Albert Einstein: A Pillar of Modern Physics

He is known as one of the most intelligent men to walk this earth, yet his private life was nothing short of chaotic He was the world’s most celebrated scientist, yet he shunned the limelight He ushered in the atomic age, yet he was a lifelong pacifist In this week’s Biographics, we delve into the contradictory life of Albert Einstein Early Life Hermann and Pauline Einstein, a Jewish couple married three years earlier, welcomed their first child, Albert, on March 14, 1879 Six weeks after his birth they moved from Ulm, Germany, to Munich, as a result of failed business endeavours In Munich, Hermann joined forces with his brother in an electrical engineering business which was propped up by Pauline’s parents Three years later they had their second child, Maria With the influence of his musically talented mother, Albert started musical studies at the age of five, learning the piano and then the violin the following year Einstein developed an appreciation for music at an early age, and later wrote: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician I often think in music I live my daydreams in music I see my life in terms of music I get most joy in life out of music.” He was enrolled in a Catholic school in 1885, switching over to the more advanced “Luitpold-Gymnasium” in 1888, now known as the Albert Einstein Gymnasium He proved to be an adequate, but by no means an outstanding student By 1894, the electrical manufacturing business that Albert’s father and uncle ran was facing seriously difficulty For the last decade they had been making DC current componentry But now C current was gaining ascendancy and demand for their services had dried up With no incoming coming in, Hermann made the decision to move the family to Italy, where job prospects looked brighter However, 15-year-old Albert stayed behind to complete his schooling in Munich Albert did not enjoy his schooling and often butted heads with the strict rote teachers He chafed at the strict discipline and the lack of freedom for creative thought The subjects that were taught to him held no interest – except for mathematics He had a natural affinity with the subject and quickly mastered the work that was presented to him A Physics Prodigy From around the age of twelve, Albert began teaching himself advanced mathematical concepts, starting with algebra His father engaged a tutor, Max Talmud, but soon Albert was out-thinking even him Talmud presented the boy with a geometry textbook He later commented . . “[Einstein] had worked through the whole book He thereupon devoted himself to higher mathematics Soon the flight of his mathematical genius was so high I could not follow.” Einstein started teaching himself calculus at 12, and as a 14 year old he says he had “mastered integral and differential calculus” Soon after his family’s move to Italy, Einstein forged a doctor’s note which convinced the principal of the Luitpold Gymnasium to allow him to quit the school and join his family in Italy He still had a year to go before completing his required schooling In an attempt to skive out of attending his last year of high school, Albert took an entrance exam at “The Swiss Federal Polytechnic University” in Zurich He came out with excellent results in Maths and Physics but failed in every other subject His scores in physics and maths were so outstanding that they caught the eye of the school’s principal He encouraged the family to send Albert to the renowned “Kantonsschule” school in Aarau, Switzerland, to increase his knowledge It was arranged for the seventeen-year-old to stay with the family of the professor of the school, Jost Winteler During his year with the Winteler’s, Albert fell in love with Winteler’s daughter, seventeen-year-old Marie Winteler They had a brief romance, which came to an end when Marie moved to Olsberg to start her teaching career University and Marriage Having found his academic passion, Albert applied himself to his studies in Switzerland He passed the Swiss Matura with outstanding grades in physics and mathematics and then reapplied to the ” Swiss Polytechnic University” in Zurich This time he passed and was admitted into a four-year physics and mathematics teaching diploma program It was around this time that Albert also renounced his German citizenship in order to avoid the compulsory military training that he would face in a few months when he turned eighteen Albert soon became friends with the only girl in his class, Mileva Maric They both shared a love for science, being at the top of their class Mileva spent a semester in Heidelberg, Germany While she was away, she and Einstein wrote each other almost every day Once she returned, their friendship turned into a relationship Einstein’s parents opposed the union due to the difference in religion, culture, and age As the couple’s relationship flourished, Mileva started to struggle in her studies In 1900, Einstein passed the final exam, but Mileva failed

Afterward, she worked at raising her knowledge so she could retake the test It was around this time that she found out that she was pregnant Meliva decided to move in with her parents In early 1902, she gave birth to their daughter, Lieserl No one is sure what happened to Mileva and Albert’s daughter, with many thinking she was either adopted or died of Scarlet Fever Albert struggled to find a teaching position following his graduation This was partly due to the fact that he had alienated many of his tutors over the four years of his studies He gave off the impression that they had little of value to impart to him and preferred to do his own independent study He finally secured a job but one that was totally unrelated to his course of study, and thought by his contemporaries to be below him Having gained his Swiss citizenship, he became eligible to work for the Swiss government He secured a position as a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office for Intellectual Property The Patent Office Einstein’s job was to assess patent applications for all manner of devices Quite a number of the patent applications involved the transmission of electric signals and the electro-mechanical synchronization of time These concepts gelled with Einstein’s area of personal fascination and served as the impetus for his investigations exploring the nature of light and the relationship between space and time While his days were filled with the analysis of patent applications, Einstein spent his evenings working on his scientific theories He started a discussion group with a few friends, Conrad Habicht and Maurice Solovine, that he called ‘the Olympia Academy’ Albert and Mileva reunited in 1903 and got married that same year The couple went on to have two sons, Hans, born in 1904, and Eduard, who arrived in 1910 The Miracle Year 1905 was a turning point for Albert Einstein Over the last couple of years, he had been building a reputation as an up and coming intellect among the scientific community In April of 1905, he completed his thesis, in association with a Professor of Experimental Physics by the name of Alfred Kleiner Einstein received a Ph.D from Zurich University shortly thereafter During the second half of 1905, Albert produced four scientific papers The subjects of his dissertations were Photoelectric Effect, Brownian Motion, Special Relativity, and The Equivalence of Mass & Energy Each of them was received enthusiastically by the intelligentsia However, it was the fourth paper that gave the world its most famous equation . . E = MC2 E stands for Energy, M for mass and C2 for the speed of light times itself What it meant in practical terms was that mass could be changed into energy and vice versa As a result, tiny packets of mass could be converted into huge bursts of energy The 26-year-old Einstein had, with the publication of his paper on the equivalency of mass and energy ushered in the atomic age Among those who heaped praise upon Einstein for his work was one of the most pre-eminent quantum theorists of the day, Max Planck from Germany His backing gave Albert instant credibility He began receiving speaking requests from all over Switzerland, along with offers of teaching positions His days at the patent office were over So, this is a biography channel, we’re not going to go into the depths of Einstein’s work… But if you would like to really get an understanding of just what he worked on, you should absolutely check out today’s sponsor Brilliant Brilliant are a science learning platform that allow you to learn through “active learning” Which, summed up is basically the opposite of that feeling of reading a complex paragraph about some principle, and then having no idea what is going on Then you read it again, and again, same thing right? Just an inability to absorb it – totally normal, totally not the best way to learn Brilliant take even something like special relativity and makes it easy to understand They give you something super short to read, it’s easy, and then you immediately apply it to a problem Rinse and repeat and suddenly you are understanding all sort of stuff you didn’t think you would be! I’ve been using Brilliant, and you should go try it out just to see how facinating it is that such complex subjects can be so easily grapsed! Whether you want to learn about paradoxes and spacetime, and their place in special relativity… Or something completely different like advanced stats, Brilliant is where you should do it! Support biographics by going to brilliant.org/biographics Multiple Positions Einstein worked the lecture circuit and then took up a position as a lecturer at the University of Bern in 1908 During that year he returned to his alma mater, the University of Zurich The university authorities were so taken with the budding genius that they created a position just for him, as an associate professor in their theoretical physics department

He transferred there from Bern University in 1909 Two years later, Einstein gained a full professorship when he took up a position at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague To take up the position, he had to take out Austrian citizenship But he would only remain in the position for twelve months Over that time, he published a total of eleven scientific papers Then, in 1912, he returned to the University of Zurich where he took up a full professorship in the theoretical physics department He was able to work alongside his long-time friend and collaborator Marcel Grossman As well as teaching the laws of thermodynamics, he also lectured on analytical mechanics That same year Einstein began an extra-marital affair with his first cousin, Elsa Lowenthal Einstein was not there much for his family, putting all his time and energy into his work and research For several years he had been emotionally distant from Mileva Recently, letters were found that he wrote in 1910 to his first love, Marie Winteler In them, he professed his undying love for her and lamented the life that they had missed out on together Settling in Germany In 1914, Einstein uprooted his family yet again as he took up a position at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics located at the University of Berlin He would remain in Germany for the next 19 years and was soon was appointed director of the Institute The position gave him professorship without teaching duties, which afforded him time to work on his scientific studies Another major draw for the return to Germany was that it allowed him to be closer to his mistress, Elsa Towards the end of 1914, Mileva moved back to Zurich with her sons, after finding out about her husband’s affair and coming to the realization that Albert was not a capable family man Einstein divorced Mileva in April of 1919 Then in June, he married his cousin, Elsa In 1916, Einstein published his theory of general relativity This was a groundbreaking achievement in the world of physics It theorized that what we see as the force of gravity actually results from the curvature of space and time As a result, the earth is not actually being pulled toward the sun by gravity but the interaction of space and time which dictates how the earth moves Einstein predicted that light from another star would be bent by the Sun’s gravity During a solar eclipse in 1919, that prediction was confirmed The publicity that surrounded the confirmation of his theory went round the globe and, for the first time, the name Albert Einstein became known worldwide Worldwide Fame In the early 1920’s, Einstein became a celebrity among the scientific community in America He was invited to New York to kick off a three-week lecture tour in April, 1921 He lectured at Columbia and Princeton, among other places of learning He also managed to get in a tour of the White House Einstein’s first impression of America was a positive one Shortly after his return, he published an essay called, ‘My First Impressions of America’ In it, he wrote . . What strikes a visitor is the joyous, positive attitude to life … The American is friendly, self-confident, optimistic, and without envy In 1921, Einstein’s popularity reached a new high when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics Because his theories on general and special relativity were not yet widely accepted, the award was given for his explanation of the photoelectric effect Throughout the 1920’s Albert and Elsa undertook a number of international tours that saw them being received in such far flung places as Singapore, Japan and Palestine In December, 1930, he made a second trip to the United States This time he wanted to fly under the radar, feeling that he had received far too much attention on his first visit But try as he may, he still found himself being overwhelmed with offers to speak and invitations to receive awards All of them were turned down However, when he tried to slip into New York City, he couldn’t avoid the celebrity of being awarded the keys to the city by Mayor Jim Walker When he visited the New York Riverside Church he was surprised to find that the congregants had created a life-sized statue of him He then moved on to California, where he was introduced to a number of movie stars, including Charlie Chaplin The two men remained lifelong friends On one occasion, Chaplin and Einstein appeared together in public to great applause Einstein turned to Chaplin and said . . They are cheering us both To this, Chaplin replied . . They are applauding you because none of them understands you and applauding me because everybody understands me Leaving Germany Back in Germany things were beginning to look ominous With the rise of the Nazi party, the rights of Jews rapidly diminished They were no longer permitted to hold positions of authority, so Einstein was removed from his directorship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute Despite being the most famous scientist on the planet, he couldn’t even teach in the local secondary school While he was on an overseas tour, his home was raided by the Gestapo In February 1933, Einstein was on another tour of the United States with Elsa With Adolf Hitler having been proclaimed Chancellor of Germany just a few weeks earlier, Albert knew that there was no future for him in the country of his birth

The couple sailed to Belgium in March Upon arrival in Antwerp, Einstein went directly to the German consulate and renounced his German citizenship The Nazis later sold his boat and converted his cottage into a Hitler Youth camp The Einstein’s rented a house in De Haan, Belgium for a couple of months During that time, news of the Nazi book burnings reached them It was reported that all of Albert’s writings had been consumed in the flames A German magazine published a list of enemies of the state which included Einstein Alongside his name was the caption ‘not yet hanged’ offering a $5,000 bounty on his head In July, 1933, Einstein was invited to London for six weeks at the request of an old British naval officer friend While there, he had an audience with Winston Churchill He asked for British assistance to bring as many Jewish scientists out of Germany as possible Winston was immediately receptive Over the coming years, Einstein used his influence to arrange for placements of more than a thousand scientists in teaching positions at universities outside of Germany On his return to Belgium, Einstein was offered a resident scholarship at Princeton University In October, 1933 he and Elsa sailed again for the United States Einstein took up the position at Princeton University in the Institute for Advanced Study In 1935, he was granted permanent residency in America His US citizenship was granted in 1940 In 1935 a new tribulation arose for Einstein His wife Elsa was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems The following year she died This was to be his biggest trial yet Albert was not one to show his emotions It was said by his friend, Peter Bucky, that Einstein even shed a tear after Elsa’s passing Throughout their whole friendship, he had never seen Albert cry once before this moment The Atomic Bomb In 1939, a couple of young Hungarian scientists named Leo Szilard and the discovered the science behind an atomic bomb They tried informing those in positions of power, but they had no influence, so they were ignored Then they decided to reach out to someone who would have credibility with those in high power That was when they contacted Einstein Szilard and Wigner explained their theory to Einstein, and he was quick to understand the concept Szilard wrote a letter to President Roosevelt with Einstein’s signature on it The letter urged America to create the first Atomic Bomb before Germany did It is generally agreed that the addition of Einstein’s signature was a key influencer in President Roosevelt’s adoption of the atomic bomb development project that was known as the Manhattan Project The US Government launched the Manhattan Project in December, 1941 Amazingly, Einstein’s application to be a part of the project was turned down The reason that the originator of the theory upon which the bomb was based was denied access to the program was that he was a German and there were those who thought that he might be a spy for the Nazis On August 6 and 9th, 1945, the Atomic Bomb was used on the Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 129,000 people Five months prior his death, Albert said that his greatest mistake in life was signing the letter to President Roosevelt concerning the Atomic Bomb . . “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” Einstein was never comfortable about his fame He once said In the past it never occurred to me that every casual remark of mine would be snatched up and recorded Otherwise I would have crept further into my shell By the time he was settled into his life in America, however, he realized that he was able to use his celebrity status as a vehicle toward promoting important causes Einstein had been a life-long pacifist and humanitarian Now he used his platform to bring these causes to the fore During the 1940’s, he gave his support to the cause of civil right in the United States He considered racism to be the ‘worst disease’ in America He joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and became friendly with civil rights activists W.E.B DuBois When DuBois was arrested in 1951, Einstein’s offer to be a character witness was enough to get the case dismissed In 1946, he was awarded an honorary degree from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, which was the first in America to award degrees to Black students He considered racism America’s “worst disease,” seeing it as “handed down from one generation to the next” Einstein also spoke out against anti-Semitism He developed a friendship with the first prime minister of the new state of Israel, David Ben Gurion Regarding prejudice against Jews in various parts of the world, he said . . There are no German Jews, there are no Russian Jews, there are no American Jews There are in fact only Jews The End of Einstein He did not believe in a personal God who concerns himself with the actions of humans He did say, however, that “I am not an atheist”, preferring to call himself an agnostic When asked if he believed in an afterlife, Einstein quipped, “No And one life is enough for me.”

And that life would end on the 17th of April 1955, at the age of 76 He had been suffering from internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had previously been reinforced surgically The night before his passing at Princeton Hospital, when offered surgery Einstein said, “I want to go when I want It is tasteless to prolong life artificially I have done my share; it is time to go I will do it elegantly.” In a memorial lecture in 1965, nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer summarized his impression of Einstein: “He was almost wholly without sophistication and wholly without worldliness There was always with him a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”