Albert Einstein (German pronunciation (help·info)) (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who is best known for the theory of relativity (and specifically mass-energy equivalence, E = mc2). He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”
Einstein’s many contributions to physics include his special theory of relativity, which reconciled mechanics with electromagnetism, and his general theory of relativity which extended the principle of relativity to non-uniform motion, creating a new theory of gravitation. His other contributions include relativistic cosmology, capillary action, critical opalescence, classical problems of statistical mechanics and their application to quantum theory, an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules, atomic transition probabilities, the quantum theory of a monatomic gas, thermal properties of light with low radiation density (which laid the foundation for the photon theory), a theory of radiation including stimulated emission, the conception of a unified field theory, and the geometrization of physics.
Works by Albert Einstein include more than fifty scientific papers but also non-scientific works, including About Zionism: Speeches and Lectures by Professor Albert Einstein. (1930), “Why War?” (1933, co-authored by Sigmund Freud), The World As I See It (1934), Out of My Later Years (1950), and a book on science for the general reader, The Evolution of Physics (1938, co-authored by Leopold Infeld).
In 1999 Einstein was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Century”, and a poll of prominent physicists named him the greatest physicist of all time. In popular culture the name “Einstein” has become synonymous with genius.Contents [hide]
Youth and schooling
Young Albert before the Einsteins moved from Germany to Italy.
Albert Einstein was born into a Jewish family in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman. His mother was Pauline Einstein, (née Koch).
Although Albert had early speech difficulties, he was a top student in elementary school (Rosenkranz 2005, p. 29).
In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle founded a company, Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, that manufactured electrical equipment, providing the first lighting for the Oktoberfest and cabling for the Munich suburb of Schwabing. The Einsteins were not observant, and Albert attended a Catholic elementary school. At his mother’s insistence, he took violin lessons, and although he disliked them and eventually quit, he would later take great pleasure in Mozart’s violin sonatas.
When Albert was five, his father showed him a pocket compass. Albert realized that something in empty space was moving the needle and later stated that this experience made “a deep and lasting impression”. As he grew, Albert built models and mechanical devices for fun, and began to show a talent for mathematics.
In 1889, a family friend named Max Talmud (later: Talmey), a medical student, introduced the ten-year-old Albert to key science and philosophy texts, including Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements (Einstein called it the “holy little geometry book”). From Euclid, Albert began to understand deductive reasoning (integral to theoretical physics), and by the age of twelve, he learned Euclidean geometry from a school booklet. He soon began to investigate calculus.
In his early teens, Albert attended the new and progressive Luitpold Gymnasium. His father intended for him to pursue electrical engineering, but Albert clashed with authorities and resented the school regimen. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning.
In 1894, when Einstein was fifteen, his father’s business failed and the Einstein family moved to Italy, first to Milan and then, after a few months, to Pavia. During this time, Albert wrote his first “scientific work”, “The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields”. Albert had been left behind in Munich to finish high school, but in the spring of 1895, he withdrew to join his family in Pavia, convincing the school to let him go by using a doctor’s note.
Rather than completing high school Albert decided to apply directly to the ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. Without a school certificate, he was required to take an entrance examination. He did not pass. Einstein wrote that it was in that same year, at age 16, that he first performed his famous thought experiment, visualizing traveling alongside a beam of light.
The Einsteins sent Albert to Aarau, Switzerland to finish secondary school. While lodging with the family of Professor Jost Winteler, he fell in love with the family’s daughter, Sofia Marie-Jeanne Amanda Winteler, called “Marie”. (Albert’s sister, Maja, his confidant, later married Paul Winteler.) In Aarau, Albert studied Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. In 1896, he graduated at age 17, renounced his German citizenship to avoid military service (with his father’s approval), and finally enrolled in the mathematics program at ETH. On February 21, 1901, he gained Swiss citizenship, which he never revoked. Marie moved to Olsberg, Switzerland for a teaching post.
In 1896, Mileva Marić also enrolled at ETH, the only woman studying mathematics. During the next few years, Einstein and Marić’s friendship developed into romance. Einstein’s mother objected because she thought Marić too old, not Jewish and “physically defective”. Einstein and Marić had a daughter, Lieserl Einstein, born in early 1902. Her fate is unknown.
In 1900, Einstein’s friend Michele Besso introduced him to the work of Ernst Mach. The next year, Einstein published a paper in the prestigious Annalen der Physik on the capillary forces of a straw (Einstein 1901). He graduated from ETH with a teaching diploma.
The patent office
The ‘Einsteinhaus’ in Bern where Einstein lived with Mileva on the First floor during his Annus Mirabilis
After graduation, Einstein could not find a teaching post. After almost two years of searching, a former classmate’s father helped him get a job in Bern, at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property, the patent office, as an assistant examiner. His responsibility was evaluating patent applications for electromagnetic devices. He learned to discern the essence of applications despite applicants’ sometimes poor descriptions, and the director taught him “to express [him]self correctly”. Einstein occasionally corrected design errors while evaluating patent applications. In 1903, Einstein’s position at the Swiss Patent Office was made permanent, although he was passed over for promotion until he “fully mastered machine technology”.
Einstein’s college friend, Michele Besso, also worked at the patent office. With friends they met in Bern, they formed a weekly discussion club on science and philosophy, jokingly named “The Olympia Academy”. Their readings included Poincaré, Mach and Hume, who influenced Einstein’s scientific and philosophical outlook.
While this period at the patent office has often been cited as a waste of Einstein’s talents, or as a temporary job with no connection to his interests in physics, the historian of science Peter Galison has argued that Einstein’s work there was connected to his later interests. Much of that work related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time: two technical problems of the day that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time.
Einstein married Mileva Marić on January 6, 1903, and their relationship was, for a time, a personal and intellectual partnership. In a letter to her, Einstein wrote of Mileva as “a creature who is my equal and who is as strong and independent as I am.” There has been debate about whether Marić influenced Einstein’s work; most historians do not think she made major contributions, however. On May 14, 1904, Albert and Mileva’s first son, Hans Albert Einstein, was born. Their second son, Eduard Einstein, was born on July 28, 1910.
The Annus Mirabilis
Albert Einstein, 1905
In 1905, while working in the patent office, Einstein published four times in the Annalen der Physik. These are the papers that history has come to call the Annus Mirabilis Papers:
His paper on the particulate nature of light put forward the idea that certain experimental results, notably the photoelectric effect, could be simply understood from the postulate that light interacts with matter as discrete “packets” (quanta) of energy, an idea that had been introduced by Max Planck in 1900 as a purely mathematical manipulation, and which seemed to contradict contemporary wave theories of light. This was the only work of Einstein’s that he himself pronounced as “revolutionary”. (Einstein 1905a)
His paper on Brownian motion explained the random movement of very small objects as direct evidence of molecular action, thus supporting the atomic theory. (Einstein 1905c)
His paper on electrodynamics of moving bodies proposed the radical theory of special relativity, which showed that the independence of an observer’s state of motion on the observed speed of light requires fundamental changes to the notion of simultaneity, with consequences such as clocks appearing to slow down and rulers contract when in motion. This paper also argued that the idea of a luminiferous aether—one of the leading theoretical entities in physics at the time—was superfluous. (Einstein 1905d)
In his paper on the equivalence of matter and energy (previously considered to be distinct concepts), Einstein deduced from his equations of special relativity what would later become the most famous expression in all of science: E = mc2, suggesting that tiny amounts of mass could be converted into huge amounts of energy.(Einstein 1905e)
All four papers are today recognized as tremendous achievements—and hence 1905 is known as Einstein’s “Wonderful Year”. At the time, however, they were not noticed by most physicists as being important, and many of those who did notice them rejected them outright. Some of this work—such as the theory of light quanta—would remain controversial for years. (Pais 1982, pp. 382-386)
At the age of 26, having studied under Alfred Kleiner, Professor of Experimental Physics, Einstein was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. His dissertation was entitled “A new determination of molecular dimensions.” (Einstein 1905b)
In 1906, the patent office promoted Einstein to Technical Examiner Second Class, but he was not giving up on academia. In 1908, he became a privatdozent at the University of Bern (Pais 1982, p. 522). In 1910, he wrote a paper on critical opalescence that described the cumulative effect of light scattered by individual molecules in the atmosphere, i.e. why the sky is blue (Levenson 2005).
During 1909, Einstein published “Über die Entwicklung unserer Anschauungen über das Wesen und die Konstitution der Strahlung” (“The Development of Our Views on the Composition and Essence of Radiation”), on the quantization of light. In this and in an earlier 1909 paper, Einstein showed that Max Planck’s energy quanta must have well-defined momenta and act in some respects as independent, point-like particles. This paper introduced the photon concept (although the term itself was introduced by Gilbert N. Lewis in 1926). Even more importantly, Einstein showed that light must be simultaneously a wave and a particle.
In 1911, Einstein became an associate professor at the University of Zurich. However, shortly afterward, he accepted a full professorship at the Charles University of Prague. While in Prague, Einstein published a paper about the effects of gravity on light, specifically the gravitational redshift and the gravitational deflection of light. The paper appealed to astronomers to find ways of detecting the deflection during a solar eclipse. German astronomer Erwin Freundlich publicized Einstein’s challenge to scientists around the world (Crelinsten 2006).
In 1912, Einstein returned to Switzerland to accept a professorship at his alma mater, the ETH. There he met mathematician Marcel Grossmann who introduced him to Riemannian geometry, and at the recommendation of Italian mathematician Tullio Levi-Civita, Einstein began exploring the usefulness of general covariance (essentially the use of tensors) for his gravitational theory. Although for a while Einstein thought that there were problems with that approach, he later returned to it and by late 1915 had published his general theory of relativity in the form that is still used today (Einstein 1915). This theory explains gravitation as distortion of the structure of spacetime by matter, affecting the inertial motion of other matter.
After many relocations, Mileva established a permanent home with the children in Zurich in 1914, just before the start of World War I. Einstein continued on alone to Germany, more precisely to Berlin, where he became a member of the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften. As part of the arrangements for his new position, he also became a professor at the University of Berlin, although with a special clause freeing him from most teaching obligations. From 1914 to 1932 he was also director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for physics (Kant 2005).
During World War I, the speeches and writings of Central Powers scientists were only available to Central Powers academics for national security reasons. Some of Einstein’s work did reach the United Kingdom and the USA through the efforts of the Austrian Paul Ehrenfest and physicists in the Netherlands, especially 1902 Nobel Prize-winner Hendrik Lorentz and Willem de Sitter of the Leiden University. After the war ended, Einstein maintained his relationship with the Leiden University, accepting a contract as a buitengewoon hoogleraar; he travelled to Holland regularly to lecture there between 1920 and 1946.
In 1917, Einstein published an article in Physikalische Zeitschrift that proposed the possibility of stimulated emission, the physical technique that makes possible the laser (Einstein 1917b). He also published a paper introducing a new notion, a cosmological constant, into the general theory of relativity in an attempt to model the behavior of the entire universe (Einstein 1917a).
1917 was the year astronomers began taking Einstein up on his 1911 challenge from Prague. The Mount Wilson Observatory in California, USA, published a solar spectroscopic analysis that showed no gravitational redshift (Crelinsten 2006, pp. 103-108). In 1918, the Lick Observatory, also in California, announced that they too had disproven Einstein’s prediction, although their findings were not published (Crelinsten 2006, pp. 114–119, 126–140).
One of the 1919 eclipse photographs taken during Arthur Eddington’s expedition, which confirmed Einstein’s predictions of the gravitational bending of light.
However, in May of 1919, a team led by British astronomer Arthur Eddington claimed to have confirmed Einstein’s prediction of gravitational deflection of starlight by the Sun while photographing a solar eclipse in Brazil and Principe (Crelinsten 2006). On November 7, 1919, leading British newspaper The Times printed a banner headline that read: “Revolution in Science – New Theory of the Universe – Newtonian Ideas Overthrown”. In an interview Nobel laureate Max Born praised general relativity as the “greatest feat of human thinking about nature”; fellow laureate Paul Dirac was quoted saying it was “probably the greatest scientific discovery ever made” (Schmidhuber 2006).
In their excitement, the world media made Albert Einstein world-famous. Ironically, later examination of the photographs taken on the Eddington expedition showed that the experimental uncertainty was of about the same magnitude as the effect Eddington claimed to have demonstrated, and in 1962 a British expedition concluded that the method used was inherently unreliable. The deflection of light during an eclipse has, however, been more accurately measured (and confirmed) by later observations.
There was some resentment toward the newcomer Einstein’s fame in the scientific community, notably among German physicists, who would later start the Deutsche Physik (German Physics) movement (Hentschel & Hentschel 1996, p. xxi).
Having lived apart for five years, Einstein and Mileva divorced on February 14, 1919. On June 2 of that year, Einstein married Elsa Löwenthal, who had nursed him through an illness. Elsa was Albert’s first cousin (maternally) and his second cousin (paternally). Together the Einsteins raised Margot and Ilse, Elsa’s daughters from her first marriage.
The Nobel Prize
In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. This refers to his 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect: “On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light”, which was well supported by the experimental evidence by that time. The presentation speech began by mentioning “his theory of relativity [which had] been the subject of lively debate in philosophical circles [and] also has astrophysical implications which are being rigorously examined at the present time.” (Einstein 1923)
Einstein travelled to New York City in the United States for the first time on April 2, 1921. When asked where he got his scientific ideas, Einstein explained that he believed scientific work best proceeds from an examination of physical reality and a search for underlying axioms, with consistent explanations that apply in all instances and avoid contradicting each other. He also recommended theories with visualizable results (Einstein 1954).
See also: History of special relativity
Max Planck presents Einstein with the Max-Planck medal, Berlin June 28 1929
Unified field theory
Einstein’s research after general relativity consisted primarily of a long series of attempts to generalize his theory of gravitation in order to unify and simplify the fundamental laws of physics, particularly gravitation and electromagnetism. In 1950, he described this “Unified Field Theory” in a Scientific American article entitled “On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation” (Einstein 1950).
Although he continued to be lauded for his work in theoretical physics, Einstein became increasingly isolated in his research, and his attempts were ultimately unsuccessful. In his pursuit of a unification of the fundamental forces, he ignored mainstream developments in physics (and vice versa), most notably the strong and weak nuclear forces, which were not well understood until many years after Einstein’s death. Einstein’s goal of unifying the laws of physics under a single model survives in the current drive for the grand unification theory.
Collaboration and conflict
In 1924, Einstein received a statistical model from Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose which showed that light could be understood as a gas. Bose’s statistics applied to some atoms as well as to the proposed light particles, and Einstein published an article in the Zeitschrift für Physik describing Bose’s model and its implications, among them the Bose–Einstein condensate phenomenon that should appear at very low temperatures. It wasn’t until 1995 that the first such condensate was produced experimentally by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman using ultra-cooling equipment built at the NIST-JILA laboratory at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Bose–Einstein statistics are now used to describe the behaviors of any assembly of “bosons”. Einstein’s sketches for this project may be seen in the Einstein Archive in the library of the Leiden University (Instituut-Lorentz 2005).
Einstein worked with Erwin Schrödinger on a refinement of the Boltzmann distribution, a mixed classical and quantum mechanical gas model, although he declined to have his name included on the paper.
The Einstein refrigerator
In 1926, Einstein and his former student Leó Szilárd, a Hungarian physicist who later worked on the Manhattan Project and is credited with the discovery of the chain reaction, co-invented (and in 1930, patented) the Einstein refrigerator, revolutionary for having no moving parts and using only heat, not ice, as an input (Goettling 1998).
Einstein and Niels Bohr. Photo taken by Paul Ehrenfest during their visit to Leiden in December 1925.
Bohr vs. Einstein
As quantum theory extended to quantum mechanics, Einstein began to object to the Copenhagen Interpretation developed by physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. The public debate between Einstein and Bohr lasted for years. In a 1926 letter to Max Born, Einstein wrote: “I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.” (Einstein 1969) Bohr told Born to tell Einstein: “Stop telling God what to do.”
Einstein’s disagreement with Bohr revolved around scientific determinism. Although Bohr rebutted all of Einstein’s specific arguments against the prevailing interpretation of quantum theory, Einstein was never satisfied by its intrinsically incomplete description of nature. In 1935, he collaborated with Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen on further exploration of his concerns, which became known as the EPR paradox.
The question of scientific determinism gave rise to questions about Einstein’s position on theological determinism, and even whether or not he believed in God. In 1929, Einstein told Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”(Brian 1996, p. 127)
By his own definition, Einstein was a deeply religious person (Pais 1982, p. 319). He published a paper in Nature in 1940 entitled Science and Religion which gave his views on the subject. In this he says that: “a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value … regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation…In this sense religion is the age-old endeavour of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals, and constantly to strengthen their effects.” He argues that conflicts between science and religion “have all sprung from fatal errors.” However “even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other” there are “strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies”… “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind …a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist.” However he makes it clear that he does not believe in a personal God, and suggests that “neither the rule of human nor Divine Will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted…by science, for [it] can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.” (Einstein 1940, pp. 605-607)
Einstein championed the work of psychologist Paul Diel, which posited a biological and psychological, rather than theological or sociological, basis for morality.
The most thorough exploration of Einstein’s views on religion was made by his friend Max Jammer in the 1999 book Einstein and Religion.(Jammer 1999)
Einstein was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association beginning in 1934, and was an admirer of Ethical Culture (Ericson 2006). He served on the advisory board of the First Humanist Society of New York (See Stringer-Hye 1999 and Wilson 1995).
Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore with Einstein during their widely-publicized July 14, 1930 conversation
With increasing public demands, his involvement in political, humanitarian and academic projects in various countries and his new acquaintances with scholars and political figures from around the world, Einstein was less able to get the productive isolation that, according to biographer Ronald W. Clark, he needed in order to work (Clark 1971). As “the smartest man alive” Einstein found himself called on, like Solomon, to give conclusive judgments on matters that had nothing to do with theoretical physics or mathematics. He was not a timid man, and he was a man who was aware of the world around him, with no illusion that ignoring politics would make world events fade away. His very visible position allowed him to speak and write frankly, even provocatively, at a time when many people of conscience could only flee to the underground or keep doubts about developments within their own movements to themselves for fear of internecine fighting. Einstein flouted the ascendant Nazi movement, tried to be a voice of moderation in the tumultuous formation of the State of Israel and braved anti-communist politics and resistance to the civil rights movement in the United States. He became honorary president of the League against Imperialism created in Brussels in 1927.
Albert Einstein wearing a kippah and holding a violin during a service in a Berlin Synagogue, 1930
Einstein was a cultural zionist. Einstein was a co-founder of the liberal German Democratic Party. In 1931, The Macmillan Company published About Zionism: Speeches and Lectures by Professor Albert Einstein. Querido Ferlag, an Amsterdam publishing house, collected eleven of Einstein’s essays into a 1933 book entitled Mein Weltbild, translated to English as The World as I See It; Einstein’s forward dedicates the collection “to the Jews of Germany”. In the face of Germany’s rising militarism Einstein wrote and spoke for peace (American Museum of Natural History 2002).
In January of 1933, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany. One of the first actions of Hitler’s administration was the “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums” (the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service) which removed Jews and politically suspect government employees (including university professors) from their jobs, unless they had demonstrated their loyalty to Germany by serving in World War I. In December of 1932, Einstein had prudently travelled to the USA to become a guest lecturer at Abraham Flexner’s newly founded Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein once again renounced his German citizenship and applied for permanent residency in the United States.
Albert Einstein receiving his certificate of American citizenship from Judge Phillip Forman.
The U.S. was not entirely a safe haven for Einstein, however. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s file on him grew to 1,427 pages. Many of the documents in the file were sent to the FBI by concerned citizens, some objecting to his immigration and others asking the FBI to protect him (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2005). Einstein became an American citizen in 1940 although he retained Swiss citizenship.
The Einstein family bought a house in Princeton (where Elsa died in 1936), and Einstein remained an integral contributor to the Institute for Advanced Study until his death in 1955. During the 1930s and into World War II, Einstein wrote affidavits recommending United States visas for a huge number of Europeans, raised money for Zionist organizations and was in part responsible for the formation, in 1933, of the International Rescue Committee (Princeton Online 1995).
Meanwhile, a campaign to eliminate Einstein’s work from the German lexicon as unacceptable “Jewish physics” was led by Nobel laureates Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark. Deutsche Physik activists published pamphlets and even textbooks denigrating Einstein; instructors who taught his theories were blacklisted, including Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg who had debated quantum probability with Bohr and Einstein. Einstein’s scientific papers were among those destroyed in public book burnings on May 10, 1933.
In 1946 Einstein and Leó Szilárd recreate the writing of their 1939 letter to President Roosevelt.
In 1939, Leo Szilárd and Einstein wrote a letter to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt warning that the Third Reich might be developing nuclear weapons based on their own research. Roosevelt formed a committee to investigate the matter and granted Enrico Fermi’s University of Chicago neutron experiments $6,000, the first steps toward the Manhattan Project. According to chemist and author Linus Pauling, Einstein later expressed regret about the Szilárd-Einstein letter. Within five years, the United States created its own nuclear weapons, but used them on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Albert Einstein seen here with his wife Elsa Einstein and Zionist leaders, including future President of Israel Chaim Weizmann, his wife Dr. Vera Weizmann, Menachem Ussishkin and Ben-Zion Mossinson on arrival in New York City in 1921.
Despite his years of Zionist efforts, Einstein publicly stated reservations about the proposal to partition the British-supervised British Mandate of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish countries. In a 1938 speech, “Our Debt to Zionism”, he said: “I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain – especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish state.” (Rowe & Schulmann 2007) The United Nations did divide the mandate, demarcating the borders of several new countries including the State of Israel, and war broke out immediately. Einstein was one of the authors of a 1948 letter to the New York Times criticizing Menachem Begin’s Revisionist Herut (Freedom) Party for the Deir Yassin massacre (Einstein et al. 1948). Einstein served on the Board of Governors of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, built in 1918. The Board had also included psychologist Sigmund Freud and philosopher Martin Buber, as well as chemist Chaim Weizmann who became the first President of Israel. In his Will of 1950, Einstein bequeathed literary rights to his writings to The Hebrew University, where many of his original documents are held in the Albert Einstein Archives (Albert Einstein Archives 2007).
When President Weizmann died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be Israel’s second president but he declined . He wrote: “I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.” (Princeton Online 1995)
Cold War era
Einstein and Solomon Mikhoels, the chairman of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, in 1943.
When he was a visible figure working against the rise of Nazism, Einstein had sought help and developed working relationships in both the West and what was to become the Soviet bloc. After World War II, enmity between the former allies became a very serious issue for people with international resumes. To make things worse, during the first days of McCarthyism Einstein was writing about a single world government; it was at this time that he wrote, “I do not know how the third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what the they will use in the Fourth–rocks!” (Calaprice 2005, p. 173) In a 1949 Monthly Review article entitled “Why Socialism?” Albert Einstein described a chaotic capitalist society, a source of evil to be overcome, as the “predatory phase of human development” (Einstein 1949). With Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell, Einstein lobbied to stop nuclear testing and future bombs. Days before his death, Einstein signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
Einstein has been quoted as saying “Racism is America’s greatest disease.” Einstein was a member of several civil rights groups, including the Princeton chapter of the NAACP. He served as co-chair with Paul Robeson of the American Crusade to End Lynching. When the aged W.E.B. DuBois was accused of being a communist spy, Einstein volunteered as a character witness and the case was dismissed shortly afterward. Einstein’s friendship with activist Paul Robeson lasted more than 20 years.
In 1946, Einstein collaborated with Rabbi Israel Goldstein, Middlesex heir C. Ruggles Smith, and activist attorney George Alpert on the Albert Einstein Foundation for Higher Learning, Inc., which was formed to create a Jewish-sponsored secular university, open to all students, on the grounds of the former Middlesex College in Waltham, Massachusetts. Middlesex was chosen in part because it was accessible from both Boston and New York City, Jewish cultural centers of the USA. Their vision was a university “deeply conscious both of the Hebraic tradition of Torah looking upon culture as a birthright, and of the American ideal of an educated democracy.” (Reis 1998) The collaboration was stormy, however. Finally, when Einstein wanted to appoint British economist Harold J. Laski as the university’s president, Albert wrote that Laski was “a man utterly alien to American principles of democracy, tarred with the Communist brush.” (Reis 1998) Einstein withdrew his support and barred the use of his name (New York Times 1947). The university opened in 1948 as Brandeis University. In 1953, Brandeis offered Einstein an honorary degree, but he declined (Reis 1998).
Albert Einstein laughing with Israeli diplomat, Abba Eban (left), 1952
On April 17, 1955, Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an aortic aneurism. He took a 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. (Albert Einstein Archives 1955) He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, leaving his generalized theory of gravitation incomplete. Einstein’s remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered (O’Connor & Robertson 1997).
Before the cremation, Princeton Hospital pathologist Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed Einstein’s brain for preservation, in hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent.
While travelling, Einstein had written daily to his wife Elsa and adopted stepdaughters, Margot and Ilse, and the letters were included in the papers bequeathed to The Hebrew University. Margot Einstein permitted the personal letters to be made available to the public, but requested that it not be done until twenty years after her death. Barbara Wolff, of the The Hebrew University’s Albert Einstein Archives, told the BBC that there are about 3,500 pages of private correspondence written between 1912 and 1955 (BBC 2006).
The United States’ National Academy of Sciences commissioned the Albert Einstein Memorial, a monumental bronze and marble sculpture by Robert Berks, erected at its Washington, D.C. campus adjacent to the National Mall.
Einstein bequeathed the royalties from use of his image to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Roger Richman Agency licences the use of his name and associated imagery, as agent for the Hebrew University. (Roger Richman Agency 2007)
A 5 Israeli pound note from 1968 with the portrait of Einstein.
Albert Einstein, Person of the Century
In 1999, Albert Einstein was named “Person of the Century” by Time magazine (Golden 2000), the Gallup Poll recorded him as the fourth most admired person of the 20th century and according to The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Einstein is “the greatest scientist of the twentieth century and one of the supreme intellects of all time” (Hart 1978).
A partial list of his memorials:
The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics named 2005 the “World Year of Physics” in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Annus Mirabilis Papers.
The Albert Einstein Memorial by Robert Berks
A unit used in photochemistry, the einstein
The chemical element 99, einsteinium
The asteroid 2001 Einstein
The Albert Einstein Award
The Albert Einstein Peace Prize
Einstein in popular culture
Albert Einstein, 1951. Arthur Sasse, photographer
On Einstein’s 72nd birthday in 1951, UPI photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera, but having smiled for photographers many times that day, Einstein stuck out his tongue instead (Kupper 2000).
Australian film maker Yahoo Serious used the birthday photograph as inspiration for his movie Young Einstein, indeed, Albert Einstein has been the subject of or inspiration for many novels, films and plays. For a sample of them, see Jean-Claude Carrier’s 2005 French novel, Einstein S’il Vous Plait (“Please, Mr Einstein”), Nicolas Roeg’s film Insignificance, Fred Schepisi’s film I.Q. (where he was portrayed by Walter Matthau), Alan Lightman’s collection of short stories Einstein’s Dreams, and Steve Martin’s comedic play Picasso at the Lapin Agile. He was the subject of Philip Glass’s groundbreaking 1976 opera Einstein on the Beach and his humorous side is the subject of Ed Metzger’s one-man play Albert Einstein: The Practical Bohemian.
Einstein is a favorite model for depictions of mad scientists and absent-minded professors; his expressive face and distinctive hairstyle have been widely copied and exaggerated. Time magazine’s Frederic Golden wrote that Einstein was “a cartoonist’s dream come true.” (Golden 2000)
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