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Albert Einstein

Early life

After birth

Albert Einstein was born in the City of Ulm (located in Imperial Germany) on March 14, 1879. Though his family was Jewish, it did not adhere to Jewish teachings. Upon relocation of the family to Munich in 1880, Einstein's father and uncle founded a company named Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, which built electrical devices utilizing direct current. He first attended a Catholic elementary school from ages three to five and subsequently the Luitpold Gymnasium, at which he received primary and secondary education for gifted students. Over time, he demonstrated himself to be an exceptional math student and studied math and science books given to him by a Polish medical student named Max Talmud.

Following family emigration to Italy

Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie went out of business in 1894 because of the rising predominance of alternating current over direct current, and this forced Einstein’s family to relocate to Pavia, Italy. Einstein elected to remain in Munich to continue attending the Luitpold Gymnasium, but later grew dissatisfied with the school's style of teaching. This led him to rejoin his family in Pavia, Italy in 1894. The following year, he took the entrance exams of the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School (which today is known as ETH Zurich). Though his overall score was not up to standard, his performance on the math and science sections of the test was outstanding. After completion of his secondary education, he was able to become a student at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School and enroll in a math and physics teaching program. He received his diploma in 1900 and enrolled in graduate school soon after.

Romance and Marriages

Among the six students enrolled in the math and physics teaching program at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School, Einstein fell in love with the sole female, Mileva Marić, and read physics books together with her. Marić, however, never received her diploma because she failed the mathematics portion of the examination for the teaching program. In 1902, Marić gave birth to a daughter named Lieserl, but the child disappeared before Einstein had a chance to see her. The cause of the disappearance (either adoption or death due to scarlet fever) has not been ascertained. Einstein married Marić in January 1903. They had two children: one named Hans Albert Einstein and another named Eduard. Einstein moved to Berlin in 1914, but his wife remained in Zurich. After five years of separation, Einstein and Marić divorced in 1919. Einstein began a relationship with his first maternal cousin Elsa Löwenthal and married her in 1919. Unfortunately, she died due to kidney and heart problems in 1936.

Einstein's career

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The Swiss patent office

After acquiring Swiss citizenship in 1901, Einstein attempted unsuccessfully to secure a teaching position. However, he was able to obtain employment with the Swiss patent office as an assistant examiner. This position became permanent in 1903, but he was refused promotion because his superiors believed he was not sufficiently competent in machine technology.

Academic endeavors

In 1905, Einstein completed his dissertation, which was given the title of “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions”, enabling him to obtain his Ph.D. degree. In this paper, Einstein incorrectly estimated the Avogadro constant to be 2.2 x 10^23 (elimination of errors in his paper revised the estimate to 6.6 x 10^23 in 1911). In addition to obtaining his Ph.D. degree, Einstein published four papers on the photoelectric effect (which states all emission and absorption of luminous energy is in separate and distinct amounts known as quanta), Brownian motion (random motion created by particles immersed in fluid due to collisions with other particles), special relativity (which states that the laws of mechanics change near the speed of light) and the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc^2. These four papers are collectively known as the Annus Mirabilis (“miracle year”) papers because they made extraordinary contributions to scientists' understanding of modern physics.

Academic endeavors: Following 1905

In 1908, he began work as a lecturer at the University of Bonn and was recognized as an excellent scientist. He began teaching at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague, Czech Republic in 1911 before becoming director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics upon his return to Germany in 1914. That same year, he also began serving a role as a professor at Humboldt University of Berlin. Finally, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics due to his paper on the photoelectric effect. His theories on relativity remained controversial.

Emigration to the United States

Einstein disliked the Nazi regime as well as Adolf Hitler and decided not to return to Germany from a February 1933 visit to the United States for this reason. He taught for a brief period at the California Institute of Technology. Following this, Einstein became a target of persecution by Germany. During a trip to Antwerp, Belgium, he discovered that his sailboat was confiscated by the Nazi regime. Thus, he renounced his German citizenship at a German consulate in Antwerp after his arrival. The Nazis wanted to assassinate Einstein and even offered $5,000 to whoever could successfully kill him. He was considered an enemy of the German regime. While in England, he wrote a letter to another physicist who formerly resided in Germany named Max Born. In the letter, he stated he “must confess that the degree of their brutality and cowardice came as something of a surprise.” He continued teaching at the Institute for Advanced Study following his return to the U.S. in October 1933. He would remain an affiliate of the school until his death.

Later life

Einstein acquired U.S. citizenship in 1940. Following his naturalization, he made several lifestyle changes, including becoming a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and taking a stand for racial equality, advocating American meritocracy and even becoming a vegetarian. Following the November 1952 death of Israeli president Chaim Weizmann, Einstein received an offer to become the President of Israel by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Einstein declined the offer, saying he was ill-qualified to deal with politics. He also expressed deep regret for not being able to accept the offer and stated that he was moved by it.

Death

Einstein died on April 18, 1955. The cause of death was determined to be the rupture of a large artery in his abdomen. He had had surgery on the same artery previously, and refused a second surgery, stating that it would be “tasteless to prolong life artificially.” His brain was preserved in hopes that future advancements in neuroscience would be able to uncover the cause of Einstein's intelligence.

Misconceptions

Contrary to popular belief, Einstein never performed poorly on mathematics. In fact, he was even shown a column making this claim, and he stated explicitly that he had never failed mathematics in response. Einstein was always a gifted mathematics student, and he mastered integral and differential calculus by the age of 15. This is not to say, however, that he never suffered setbacks in the academic world. While attending the Luitpold Gymnasium (now known as the Albert Einstein Gymnasium), he complained that the school’s teaching style made excessive use of rote learning and did not cultivate original thought. Before completion of his secondary education, he also was unable to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School due to subpar performance on the general section of the university's entrance exam. And aside from an error in calculating the Avogadro constant in the first version of his dissertation, Einstein led unsuccessful investigations into topics ranging from superconductivity to gravitational waves and even denied that it was possible for black holes to form. What's more, there is no evidence to support the popular belief that Einstein was left-handed, and there is no evidence to support the notion that he had speech difficulties during his youth.

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