A Biography of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein (1879–1955) is among modern history’s greatest and most influential minds. He authored more than 450 scholarly works during his lifetime, and his advancements in science—including the revolutionary Theory of Relativity and E=mc2, which described for the first time the relationship between an object’s mass and its energy—have earned him renown as “the father of modern physics.”

Born in Ulm, in southwest Germany, Einstein moved to Munich with his family as an infant. As a child, Einstein spoke so infrequently that his parents feared he had a learning disability. But despite difficulties with speech, he was consistently a top student and showed an early aptitude for mathematics and physics, which he later studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich after renouncing his German citizenship to avoid military service in 1896.

After graduation, Einstein married his college girlfriend, Mileva Marić, and they had three children. He attended the University of Zurich for his doctorate and worked at the patent office in Bern, a post he left in 1908 for a teaching position at the University of Bern, followed by a number of professorships throughout Europe that ultimately led him back to Germany in 1914. By this time, Einstein had already become recognized throughout the world for his groundbreaking papers on special relativity, the photoelectric effect, and the relationship between energy and matter. He won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

In 1933, Einstein escaped Nazi Germany and immigrated to the United States with his second wife, Elsa Löwenthal, whom he had married in 1919. He accepted a position at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he stayed for the remainder of his life. At Princeton, Einstein dedicated himself to finding a unified field theory and played a key role in America’s development of atomic weapons. He also campaigned for civil rights as a member of the NAACP and was an ardent supporter of Israel’s Labor Zionist Movement.

Still, Einstein maintained a special affinity for his homeland. His connection to all things German and, in particular, to the scientific community in Berlin was probably the reason that throughout his years in America he so strongly valued his relationships with other German-speaking immigrants. He maintained a deep friendship with the founder of Philosophical Library, Dr. Dagobert D. Runes, who, like Einstein, was a humanist, a civil rights pioneer, and an admirer of Baruch Spinoza. Consequently, many of Albert Einstein’s works were published by Philosophical Library.

At the time of Einstein’s death in 1955, he was universally recognized as one of history’s most brilliant and important scientists.

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Einstein with friends Marcel Grossmann, Eugen Grossmann, and Gustav Geissler in the garden of the Grossmann home in Thalwil, Switzerland, around 1899. Einstein’s discussions with Marcel about elliptic geometry provided one of the sparks that led to Einstein’s development of the General Theory of Relativity.

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Einstein with his first wife, Mileva Marić, and their son Hans Albert, in 1904. Their second son, Eduard, would be born six years later.

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A twenty-six-year-old Einstein during the time he was employed at the Bern patent office, in 1905.

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Paper silhouettes created by Einstein in 1919, the year of his marriage to his second wife, Elsa. The silhouettes depict, from left to right, himself, Elsa, and his stepdaughters Ilse and Margot.

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Einstein lecturing in Vienna, Austria, in January of 1921, the same year he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. 1921 also marked the year of Einstein’s first visit to New York City, followed by weeks of lectures at some of the East Coast’s most prestigious universities.

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Einstein with Elsa in Migdal, Israel, on February 12, 1923.

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Einstein smoking a pipe on the porch of his home in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1938. He was a very ardent pipe smoker and treasured the ritual of selecting different tobaccos and preparing them to be smoked.

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Einstein with his friends poet Itzik Feffer and actor Solomon Mikhoels, in 1943.

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Einstein in his Princeton study on the day that he received his honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in 1949.

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Einstein receiving the honorary degree from Israel S. Wechsler while at his Princeton home in 1949.

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A portrait of Einstein at the Yeshiva University inauguration dinner for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, at Princeton Inn on March 15, 1953.

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