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Albert Einstein (pronounced /ˈælbərt ˈaɪnstaɪn/; German: [ˈalbɐt ˈaɪ̯nʃtaɪ̯n] ( listen); 14 March 1879–18 April 1955) was a theoretical physicist who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time. His many contributions to physics include the special and general theories of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the first post-Newtonian expansion, explaining the perihelion advance of Mercury, prediction of the deflection of light by gravity and gravitational lensing, the first fluctuation dissipation theorem which explained the Brownian movement of molecules, the photon theory and wave-particle duality, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, the semiclassical version of the Schrödinger equation, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation.
Einstein is best known for his theories of special relativity and general relativity. 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.”
Early life and education
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire on 14 March 1879. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer. His mother was Pauline Einstein (née Koch). In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment based on direct current.
Albert Einstein in 1893 (age 14). From Euclid, Einstein began to understand deductive reasoning, and by the age of twelve, he had learned Euclidean geometry. Soon after he began to investigate infinitesimal calculus. At age 16, he performed the first of his famous thought experiments in which he visualized traveling alongside a beam of light.
The Einsteins were non-observant Jews. Their son attended a Catholic elementary school from the age of five until ten. Although Einstein had early speech difficulties, he was a top student in elementary school. As he grew, Einstein built models and mechanical devices for fun and began to show a talent for mathematics. In 1889 Max Talmud (later changed to Max Talmey) introduced the ten-year old Einstein to key texts in science, mathematics and philosophy, including Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements (which Einstein called the "holy little geometry book"). Talmud was a poor Jewish medical student from Poland. The Jewish community arranged for Talmud to take meals with the Einsteins each week on Thursdays for six years. During this time Talmud wholeheartedly guided Einstein through many secular educational interests.
In 1894, his father’s company failed: Direct current (DC) lost the War of Currents to alternating current (AC). In search of business, the Einstein family 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. 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. During this time, Einstein wrote his first scientific work, "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields".
Einstein applied directly to the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (later Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH)) in Zürich, Switzerland. Lacking the requisite Matura certificate, he took an entrance examination, which he failed, although he got exceptional marks in mathematics and physics. The Einsteins sent Albert to Aarau, in northern Switzerland to finish secondary school. While lodging with the family of Professor Jost Winteler, he fell in love with the family’s daughter, Marie. (His sister Maja later married the Winteler son, Paul.) In Aarau, Einstein studied Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. At age 17, he graduated, and, with his father’s approval, renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Württemberg to avoid military service, and enrolled in 1896 in the mathematics and physics program at the Polytechnic in Zurich. Marie Winteler moved to Olsberg, Switzerland for a teaching post.
In the same year, Einstein’s future wife, Mileva Marić, also entered the Polytechnic to study mathematics and physics, the only woman in the academic cohort. Over the next few years, Einstein and Marić’s friendship developed into romance. In a letter to her, Einstein called Marić “a creature who is my equal and who is as strong and independent as I am.” Einstein graduated in 1900 from the Polytechnic with a diploma in mathematics and physics; Although historians have debated whether Marić influenced Einstein’s work, the majority of academic historians of science agree that she did not.
Marriages and children
In early 1902, Einstein and Mileva Marić had a daughter they called Lieserl in their correspondence, who was born in Novi Sad where the parents of Mileva lived. Her full name is not known, and her fate is uncertain after 1903. Einstein and Marić married in January 1903, and in May 1904 the couple’s first son, Hans Albert Einstein, was born in Bern, Switzerland. Their second son, Eduard, was born in Zurich in July 1910. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin, while his wife remained in Zurich with their sons. Marić and Einstein divorced on 14 February 1919, having lived apart for five years. Einstein married Elsa Löwenthal (née Einstein) on 2 June 1919, after having had a relationship with her since 1912. She was his first cousin maternally and his second cousin paternally. In 1933, they emigrated permanently to the United States. In 1935, Elsa Einstein was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems and died in December, 1936.
After graduating, Einstein spent almost two frustrating years searching for a teaching post, but a former classmate’s father helped him secure a job in Bern, at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property, the patent office, as an assistant examiner. He evaluated patent applications for electromagnetic devices. In 1903, Einstein’s position at the Swiss Patent Office became permanent, although he was passed over for promotion until he "fully mastered machine technology".
Much of his work at the patent office related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time, two technical problems that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time.
With friends he met in Bern, Einstein formed a weekly discussion club on science and philosophy, which he jokingly named "The Olympia Academy." Their readings included Henri Poincaré, Ernst Mach, and David Hume, who influenced Einstein’s scientific and philosophical outlook. The next year, Einstein published a paper in the prestigious Annalen der Physik on the capillary forces of a straw.
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