Born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Albert Einstein grew up in a secular, middle-class Jewish family. Six weeks later the family moved to Munich. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer who, with his brother, founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment in Munich, Germany. His mother was Pauline Einstein. Einstein had one sister, Maja, born two years after him.
Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in Munich, where he excelled in his studies. He enjoyed classical music and played the violin. However, he felt alienated and struggled with the rigid Prussian education he received there. He also experienced a speech difficulty, a slow cadence in his speaking where he’d pause to consider what to say next. He was right-handed; there appears to be no evidence for the widespread popular belief that he was left-handed.
His father once showed him a pocket compass; Einstein realized that there must be something causing the needle to move, despite the apparent "empty space". As he grew, Einstein built models and mechanical devices for fun and began to show a talent for mathematics. When Einstein was ten years old, Max Talmey, a poor Jewish medical student from Poland, gave him popular books on science, mathematical texts and philosophical writings. These included Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, and Euclid's Elements which Einstein called the "holy little geometry book".
Due to family related problems, they moved to Italy, first to Milan and then, a few months later, to Pavia. When the family moved to Pavia, Einstein stayed in Munich to finish his studies at the Luitpold Gymnasium. His father intended for him to pursue electrical engineering, but Einstein clashed with authorities and resented the school's regimen and teaching method. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning. At the age of sixteen, Einstein sat the entrance examinations for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich (later the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule ETH). He failed to reach the required standard in the general part of the examination, but obtained exceptional grades in physics and mathematics. On the advice of the Principal of the Polytechnic, he attended the Aargau Cantonal School in Aarau, Switzerland, in 1895–96 to complete his secondary schooling. In September 1896, he passed the Swiss Matura with mostly good grades, including a top grade of 6 in physics and mathematical subjects, on a scale of 1-6, and though only seventeen, enrolled in the four-year mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Zurich Polytechnic. In 1901, the year he gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, as he was unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905 he obtained his doctor's degree.
He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and they had a daughter and two sons; their marriage was dissolved in 1919 and in the same year he married his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who died in 1936.
During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton.
At the start of his scientific work, Einstein realized the inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.
In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics.
In 1901, his paper "Folgerungen aus den Capillaritätserscheinungen" ("Conclusions from the Capillarity Phenomena") was published in the prestigious Annalen der Physik. On 30 April 1905, Einstein completed his thesis, with Alfred Kleiner, Professor of Experimental Physics, serving as pro-forma advisor. Einstein was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. His dissertation was entitled "A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions." This paper included Einstein's initial estimates of Avogadro constant as 2.2×10^23 based on diffusion coefficients and viscosities of sugar solutions in water. That same year, which has been called Einstein's annus mirabilis (miracle year), he published four groundbreaking papers, on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy, which were to bring him to the notice of the academic world. In his paper on mass–energy equivalence, Einstein produced E = mc^2 from his special relativity equations. Einstein's 1905 work on relativity remained controversial for many years, but was accepted by leading physicists, starting with Max Planck.
During 1911, he had calculated that, based on his new theory of general relativity, light from another star would be bent by the Sun's gravity. That prediction was claimed confirmed by observations made by a British expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington during the solar eclipse of 29 May 1919. International media reports of this made Einstein world famous.
In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect, as relativity was considered still somewhat controversial. He also received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society in 1925.
In the 1920's, Einstein embarked on the construction of unified field theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology.
Albert Einstein received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities. During the 1920's he lectured in Europe, America and the Far East, and he was awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientific academies throughout the world. He gained numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1925, and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1935.
Einstein developed an appreciation of music at an early age. His mother played the piano reasonably well and wanted her son to learn the violin, not only to instill in him a love of music but also to help him assimilate German culture. According to conductor Leon Botstein, Einstein is said to have begun playing when he was five, but did not enjoy it at that age.
After his retirement he continued to work towards the unification of the basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation, to the majority of physicists.
On 17 April 1955, Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He took the draft of a speech he was preparing for a television appearance commemorating the State of Israel's seventh anniversary with him to the hospital, but he did not live long enough to complete it
Einstein refused surgery, saying: "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." He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the end.
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