Facts about Albert Einstein, including his personal life, scientific works, religious and political views and interesting anecdotes.
Einstein was born in Germany, went to University in Switzerland, was an Austrian subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1911-12), a subject of the kingdom of Prussia (1914-18), a German citizen of Prussa and spent time living in Prague, Belgium and Britain. In 1940 became an American citizenship. He was often referred to as a “citizen of the world”
“If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.” – Albert Einstein
Einstein told his biographer he didn’t speak until he was four years old – an unusually late developer for speaking. When he did speak, he would often repeat phrases – a habit he kept throughout his life. Late talker syndrome amongst bright boys is often referred to as the “Einstein syndrome.”
Einstein was very intelligent and with an active imagination, however his genius did not fit into the rigid school system of learning by rote. When Einstein’s father asked his son’s headmaster what direction his son’s studies should take. The headmaster replied “It doesn’t matter; he’ll never make a success of anything.”
Einstein scored highly in maths and physics test. He was studying calculus by the age of 12.
Einstein tried to be an innovative teacher, encouraging students to think for themselves and act interactively in the subject. He wrote: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” His innovate approach to teaching wasn’t always appreciated. He lost his teaching post at a boarding school in 1902.
Einstein retained a sympathy for struggling school-children. On 3 January, 1943, he received a letter from a girl who was having difficulties with mathematics. With good humour, Einstein replied. “Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you that mine are still greater.”
Einstein hated wearing socks because he felt they only ended up getting holes in them, so in later life, he rarely wore socks!
Einstein also hated going to the hairdresser and would keep his hair in unkempt fashion.
Einstein was famed for his absent-mindness throughout his life. As a young man, after leaving his suitcase at his friends house, his friends parents said to Einstein’s parents. “That young man will never amount to anything, because he can’t remember anything.”
After Einstein moved to Princeton, the university received a phone call asking where Dr. Einstein lived. When the office said it was the policy not to give out this information in order to protect the scientist from curious visitors, the caller lowered his voice and said, “Please do not tell anybody, but I am Dr. Einstein. I am on my way home and have forgotten where my house is.”
Einstein Married twice. With his first wife, he set a marriage contract which demanded that if Einstein requested to be left alone, his wife had to leave his room and not talk to him.
In the 1920s there was substantial opposition to the theory of relatively and Albert Einstein himself. In Berlin an organisation was created solely to try and discredit Einstein. Einstein came to one meeting, sat on the front row and applauded some of the speakers!
In 1933, Einstein was visiting the United States when Hitler and the Nazi party came to power. Because of his Jewish background, he did not return to Germany.
Einstein valued his solitude, writing “I have gotten used extremely well to life here. I live like a bear in my den.”
Einstein was not materialistic not particularly valuing wealth and material objects, he led a relatively austere life.
Einstein was so frequently stopped by members of the public in America, that he developed a way to escape. He would say “Pardon me, sorry! Always I am mistaken for Professor Einstein.”
His second marriage was to his cousin Elsa.
Einstein with second wife Elsa
Einstein had a special interest in the plumbing profession and was an honorary member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union.
Einstein was a great lover of smoking. In 1950, he even claimed smoking helped contribute to his calm and objective judgement.
However, Einstein knew smoking was bad for health and was told by his doctor to give up smoking. He never gave up his pipe, but sometimes just chewed on his pipe.
When Einstein was taken ill in April 1955, from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, he refused a further operation, feeling it was time to go. In an interview, I.B. Cohen said to Einstein “Death is both a fact and a mystery,” to which Einstein added, “and a relief.”
In 1999, Time Magazine named him the Person of the Century.
“I often think in music. I live my daydreams in terms of music,”
Einstein was a good violin player. When he first learnt to play, he hated it. But after falling in love with Mozart and Beethoven, he mostly self-taught himself to play and remained a kean player throughout his life.
Rabindranath Tagore with Einstein
Einstein played his violin publically in local concerts. He was considered to have great feeling for music. In one concert, he noticed several older women knitting at the back of the concert. Einstein stopped playing immediately and said: “I would not dream of disturbing your work.”
Einstein was once supposed to give a lecture at Geneva University, he surprised the audience by playing the violin. He explained. “It will perhaps be pleasanter and more understandable if instead of making a speech I play the violin.”
On Christmas Eve, children came to sing carols. Einstein asked the children if he could accompany them on his violin.
Facts about Politics
“I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognise how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes…. What can the man of good will do to combat this deeply rooted prejudice? He must have the courage to set an example by words and deeds, and must watch lest his children become influenced by racial bias.”
Einstein was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Princeton, believing racism was one of America’s ‘worst diseases’
Einstein was a democratic socialist, as detailed in his writing “Why Socialism?”
He was refused security clearance by the FBI for his suspect ‘left-wing’ views. The FBI collected a long, detailed account on Einstein.
During World War I, Einstein was one of four notable academic figures to publicly stand against Germany’s role in the war.
Einstein was a member from 1922 to 1932 of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation – part of the League of Nations.
Einstein became an ardent supporter of nuclear disarmament and was sympathetic to pacifism. He said it stemmed from an instinctive feeling based on his “deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred”
In 1955 he signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto warning on the dangers of nuclear weapons with British philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Einstein admired Mahatma Gandhi. Writing about Gandhi –
You have shown through your works, that it is possible to succeed without violence even with those who have not discarded the method of violence. (Einstein, 1931)
Einstein played no direct role in the Manhattan Project which led to the development of the first Atomic bomb. However, his equation was important in theoretical development of the bomb. Also he wrote letter to President Roosevelt arguing that America should pursue the project in case Germany developed one first.
“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” (1929)
Einstein’s parents were Jewish, but did not practise the religion, he would describe himself as an agnostic or “deeply religious nonbeliever. He wrote:
“The basis of all scientific work is the conviction that the world is an ordered and comprehensive entity, which is a religious sentiment. My religious feeling is a humble amazement at the order revealed in the small patch of reality to which our feeble intelligence is equal.”
As there were no Jewish schools in his neighbourhood, he went to a Catholic school where he learnt about both the Old Testament and Gospels. Einstein said of Jesus “I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.“
In 1952, he was offered the ceremonial position of President of Israel. Einstein replied he was ‘deeply moved’ but had to decline the offer.
Einstein was a great admirer of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza and how he treated the body and soul as one unified object.
Einstein said he was devoutly religious in the sense “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical.”
1905 was considered to be the “Annus Mirabilis” for Einstein. In that year, he published four groundbreaking articles.
Photoelectric effect (a precursor of quantum theory),
Brownian motion – explaining random movement of particles in liquid.
The special theory of relativity – the speed of light is independent of the motion of the observer.
E = mc2
In 1905, Einstein was the first to propose that light consists of quanta particles. This theory was universally rejected until 1919, when experiments on the photoelectric effect showed Einstein was right.
During his annus mirabilis he was working at the Swiss Patent office.
Einstein often collaborated with other scientists leading to important breakthroughs. Some of the most important include
In 1926, Einstein and a former student Leo Szilard co-invented and later patented (1930) the Einstein refrigerator, which had no moving parts only used heat. The patent was bought by Electrolux.
After 1925, Einstein became critical of the development of Quantum mechanics. It led to the Bohr-Einstein debates between the two principle founders of quantum mechanics. Niels Bohr and Einstein.
Towards the end of his career, Einstein searched in vain for a unified field theory which would be able to unite the different aspects of physics. His work was largely ignored in his life, though it can be seen as precursor to string theory.
He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in 1922 for “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” His theory of relativity did not gain a Nobel Prize, something that remained a bone of contention.
With Nathan Rosen, Einstein worked on the concept of wormholes a speculative structure which can link extremley long distances of time and space, such as a billion light years. Wormholes are consistent with Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
Einstein wrote 300 scientific papers and 150 non-scientific papers.
Einstein tried humorous ways to explain his very complicated theories. He wrote
“When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems to him a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for only a minute — and it’s longer than an hour. That’s relativity.”
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts about Albert Einstein”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net Published 12 July 2019
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