussolini enforced ant-Semitic laws in Italy, where Albert´s sister Maria lived with her husband, the scientist invited her to stay with him in the United States, where she remained until her last days.

Personal Life and Community Activities

Albert Einstein Biography

Judge Phillip Forman handing U.S. citizenship certificate to Albert Einstein.

In 1940, Einstein became the official citizen of the USA. He was inspired by America´s power of individual in government and the respect for the freedom of speech. This encouraged the creativity, the trait he has always treasured.

Civil Rights Follower

Liberty and equality were essential values for Einstein. He was a big supporter of socialism and the idea of a global democratic government. He was also recognized as an advocate for African Americans civil rights movements and was even a supporter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Princeton. In 1946, he during his visit to Lincoln University, the first university in the United States to give college degrees to African Americans, he delivered a speech on racism and received the honorary degree.

Einstein retired from his position at Princeton University in 1945. After the drop of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Albert Einstein joined the effort to warn the society of the dangers associated with the development of nuclear weapons and together with Leó Szilárd founded the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists (ECAS) in 1946. ECAS was founded in the wake of “Szilárd petition” that Leó Szilárd sent to the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman in July 1945. The petition was signed by 70 scientists who had worked the Manhattan Project, as the most of them were not even aware that they were creating a nuclear weapon.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. – Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

In 1946, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania awarded Albert Einstein with an honorary degree. It was the first university in the United States to grant college degrees to African American students. While visiting Lincoln University, Albert Einstein made a speech before its students on racism in the U.S., saying “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” Einstein once even paid the college tuition for an African American student. Also, Albert Einstein was one of the founders and Board of Governors of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, established on July 24, 1918.

Love of Music

Albert Einstein had a profound interest in music from his childhood. His mother played piano and wanted her son to play the violin. At the age of 13, he started to play more willingly when he discovered for himself the violin sonatas of Mozart. Once a school examiner in Aarau heard Einstein playing Beethoven’s violin sonatas recalling that Einstein’s performance was “remarkable and revealing of great insight.” Though Einstein never had an idea of becoming a professional musician, the role of music in his social life was remarkable. While living in Bern, Zürich, and Berlin, Einstein played chamber music with Max Planck and his son for small audience and friends.

Albert Einstein Biography

Albert Einstein playing violin in 1929.

In 1931, he even played some Mozart and Beethoven’s masterpieces with members of the Zoellner Quartet in Los Angeles, California, while being a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology.

Death

During his last years, Einstein’s health was worsening. He still worked on theories, but he mostly kept to himself.

In 1948, Albert Einstein had surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm performed by Rudolph Nissen. On April 17, 1955, Albert Einstein had the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAAs), which caused internal bleeding and his death. He was planning to prepare a speech dedicated to the State of Israel’s anniversary in the hospital but did not survive to finish it. Einstein could undergo the surgery, but refused it, because he wanted to die with dignity. Albert Einstein died the next morning at the age of 76 in Princeton Hospital.

Thomas Stoltz Harvey, a doctor at the Princeton Hospital, performed the autopsy and preserved Einstein’s brain without the permission of his family for the neuroscience of the future to discover the reason for his intelligence.

Scientific Heritage

On December 05, 2014, the Digital Einstein Papers, hosted by Princeton University Press, made freely available The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein to the broad public. Albert Einstein left behind hundreds of both scientific and non-scientific works; the total archive released comprised more than 30,000 unique documents. The most prominent articles were published during his annus mirabilis, the miracle year.

Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. – Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

In 1909, Einstein wrote a paper on the concept of a photon, which inspired the wave-particle duality notion in quantum mechanics. The series of papers competed from 1911 to 1913, contain him reformulating 1900 quantum theory and introducing zero-point energy idea.

Between 1907 and 1915, Albert Einstein was working on the theory of general relativity. This theory of gravitation has now received an extensive usage in astrophysics and explained the essence of black holes, the parts of space with such a strong gravity attraction that even light gets attracted to it.

Gravitational Waves

In 1916, Einstein made the discovery that has been proven by science 100 years later. He predicted gravitational waves that transfer energy in the form of gravitational radiation. In September 2015, different gravitational-wave detectors started observing sources of gravitational waves, such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes. On September 14, 2015, at 5:51 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC), both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors observed gravitational waves from the merging black holes. On February 11, 2016, LIGO confirmed the discovery of gravitational waves.

Cosmology

Many know Einstein for his accomplishments, yet his abandoned ideas are much less known. Einstein applied his theory of relativity to form the structure of the universe as a whole. In his attempts, the scientist added a new term, the cosmological constant, to the field equations to enable the theory to forecast the future. Later Albert Einstein stepped away with from this concept. In 2013, the group of scientists, headed by the Irish physicist Cormac O’Raifeartaighs, were learning Hubble’s observations of the recession of the nebulae, found proof that the cosmological model of the universe.

Albert Einstein Biography

This illustration visualizes a timeline for the formation and expansion of the universe based on direct observations and the standard cosmological model suggested by Albert Einstein. Source: WMAP Science Team.

Therefore, Albert Einstein predicted a Steady State model (is an alternate theory to the Big Bang model) of the expanding universe many years before Hoyle, Bondi and Gold. However, Einstein’s Steady State model contained a fundamental flaw, that is why he rejected this idea.

Energy Quanta and Photons

Alongside developing the theory of general relativity, Einstein concluded that the light consists of localized particles he called quanta in his paper of 1905.  This idea was first abandoned by all physicists, Niels Bohr and Max Plank in particular. However, in 1919, Robert Millikan ran several experiments to investigate the photoelectric effect, and the idea became generally accepted. Einstein stated that each wave of frequency f has a collection of hf energy photons, where h equals to Planck’s constant.

A Theory of Everything

It is obvious that throughout his life Einstein was trying to sort different scientific discoveries to form a clear theory of how things function in the world around us, what scientists now call A theory of everything (ToE). In April 1950, Scientific American published Einstein’s work On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation, where he discussed his “unified field theory.”

Other Scientific Contributions

One can think that it is quite impossible for one person to make so many impactful discoveries, yet you will be even more surprised to discover that there are many more scientific areas Albert Einstein conducted his research in. Einstein also collaborated with other scientists to contribute to their investigations. For example, he worked on the essence of magnetization together with de Haas, helped Erwin Schrödinger with his gas model, co-invented a refrigerator, the patent for which was bought by Electrolux company.

Being one of the most prominent scientists of all times and ages, no wonder that he left his mark in pop culture as well. Not only his figure is an inspiration for many films, book, plays and pieces of music, but he is also the ideal prototype for the character of an absent-minded mad professor.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. – Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

Albert Einstein’s life story is a vivid example of how one man’s biography can change the course of history. Not often you can find the person so compelling to have predicted many of the scientific discoveries many years before they were proven.

That is a story of a rebellious teenager who turned himself into a World Citizen, a Jewish physicist surviving Nazi Germany, the fighter for the world peace. He was the underestimated professor, the Nobel Prize Winner, a “mad” scientist and the man, whose input can be traced all the way to current high-tech explorations. We hope that you have enjoyed exploring Albert Einstein biography, and it inspired you to new discoveries.

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Tags: Biography

  • Adeline L. Smith

    A couple of days ago, LIGO detected gravitational waves for the second time. Einstein left us a great heritage.

  • Pratibha Sharma

    The third picture in the post says “Albert Einstein at the age of 3 (1820) “. 1820?? It needs correction. 🙂

    • astrumpeople

      Hi Pratibha, thank you very much for your comment. You are right. It was just a typo. I’ve fixed this 🙂 Thank you, Serge