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Monday, November 24, 2014

Albert Einstein

                Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, located in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg in the German Empire, to Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch Einstein.  His father was a salesman and engineer.  The family moved to Munich in 1880. 

                The Einsteins were non-observant Ashkenazi Jews, and Albert attended a Catholic elementary school from age 5 to age 8.  He then transferred to the Luitpold Gymnasium (now known as the Albert Einstein Gymnasium).  At his new school Albert received advanced primary and secondary school education.  He left Germany seven years later.

                The Albert Einstein Archives disputes some common rumors about Albert.  Instead of struggling with early speech difficulties, he excelled in his first school.  Instead of being left-handed as rumored, he was right-handed.

                Einstein apparently was brilliant from a young age.  When his father showed him a pocket compass, Einstein immediately recognized that something caused the needle to move.  “As he grew, Einstein built models and mechanical devices for fun and began to show a talent for mathematics.  When Einstein was 10 years old, Max Talmud (later changed to Max Talmey), a poor Jewish medical student from Poland, was introduced to the Einstein family by his brother.  During weekly visits over the next five years, he gave the boy 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’).

                In 1894 the Einstein family moved to Italy, first Milan and then to Pavia.  In 1895, sixteen-year-old Einstein “sat for the entrance examinations for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich….  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 Argovian cantonal school (gymnasium in Aarau, Switzerland, in 1895-96 to complete his secondary schooling. While lodging with the family of Professor Jost Winteler, he fell in love with Winteler’s daughter, Marie.  (Albert’s sister Maja later married Wintelers’ son Paul.)  In January 1896, with his father’s approval, he renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Wurttemberg to avoid military service.  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 17, enrolled in the four-year mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Zurich Polytechnic.  Marie Winteler moved to Olsberg, Switzerland for a teaching post.”

                In 1902 Einstein’s future wife apparently had a daughter named “Lieserl”, but he apparently never saw the child, who either died in infancy of scarlet fever or was adopted.  The child’s real name and fate are unknown.  In January 1903 Einstein married Mileva Maric (m. 1903-1919), who attended the Polytechnic with Einstein and was “the only woman among the six students in the mathematics and physics section of the teaching diploma course.”  Einstein received the Zurich Polytechnic teaching diploma, but Maric failed the exam because of a poor grade in the mathematics component, theory of functions.  Einstein and his wife “read books together about extra-curricular physics in which Einstein was taking an increasing interest.”

                Hans Albert Einstein (1904-1973), the first son of Einstein and Maric was born in May 1904 in Bern, Switzerland.  Eduard “Tete” Einstein (1910-1965) was born in July 1910 in Zurich.  Einstein moved to Berlin in 1914, and Maric remained in Zurich with the boys.  They divorced five years later on February 14, 1919.

                Einstein married Elsa Lowenthal (m. 1919-1936) on June 2, 1919, having been in a relationship with her since 1912.  They were cousins – first cousins on his maternal side and second cousins on his paternal side.  Elsa had two daughters, Margot and Ilse.  The Einsteins immigrated to the United States in 1933.  Two years later in 1935 Ela was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems and died in December 1936.        
                Albert Einstein was a “theoretical physicist and philosopher of science.  He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics).  He is best known in popular culture for his mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc2 (which has been dubbed `the world’s most famous equation’).  He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics `for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect’.  The latter was pivotal in establishing quantum theory.

                “Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field.  This led to the development of his special theory of relativity.  He realized, however, that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and with his subsequent theory of gravitation in 1916, he published a paper on the general theory of relativity.  He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules.  He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.  In 1917, Einstein applied the general theory of relativity to model the large-scale structure of the universe.

                “He was visiting the United States when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and, being Jewish, did not go back to Germany, where he had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences.  He settled in the U.S., becoming an American citizen in 1940.  On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential development of `extremely powerful bombs of a new type’ and recommending that the U.S. begin similar research.  This eventually led to what would become the Manhattan Project. Einstein supported defending the Allied forces, but largely denounced the idea of using the newly discovered nuclear fission as a weapon.  Later, with the British philosopher Bertrand Russell, Einstein signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons. Einstein was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, until his death in 1955.

                “Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers along with over 150 non-scientific works.  His intellectual achievements and originality have made the word `Einstein’ synonymous with genius.”

                Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding on April 17, 1955.  The bleeding was caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had been reinforced surgically in 1948.  At the time he was preparing for a television appearance to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the State of Israel.  He took a copy of his speech with him to the hospital but did not live long enough to complete it.

                Einstein refused to have any more surgery and 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.”  He died early the next morning at the age of 76 in the Princeton Hospital.

                “During the autopsy, the pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, removed Einstein’s brain for preservation, without the permission of his family, in the hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent.  Einstein’s remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered at an undisclosed location.

                “In his lecture at Einstein’s memorial, nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer summarized his impression of him as a person:  `He was almost wholly without sophistication and wholly without worldliness….  There was always with him a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”

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