Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein, photograph by Ferdinand Schmutzer , 1921
Albert Einstein's signature

Albert Einstein (born March 14, 1879 in Ulm , Württemberg , German Reich ; † April 18, 1955 in Princeton , New Jersey , United States ) was a German physicist with Swiss and US citizenship. He is considered one of the most important theoretical physicists in the history of science and the most famous scientist of modern times worldwide . His research on the structure of matter ,Space and time as well as the nature of gravity significantly changed the previously valid Newtonian worldview.

Einstein's main work, the theory of relativity , made him world famous. In 1905 his work was published with the title On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, the content of which is now referred to as special relativity . In 1915 he published the general theory of relativity . He also made significant contributions to quantum physics . "For his services to theoretical physics, especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect, " he received the Nobel Prize in 1921, which was presented to him in 1922. Contrary to popular opinion, his theoretical work only played an indirect role in the construction of the atomic bomb and the development of nuclear energy .

Albert Einstein is considered the epitome of researcher and genius . He also used his extraordinary fame outside of the scientific community in his work for international understanding and peace .

In the course of his life Einstein was a citizen of several countries: by birth he was a citizen of Württemberg . Stateless from 1896 to 1901 , from 1901 until his death a Swiss citizen , he was also a citizen of Austria in Austria-Hungary in 1911/1912 . Einstein lived in Berlin from 1914 to 1932 and, as a citizen of Prussia, was again a citizen of the German Reich . With the seizure of power of Hitler he gave in 1933 a German passport final and was in 1934 by the German Reich strafausgebürgert . In addition to his Swiss citizenship , he acquired citizenship of the United States in 1940 .


Childhood and youth

Ancestors and parental home

Hermann Einstein, the father of Albert Einstein
Pauline Einstein, b. Koch, the mother of Albert Einstein

The parents Hermann Einstein (August 30, 1847 to October 10, 1902) and Pauline Einstein , b. Koch (February 8, 1858 to February 20, 1920, born in Cannstatt , Württemberg; died in Berlin ), both came from Jewish families who had lived in the Swabian region for centuries. The maternal grandparents had changed their surname Dörzbacher to Koch. The paternal grandparents still had traditional Jewish first names , Abraham and Hindel Einstein. That changed with Albert Einstein's parents.

His father Hermann Einstein came from the small Upper Swabian town of Buchau , where there had been an important Jewish community within the territory of the Buchau women's monastery since the Middle Ages (see also: Einstein family in Bad Buchau ). The first known ancestor Albert Einstein, a horse and cloth merchant from the Lake Constance area named Baruch Moses Ainstein, was accepted into the community in the 17th century. The names of many of Einstein's relatives can still be found on the tombstones of the Buchau Jewish cemetery ; including that of the city's last Jew, Siegbert Einstein, a great-nephew of the physicist who had survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp and was temporarily the second mayor of Buchau.

Hermann Einstein moved to Ulm with his brothers in 1869. There he married Pauline Koch in 1876 and lived at Bahnhofstrasse B135, where Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879. Albert grew up in an assimilated , not strictly religious German-Jewish middle class family. Later, shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein spoke to the Ulmer Abendpost about his hometown as follows:

“The city of birth attaches to life as something as unique as the origins of the birth mother. We also owe part of our being to the city of birth. So I think of Ulm with gratitude, as it combines noble artistic tradition with a simple and healthy nature. "

- March 18, 1929

Albert Einstein kept in touch with his only slightly older cousin Lina Einstein, who lived in Ulm. In 1940, at the age of 65, she was forcibly committed to the Oberstotzingen Jewish retirement home. Albert's attempts to obtain an exit permit for Lina to the USA failed. In 1942 Lina Einstein was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and murdered in the Treblinka extermination camp in the same year .

Munich and school education until 1894

The family moved to Munich shortly after Albert was born in 1880 , where his father and uncle founded a small business for gas and water installation in October 1880. Since this was economically satisfactory, they decided in 1885, with the support of the entire family, to set up their own factory for electrical devices (Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie) . His father's company was successful and supplied power plants in Munich-Schwabing, Varese and Susa (Italy). Two and a half years after Albert, his sister Maja (born November 18, 1881 in Munich, † June 25, 1951 in Princeton, New Jersey, USA) was born. Whether Albert came to the Isar at that time or not until 1885 when he was six is ​​a matter of dispute among historians. What is certain, however, is that the family lived in a building in the backyard of Adlzreiterstraße 12, which today belongs to the property at Lindwurmstraße  127 in Munich's Isarvorstadt district.

Einstein as a youth, 1893

Albert Einstein started speaking at the age of three. At school he was a lively, sometimes even rebellious student. His grades were good to very good, less good in languages ​​but outstanding in science. Einstein read popular science books and got an overview of the state of research. Especially the Natural Sciences chapbooks of Aaron Bernstein are considered as characteristic for his interest and his future career. This also includes the font by Felix Eberty Die Gestirne and World History. Thoughts about space, time and eternity, which Einstein wrote a foreword for the new edition in 1923. In 1884 he began playing the violin and received private lessons. In the following year he went to elementary school, from 1888 he attended the Luitpold-Gymnasium (after various relocations it was named Albert-Einstein-Gymnasium in 1965 ). It should not be confused with today's Luitpold-Gymnasium in Munich.

The company of the father and the beloved uncle had since closed and the family moved on to Milan in 1894 . Fifteen-year-old Albert was supposed to stay at the Luitpold-Gymnasium until he graduated from high school, but was insulted by the director and came into conflict with the discipline and orderly school system of the German Empire - but he was open about this. Teachers accused him that his disrespect rubbed off on classmates. In late 1894, Einstein defiantly decided to leave school without a degree and to follow his family to Milan. Another motive could have been to evade army service. If Einstein had stayed in Germany until the age of 17, he would have been called up for military service - a prospect that terrified him.

Switzerland 1895–1914

The way to study: Matura in Aarau

Einstein's high school diploma ; in Switzerland , “6” is the best and “1” is the worst

In the spring and summer of 1895 Einstein stayed in Pavia , where his parents lived temporarily, and helped out in the company. He made trips to the Alps and the Apennines and visited his uncle Julius Koch in Genoa . During this time, 16-year-old Einstein wrote his first scientific work, an essay entitled On the Investigation of the State of Ether in the Magnetic Field, and sent it to his uncle Caesar Koch (1854–1941), who lived in Belgium , for assessment. The work was never published as a scientific contribution in a journal and remained in the form of a discussion contribution.

Memorial on the site of Einstein's birthplace in Ulm
Einstein's house in Aarau

Einstein did not comply with his father's wish that he should study electrical engineering . Instead, he followed a suggestion from a friend of the family and applied for a place at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, today's ETH Zurich . Since he did not yet have a high school diploma or a Swiss Matura , he had to take an entrance examination in October 1895, which he - as the youngest participant at the age of 16 - did not pass. He mastered the scientific part with flying colors and failed due to a lack of knowledge of French .

On the mediation of the mechanical engineering professor Albin Herzog, who was convinced by him, he then attended the trade school at the liberally run Aargau canton school in Switzerland in order to catch up on the Matura. During this time in Aarau he stayed with the Winteler family . He moved in there for a year in October 1895; a liaison soon began with Marie Winteler, two years her senior. At the beginning of 1896, Einstein gave up his Wuerttemberg and thus also his German citizenship and at the same time did not register as a religious community. He remained stateless for the next five years.

On October 3, 1896, Einstein's “Maturitätprüfung” certificate was given five times the best possible school grade , in Switzerland a six. The worst grade was a three in French. The rumor that Einstein was generally a bad student is wrong: It goes back to Einstein's first biographer, who confused the Swiss grading system with the German one.

Studied at the Polytechnic in Zurich

Publication of Einstein's specialist teacher diploma

After Einstein had made up his Matura at the Cantonal School in Aarau, he began his studies at the school for subject teachers of the Polytechnic Zurich (today ETH Zurich ) at the beginning of the academic year 1896 .

Einstein was not only interested in learning formal knowledge , but rather theoretical and physical thought projects inspired him. He often offended with his idiosyncrasy. The abstract mathematical education was a thorn in his side for him, he considered it a hindrance for the problem-oriented physicist. In the lectures, the teaching professor noticed him mainly because of his absence. For the exams he relied on the transcripts of his fellow students. This ignorance not only blocked his career opportunities at his university, he regretted them at the latest when he developed the mathematically highly demanding general theory of relativity . His fellow student Marcel Grossmann was of great help to him later.

Einstein left the university in 1900 with a diploma as a subject teacher in mathematics , which also included physics. He completed his diploma thesis in physics with Heinrich Friedrich Weber . However, he did not succeed in getting a job as an assistant at the polytechnic after graduating.

From private tutor to the patent office in Bern

Academy Olympia - Habicht, Solovine and Einstein, 1903

His applications for assistant positions at the Polytechnic and other universities were rejected. He hired himself as a private tutor in Winterthur , Schaffhausen and finally in Bern . In 1901 his application for Swiss citizenship was granted. On June 16, 1902, on the recommendation of his friend Marcel Grossmann, Einstein got a permanent position: as a third-class technical expert at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern.

During his probationary period at the Patent Office, his regular meetings began with the philosophy student Maurice Solovine and the mathematics student Conrad Habicht , which were known as the Olympia Academy and ended in 1904.

Family situation

Mileva Marić and Albert Einstein, 1912

During his studies, Einstein met his fellow student and future wife, Mileva Marić from Novi Sad . After his father's death at the end of 1902, the two married on January 6, 1903 in Bern - against the will of the families. With Marić, Einstein had a daughter and two sons, Hans Albert (1904–1973) and Eduard (1910–1965). The daughter Lieserl was born to Maric's parents in Novi Sad in 1902 before the marriage and either died early or was given to Belgrade for adoption in 1903 . Despite an intensive search, the fate of the child is unknown. The existence of their daughter was kept secret even from the friends. It was not until 1987, when Einstein's letters to Marić were published from 1897 to 1903, that it became known that their daughter had been born before the marriage. The marriage was divorced in 1919.

From October 1903 to May 1905 Einstein and Marić lived in the old town of Bern at Kramgasse 49, today's Einsteinhaus Bern , which houses a museum.

From the first publications to the famous formula E = mc² (1905)

Einstein's dissertation, 1905
Albert Einstein on a German commemorative stamp for the year of physics 2005

In 1905, at the age of 26 , Einstein published five of his most important works, including:

  • On March 17, 1905, he finished his work on the photoelectric effect , which he then published as a heuristic point of view concerning the generation and transformation of light .
  • On April 30, 1905, he completed his dissertation A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions, with which he submitted his application for a doctorate to Professors Alfred Kleiner and Heinrich Burkhardt on July 20 at the University of Zurich . He chose the University of Zurich because there was no rigorosum (oral examination) due to an agreement with the Polytechnic where Einstein studied. In his dissertation he calculated the size of sugar molecules in solution and from this a value for the Avogadro constant . It is related to his work on Brownian molecular motion, published in the same year, and supported the atomic hypothesis, which was still controversial among leading physicists ( Wilhelm Ostwald , Ernst Mach ). The work was accepted relatively quickly by Burkhardt and Kleiner (the doctoral procedure was completed in July). Paul Drude , the editor of the Annalen der Physik, to whom Einstein had sent the work, was not satisfied with the value found for the Avogadro constant and asked for improvements, which Einstein also delivered. This led to a six-month delay in publication and Einstein was therefore only formally awarded his doctorate on January 15, 1906. Four years later (1909), when Jean Perrin's experiments became known, Einstein turned to Perrin for an experimental review, and at the same time Ludwig Hopf , whom Einstein had asked to review his dissertation, found a mistake in his dissertation that was the result had falsified. Einstein then sent a correction to the annals in 1911.
  • His publication on Brownian molecular motion followed on May 11, 1905 : On the motion of particles suspended in liquids at rest, required by the molecular kinetic theory of heat.
  • On June 30, 1905, Einstein submitted his treatise on the electrodynamics of moving bodies . Shortly afterwards Einstein made his addendum. Does the inertia of a body depend on its energy content? The latter implicitly contains for the first time what is probably the most famous formula in the world, E = mc² (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, equivalence of mass and energy ). Both works together are now referred to as the special theory of relativity .

The year 1905 was therefore an extremely fruitful year, one also speaks of the annus mirabilis (miracle year). Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker later wrote:

“1905 an explosion of genius. Four publications on various topics, each of which, as they say today, is worthy of the Nobel Prize: the special theory of relativity , the light quantum hypothesis , the confirmation of the molecular structure of matter through the 'Brownian movement', the quantum-theoretical explanation of the specific heat of solid bodies. "

- Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker

The steps up to the new theory of gravity

When Einstein started the long journey from the special to the general theory of relativity in 1907, he was still a largely unknown employee in the Bern patent office. At the end of the road, in 1915, he was a professor in Berlin who was already highly respected in specialist circles, who, as Planck later said, could only be “measured by the achievements of Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton”.

The path to the general theory of relativity began in 1907 on the one hand with the flash of inspiration that Einstein described as "the happiest thought of my life", on the other hand with a limitation of his previous work on relativity, which was of a fundamental nature. The latter was the insight that the speed of light is not a constant under the influence of gravity, so the special theory of relativity could only be valid under the condition that there was no gravity, as Einstein repeated in an essay from 1911: “The theory of relativity has shown that the inert mass of a body increases with its energy content. (...) The so satisfactory result of the theory of relativity, according to which the principle of the conservation of mass merges into the principle of the conservation of energy, would not be sustainable. "

The flash of inspiration, on the other hand, concerned the equivalence between inert and heavy mass, i.e. the correspondence between the constant acceleration of a reference system and gravity: “I was sitting in my chair in the Bern patent office when the following thought suddenly occurred to me: 'When a person is in free fall 'Then she doesn't feel her own weight'. I was amazed. That simple thought made a deep impression on me. He drove me towards a theory of gravity. "

However, more than three years would pass before the first paper in which this flash of inspiration led to a more detailed physical formulation, because "From December 1907 to June 1911 (...) Einstein did not comment on questions of gravity," said his friend and Biographer Abraham Pais .

In 1908, however, there was a groundbreaking innovation that Einstein was initially skeptical about and which he even dismissed as “superfluous erudition”: the mathematical formulation of space-time by his former teacher Hermann Minkowski , whose authorship of this revolutionary conception was later expressly recognized by Einstein was recognized.

In the Minkowski space , the relative ratio of the sizes of space and time in the special theory of relativity can be clearly represented as a rotation by setting an imaginary unit of time. It was not until 1912 that Einstein was convinced of the advantages of the Minkowski room.

Some of the most important essays of the later general relativity theory at a glance:

  • About the principle of relativity and the conclusions drawn from it.
  • About the influence of gravity on the spread of light. According to Huygens' principle, Einstein only found a deviation of the light rays from fixed stars near the sun of 0.83 arc seconds, the value calculated using the field equations of 1915 was 1.7 arc seconds.
  • Draft of a generalized theory of relativity and a theory of gravitation. I. Physical part of Albert Einstein. II. Mathematical part by Marcel Grossmann.
  • Nordstrom's theory of gravity from the standpoint of the general differential calculus. With AD Fokker . A reaction to Gunnar Nordström's alternative theory of gravity and a “publication of considerable interest for the history of general relativity because it is Einstein's first treatment of the theory of gravity in which general covariance is strictly valid”.
  • To the general theory of relativity. November 4, 1915.

Since the still conventional definition of the distance in flat (non-curved) Minkowski space does not apply equally to curved spacetime, it had to be replaced there by a more abstract expression, just as a geometry was required with which Gauss's surface theory of curved spaces was required could be expanded in four dimensions. Einstein's mathematical knowledge at the time was insufficient for this, and so in 1912 he turned to his former fellow student Marcel Grossmann , who was now professor of mathematics in Zurich. Einstein had “asked him to go to the library to see if there was a suitable theory for dealing with such questions. The next day Grossmann came (...) and said that there really was such a geometry, namely the Riemannian geometry. "

As a result, Grossmann not only sought out the works of Riemann , but also those of Christoffel , Ricci and his pupil Levi-Civita , some of which were already doing research on the absolute differential calculus in curved spaces, the formulation of the Christoffel symbols for tensor analysis and the covariant derivation had developed the mathematical instruments in the 19th and sometimes only in the 20th century, which now proved to be indispensable for the formulation of the general theory of relativity.

However, it took another three years to formulate the idea of ​​a gravitational field in which the metrics of the four-dimensional, curved spatiotemporal continuum and the factors of energy and momentum are mutually dependent, which Einstein succeeded on November 4, 1915 .


Monument in Prague near Jan Hus Square

Einstein's application for a habilitation in 1907 at the University of Bern was initially rejected because he had not submitted his habilitation thesis, and was only successful in the following year. In 1909 he was appointed lecturer in theoretical physics at the University of Zurich , and soon became associate professor. In January 1911, as Minister of Education Stürgkh announced , he was appointed full professor of theoretical physics at the German University of Prague by Emperor Franz Joseph I. He became an Austrian citizen. In October 1912 he returned to Zurich to research and teach at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ; so he returned to his place of study as a professor.

Berlin years 1914–1932

Berlin memorial plaque on the house at Ehrenbergstrasse 33 in Berlin-Dahlem

Professional encounters and family cuts

In 1913 Max Planck succeeded in winning Einstein as a full-time member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, where he arrived in April 1914. His wife accompanied him with the children, but soon returned to Zurich because of private differences. Einstein received the license to teach at Berlin University , but without any obligation to do so. Freed from all teaching activities, Einstein found time and peace in Berlin to finish his great work, the general theory of relativity . He was able to publish it in 1916, together with a work on the Einstein-de-Haas effect . On October 1, 1917, he became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics and remained in this position until 1933. From 1923 to 1933 Einstein was also a member of the Senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society .

Elsa Löwenthal and Albert Einstein, around 1921

Between 1917 and 1920 his cousin Elsa Löwenthal (née Einstein; 1876–1936) looked after the ailing Einstein; a romantic relationship developed. In view of this, Einstein divorced Mileva in early 1919, and a little later he married Elsa. She brought two daughters into the marriage. That time was connected with further cuts: The political situation after the end of the First World War prevented contact with his sons in Switzerland. At the same time, his mother fell seriously ill in early 1919 and died the following year. In addition, it was just now that Kurt Blumenfeld managed to interest Einstein in Zionism .

The Berlin years were also characterized by lively contact with Max Wertheimer , the founder of the Gestalt theory . There was a fruitful exchange between the two scientists. For example, Einstein wrote an introduction to Wertheimer's essays on truth, freedom, democracy and ethics . Increasingly, he also began to open up to political issues (see the section on political engagement ).

Together with Leopold Infeld , he was one of the frequent visitors to the family of Antonie "Toni" Mendel († 1956), Bruno Mendel's aunt and mother-in-law , with whom he had a close friendship. He had got to know them around the beginning of the 1920s through their joint membership in the pacifist New Fatherland League .

Experimental confirmation of the previously calculated light deflection (1919)

During the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919 , Arthur Eddington's observations confirmed that the deflection of a star's light by the sun's gravitational field was closer to that predicted by general relativity than to that predicted by Newton's corpuscle theory . Joseph John Thomson , President of the Royal Society , commented on the finding:

"This result is one of the greatest achievements of human thought."

The experimental confirmation of Einstein's seemingly strange prediction made headlines around the world. The sudden fame ensured that Einstein's lectures were extremely popular. Everyone wanted to experience the famous scientist in person . In the years from 1920 to 1924 , the Einstein Tower in Potsdam was built on the initiative of Erwin Freundlich , a long-time colleague . Since then it has been used for astronomical observations, not least for the purpose of subjecting Einstein's theory to further tests.

Award of the Nobel Prize (1922)

The Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 was only awarded on November 9, 1922: to Albert Einstein “for his services to theoretical physics, especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect ”. Einstein had embarked on October 7th in Marseille on a lecture tour to Japan, where he arrived on November 17th, and was therefore unable to attend the award ceremony in Stockholm on December 10th, 1922. There, the envoy of the German Empire, Rudolf Nadolny , “received his award from the hands of the King” and said words of thanks “also in his name” at the evening banquet in the Grand Hotel Stockholm . Einstein left the prize money to Mileva Marić and their sons , as had already been specified in the divorce certificate .

Construction of the "Einstein House"

Albert Einstein's summer house in Caputh near Potsdam

On the occasion of Einstein's 50th birthday in 1929, the city of Berlin felt the need to give its famous citizen an appropriate gift. Lord Mayor Gustav Boess suggested leaving him a house. The press picked up the story. Over time, however, the discussion grew into an open controversy. Einstein and Elsa, meanwhile looking for a suitable plot of land at Waldstrasse 7 in the village of Caputh near Potsdam , gave up the gift without further ado and financed what is now called the Einsteinhaus out of their own pocket. The architect Konrad Wachsmann was commissioned to build the modest wooden house on the lake. It was the starting point for many tours by sailboat during the summer months to 1932. This boat (a birthday gift from friends) was a " 20er dinghy cruiser " with the name of porpoises, the 1933 übrigem with Einstein owned by the Nazis was confiscated.

The confrontation with Niels Bohr

In 1930, at the sixth Solvay Conference , Albert Einstein surprisingly confronted Niels Bohr with his thought experiment on the photon scale , with which he wanted to prove the incompleteness of quantum theory . Only one day later, Bohr, together with Pauli and Heisenberg, was able to refute Einstein using considerations from the general theory of relativity .

Princeton 1932-1955

Travel and German expatriation

Einstein used his increasing fame for a number of trips: with the approval of the Prussian Ministry of Culture, he gave lectures all over the world. In 1921 he made his first trip to the USA with a stay of several months. He has received numerous honorary doctorates , including that of Princeton University , where he later taught. He immediately planned to spend half of the year in Princeton , New Jersey , and the other half in Berlin . In Berlin, because of his pacifist stance, he had increasingly become the subject of political debate. In December 1932 he traveled again to Pasadena, California . Einstein traveled to the takeover of the Nazi regime (30 January 1933) in March / April 1933 to Europe; he returned his passport to the German embassy in Brussels.

On March 28, 1933, he informed the Prussian Academy of Sciences, to which he had belonged for 19 years, in writing (with regret) that he was leaving and acknowledged the suggestions and human relationships there. In doing so, he anticipated an exclusion that emerged after the publication of a pacifist statement not intended for the press. Furthermore, two other signatories of the urgent appeal against the takeover of power by the Nazi regime ( Heinrich Mann and Käthe Kollwitz ) had already been forced to leave the academy at this time . On March 20, Einstein's house in Caputh had been searched, and in April his city apartment at Berlin Haberlandstrasse 5 (now a new building, no. 8). On April 4, 1933, Einstein submitted an application for expatriation (release from the Prussian state association). A four-page letter dated March 28, 1933 to Einstein's sister Maja, in which Einstein and his wife announced their wish for expatriation, was auctioned in 2018. The application was refused; his citizenship was stripped of his citizenship (on March 24, 1934) and he was placed on the second expatriation list of the German Reich .

On April 8, 1933, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences turned to him and asked him for an explanation of his attitude towards the Bavarian Academy, of which he had been accepted as a corresponding member in 1927. Einstein replied on April 21 from the Belgian holiday resort of De Haan that the reasons for leaving the Prussian Academy did not in and of themselves result in a resolution of his relationship with the Bavarian Academy. Nevertheless, he wanted to be removed from the list of members. The German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina had already deleted Einstein as a member with a pencil entry in their matriculation books in early 1933. On May 10, 1933, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels proclaimed : “Jewish intellectualism is dead” and, as part of the public burning of “non-German literature” , also symbolically burned Einstein's writings. Einstein also found his name on a $ 5,000 bounty assassination  list. A German magazine put his name on a list of enemies of the German nation with the comment: "not yet hanged".

Search for the world formula

In 1933 Einstein became a member of the Institute for Advanced Study , a private research institute founded shortly before near Princeton University . From August 1935 until his death, Einstein lived at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton. Back then, the city formed a microcosm of modern research. Einstein was soon concerned with the search for a unified field theory that would unite his field theory of gravitation (the general theory of relativity) with that of electromagnetism . Until his death he struggled in vain to find a world formula - which no other researcher has succeeded in doing either.

Private situation in exile

Immigration certificate from January 1936
On October 1, 1940, Einstein received his American naturalization certificate from Judge Phillip Forman

After moving there, Einstein made his last trip abroad outside the USA in 1935 to the Bermuda Islands, which belong to Great Britain, a forced residency for formal reasons, since he was not yet a US citizen at the time.

Einstein's wife Elsa died in 1936. In 1939 his sister Maja came to Princeton - albeit without her husband Paul, who had not received an entry permit. She lived with her brother until her death in 1951.

In 1938, together with Thomas Mann , he helped the writer Hermann Broch , who had been briefly imprisoned in the previously "affiliated" Austria, to emigrate to the United States. Both remained friends in exile. Like him, Einstein also helped his Caputher architect Konrad Wachsmann and numerous other endangered Jewish artists and scientists with letters of recommendation and expert reports to leave Germany and enter the USA.

On December 15, 1938, he resigned from the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome after it had previously expelled all 27 Italian Jewish members.

Einstein received US citizenship on October 1, 1940 . He retained Swiss citizenship ( citizen of Zurich) throughout his life.

Einstein's signature on the atomic bomb

The discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938 by Otto Hahn and Fritz Straßmann in Berlin conjured up the knowledge of a nuclear threat in the scientific community. In August 1939, shortly before the start of the Second World War , Einstein signed a letter written by Leó Szilárd to the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt , warning of the danger of a "new type of bomb" which Germany might develop and soon possess. In view of reports from the secret service about German efforts, the appeal was answered and additional research funds were made available: The Manhattan project with the declared aim of developing an atomic bomb was born.

In his memoirs Einstein takes the view that he was too easily convinced of the necessity of signing this letter. On November 16, 1954 he said to his old friend Linus Pauling :

“I made one great mistake in my life - when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification - the danger that the Germans would make them. "

“I made a serious mistake in my life when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending the building of atomic bombs; but there was a certain justification for it - the danger that the Germans would build some. "

- Albert Einstein : Record of Linus Pauling

However, Einstein was completely uninvolved in the work. Although he was asked for advice by Vannevar Bush in December 1941 on a problem related to isotope separation, it was classified as a security risk by the FBI and official agencies in Washington, among other things because of his undisguised sympathy for communism US intelligence agencies observed. He was therefore not officially allowed to be privy to technical details of the Manhattan project and was even not allowed to officially receive any knowledge of the existence of the top secret project. However, he was interested in working with the US military and from May 1943 advised the US Navy on explosives and torpedoes. To contribute to the war effort, he donated his original 1905 manuscript on Special Relativity, which was auctioned in Kansas City in February 1944 for $ 6.5 million, which was invested in US war bonds.

In 1945 Leó Szilárd approached him again, this time to prevent the use of nuclear weapons after Germany's surrender, and Einstein wrote a letter of recommendation for Szilárd to President Roosevelt, which had no consequences because of Roosevelt's death, so that Szilárd could have expressed his concerns there. After the atomic bomb was dropped, Einstein, who initially remained silent, was urged to comment after his 1939 letter to Roosevelt became known through the Smyth Report . In an interview with a journalist for the New York Times in September 1945 he spoke out in favor of a world government in order to prevent future wars, came back to this in a Nobel commemorative address in December 1946 in New York and was involved in that of Szilárd Founded Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, continued its commitment to international arms control even after its end in 1948. In a Newsweek interview in March 1947, he judged about his own involvement in the initiation of the Manhattan Project that he would not have done this if he had known of the poor progress made by the Germans in their atomic bomb project, and that, incidentally, the development would also have been without it would have happened.


Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, around 1950

After the war, the image of the old, negligently dressed professor at Princeton became popular with the general public. He was frequently asked for opinions and visited by high-ranking state guests such as Jawaharlal Nehru . Even after his retirement in 1946, he continued to work with assistants at the Institute for Advanced Study on his unified field theory. His last years were marred by the death of his sister Maja in 1951 and other friends. In May 1953, he took a position against the McCarthy committees in a letter published in the New York Times , calling for people to remain silent. In 1954 he supported Robert Oppenheimer in his safety hearings.

Attitude to Germany

The extermination of Jews carried out by Germans during the National Socialist era was the reason for Einstein to maintain the general rejection expressed by letter to Arnold Sommerfeld in December 1945 until the end of his life: "After the Germans murdered my Jewish brothers in Europe, I don't want to have anything to do with Germans anymore, not even with a relatively harmless academy. "He added, referring to Sommerfeld and a few others:" It's different with the few individuals who have remained steadfast in the realm of possibility. "

Even years after the war, he saw no pronounced feelings of remorse or guilt in Germany and continued to avoid any involvement with the local public institutions. One of Otto Hahn's requests to become a member of the Max Planck Society he brusquely rejected with just as clear words as that of Sommerfeld to re-admit him to the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , or that of Theodor Heuss regarding the order Pour le Mérite . He also didn't want his books to appear in Germany in the future. He reacted with incomprehension to the news that his friend Max Born wanted to move back to Germany. However, he did not generally transfer his aversion to Germany to individual people or colleagues, especially not when they, like Sommerfeld, Max Planck and Max von Laue , had kept their distance from the National Socialists.

Worry about peace

Despite his ailments, shortly before his death he found the strength he needed to stand up for his vision of world peace . On April 11, 1955, he and ten other well-known scientists signed the so-called Russell-Einstein Manifesto to raise awareness of disarmament . Einstein's final notes concern a speech he intended to give on the anniversary of Israeli independence. He was still working on the draft on April 13, 1955, together with the Israeli consul. Einstein collapsed that afternoon and was taken to Princeton Hospital two days later.


Einstein died on April 18, 1955 at the age of 76 years at Princeton from internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an aneurysm of the aorta had been caused, which is at the time did not dare to treat surgically. Einstein had suffered from the aneurysm for years. It was discovered during a laparotomy in late 1948 after Einstein had repeatedly complained of abdominal pain. Because of health problems, he had hardly left Princeton since the late 1940s. Princeton Hospital night nurse Alberta Rozsel was with Einstein when he died. She reported that shortly before his death he mumbled something in German. The pathologist Thomas Harvey took Albert Einstein's brain and eyes after the autopsy . His main intention was to preserve the brain for posterity for further investigation of its possibly unique structure. The bereaved gave him their consent retrospectively. Most of the brain is now preserved in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Chicago , the eyes in New York . Following Einstein's request, his body was burned and the ashes scattered in an unknown location.

Scientific discoveries and inventions


theory of relativity

Albert Einstein founded the physical theory of relativity , which he (after important preparatory work by Hendrik Antoon Lorentz and Henri Poincaré ) published in 1905 as a special theory of relativity and for the first time in 1915 as a general theory of relativity . Einstein's works led to a revolution in physics; the special and general theory of relativity are still among the cornerstones of modern physics. To simplify the formulation, he introduced Einstein's summation convention in 1916 , by means of which tensor products can be written more compactly.

Subject of the Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize 1921, presented on December 10, 1922
Einstein's lecture on July 11, 1923 in Gothenburg

Einstein had been proposed for the Nobel Prize with increasing frequency from 1910 , especially from 1919 after the public sensation of the correct prediction of light deflection by gravity. However, this met with sustained resistance in the Nobel Prize Committee, which also led to the fact that the prize for 1921 was not awarded on time, but only a year later together with the prize for 1922. Many members of the Nobel Prize Committee tended more towards experimental physics than theoretical physics and suspected the theoretical developments on the quantum nature of light and the two theories of relativity as being too speculative. While Einstein's law of the photoelectric effect had meanwhile been proven by measurements, the proof of the gravitational lensing effect , with which the general theory of relativity had been confirmed, was further doubted due to a lack of measurement accuracy. Allvar Gullstrand in particular , who believed he had found various errors in Einstein's theories, prevented Einstein's nomination in 1921, contrary to strong international support.

Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1921, but only a year later and neither for one of his theories of relativity nor for the light quantum hypothesis with which he had found the law of the photoelectric effect, but only for the discovery of this law. For his Nobel Prize speech he received the condition not to comment on the theory of relativity. Because of a stay in Japan, Einstein did not take part in the official state ceremony in December 1922, but received the award on July 11, 1923 at the 17th Nordic Naturalists' Meeting (17: e Skandinaviska Naturforskarmöst) in Gothenburg and held it - to the favor of the Swedish king who was present and another thousand listeners - his speech entitled Basic ideas and problems of the theory of relativity. Anti-Semitic physicists from Germany, including Philipp Lenard , the 1905 Nobel Prize winner, had previously protested in vain.

Quantum physics

Albert Einstein with Niels Bohr in Brussels in 1930,
photography by Paul Ehrenfest
Robert Berks' statue of Einstein in the courtyard of the Israel Academy of Sciences

Einstein's relationship to another pillar of modern physics, quantum physics, is remarkable : on the one hand, because some of his work, such as the explanation of the photoelectric effect, formed its basis; on the other hand, because he later rejected many ideas and interpretations of quantum mechanics . Einstein has a famous discussion with the physicist Niels Bohr . The subject was the different interpretations of the new quantum theory that Heisenberg , Schrödinger and Dirac developed from 1925. Einstein was particularly critical of Bohr's concept of complementarity .

Einstein believed that the random elements of quantum theory would later prove to be not really random. This attitude led him, for the first time in a dispute with Max Born , to the now famous statement that the old man (or Lord God) does not roll the dice:

“Quantum mechanics is very respectable. But an inner voice tells me that this is not yet the real Jacob. The theory delivers a lot, but it hardly brings us any closer to the secret of the old. In any case, I am convinced that the old man does not roll the dice. "

He supported his considerations with various thought experiments , including the much discussed Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment or the photon scale . In the discourse, however, Bohr and his followers mostly remained victorious; even from today's perspective, the experimental evidence speaks against Einstein's point of view.


In 1916 he postulated the stimulated emission of light. This quantum mechanical process is the physical basis of the laser , which was only invented in 1960 - after his death. Alongside the transistor, the laser is one of the most important technical inventions of the 20th century that can be traced back to quantum physics.

Bose-Einstein condensation

In 1924, together with Satyendranath Bose , he predicted a quantum-mechanical, but nevertheless macroscopic state of matter that would occur at extremely low temperatures. The phase transition , later known as Bose-Einstein condensation , was first observed in the laboratory in 1995. In August 2005, a 16-page manuscript was discovered by Einstein at the University of Leiden , dealing with his last great discovery, the Bose-Einstein condensation.

Unified field theory

In his later years Einstein dealt with the question of a unified field theory of all natural forces on the basis of his general theory of relativity; an undertaking that was not crowned with success and is still unsolved today.

Einstein is often mentioned as one of those who rejected a hypothetical ether and wanted to abolish it; However, that was only the case to a limited extent, as is clear in one of his speeches, given on May 5, 1920 at the Reich University of Leiden :

“In summary we can say: According to the general theory of relativity, space is endowed with physical qualities; there is an ether in this sense. According to the general theory of relativity, a space without ether is unthinkable; for in such a place there would not only be no light propagation, but also no possibility of the existence of scales and clocks, thus also no spatial-temporal distances in the sense of physics. This ether, however, must not be thought of as endowed with the property characteristic of ponderable media, namely that it consists of parts that can be traced through time; the concept of movement must not be applied to him. "

In the sense of this summary, Einstein still only allows a gravitational ether that is independent of electrodynamics, but not the electromagnetic ether of the 19th century with its required states of motion, which - as in 1905 - are still expressly excluded. This fact is also clearly expressed in the often cited speech from 1920, somewhat before the above summary.

“If we consider the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field from the point of view of the ether hypothesis, there is a remarkable fundamental difference between the two. No room and no part of the room without gravitational potentials; for these give it its metrical properties, without which it cannot be thought at all. The existence of the gravitational field is directly linked to the existence of space. In contrast, a part of the room can very well be thought of without an electromagnetic field. "

See also:


Einstein is world famous as a theoretical physicist. A comprehensive picture of his scientific personality is missing one facet if one does not take into account his achievements as an experimental physicist and engineer.

Einstein de Haas effect

In 1915 Einstein carried out a difficult experiment together with Wander Johannes de Haas . Through the effect known today as the Einstein-de-Haas effect, he indirectly determined the gyromagnetic ratio of the electron . Since the spin was not yet known at that time, it was believed that ferromagnetism was based on the orbit of electrons around the atomic nucleus (Ampère molecular currents), which would have meant a Landé factor of 1. The difficulty of the experiment caused major statistical errors; however, a series of measurements came very close to the predicted value and was viewed and published by Einstein and de Haas as experimental evidence of the model. However, later experiments with higher accuracy show that a Landé factor of approximately 2 results, as follows for the spin of the electron from the Dirac equation. This shows that ferromagnetism cannot originate from the orbital angular momentum of the electrons.


Einstein contributed to the technology of the gyro compass through his inventions of the electrodynamic bearing and the electrodynamic drive for the gyro. Einstein had acquired relevant specialist knowledge when he was appointed as an appraiser in a patent dispute between Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe and Elmer Ambrose Sperry in 1914 . Mechanical gyro compasses are still built today using Einstein's patented technology.

Coolant pump

The Einstein refrigerator

It is reported that Einstein and his colleague Leó Szilárd were motivated by a tragic accident involving the toxic refrigerants that were common at the time to research safe refrigerators. One of the patents filed by Einstein and Szilárd was for an electrodynamic pump for a conductive refrigerant. In the United States, both were granted U.S. Patent Number 1,781,541 for the refrigerator on November 11, 1930. Although Einstein was able to sell several of his patents, including to AEG and Electrolux , his refrigerators were never built because the refrigerant Freon was introduced in 1929 and Einstein's patents were suddenly obsolete. There was one point where Einstein's invention survived: the pumps for the coolant in fast breeder reactors , namely for liquid sodium, are still designed according to Einstein's principle.

Cat hump wings

Probably inspired by Ludwig Hopf , Einstein dealt with the flow properties of aircraft wings at the beginning of the First World War and around 1916 designed a wing profile in which he wanted to reduce air resistance by dispensing with the angle of attack . In this context he published the work Elementary Theory of Water Waves and Flight in August 1916 . The airline in Berlin-Johannisthal implemented Einstein's design proposals, and the wings were known as cat-humped wings because of their less elegant shape . However, a test flight then showed that the construction was unusable due to its poor flight characteristics. The test pilot Paul G. Ehrhardt had a lot of trouble landing the plane again and described it as a "pregnant duck". Einstein himself was later, probably also with a view to possible military applications, glad that his suggestions had turned out to be useless, and was ashamed of his "foolishness from those days".

Political commitment


Already at the age of nineteen during the era of Wilhelminism at the end of the 19th century, Einstein felt such a disgust for militarism and the obedience to authority in the society of the empire that he gave up his German citizenship.

The beginning of the First World War resulted in an intensive preoccupation with political problems. Einstein joined the Bund Neues Vaterland (the later German League for Human Rights ) and supported its demands for an early, just peace without territorial claims and the creation of an international organization that was supposed to prevent future wars. In 1914 he wrote to his colleague Paul Ehrenfest :

“The international catastrophe weighs heavily on me as an international person. In experiencing this "great time" it is difficult to understand that one belongs to this crazy, depraved species that ascribes free will. If only there was an island of the benevolent and prudent somewhere! I also wanted to be an ardent patriot. "

In 1918 Albert Einstein was one of the signatories of the appeal to found the left-liberal German Democratic Party (DDP). Later, however, he joined inaccessible to the public on behalf of that party, but he approached more and more a humanist influenced socialist ideas to. During the Weimar Republic he continued to be involved in the German League for Human Rights, in which he campaigned for political prisoners. In this context he also worked temporarily for the communist- dominated Red Aid .

In 1932, he appeared as a signatory to the Urgent Appeal along with Heinrich Mann , Ernst Toller , Kathe Kollwitz , Arnold Zweig and others for an anti-fascist leftist coalition of SPD , KPD and trade unions in order the destruction of the Weimar Republic and the imminent rule of National Socialism nor prevent .


After Einstein had already attracted attention during the First World War because of his anti-war position, from 1922 on he was a member of the Commission for Spiritual Cooperation at the League of Nations , at whose suggestion he later discussed the question Why war? entered into an exchange of letters with Sigmund Freud in September 1932, which was published in 1933. In general, he repeatedly resorted to writing letters to achieve an effect:

In May 1931, for example, he and Heinrich Mann drew attention to the murder of the Croatian intellectual Milan Šufflay in an open letter to the New York Times . In 1935 he took part in the (successful) international campaign for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Carl von Ossietzky , who was incarcerated in the concentration camp ; In 1953 he issued a public letter calling for the defense of civil rights to the McCarthy committee .

At the beginning of March 1933, during a stay in the United States, he gave the League to Combat Anti-Semitism a statement that he said was not intended for the press and that attracted a great deal of attention in the international press. In it he wrote:

“As long as I have a chance, I will only stay in a country where political freedom, tolerance and equality of all citizens prevail before the law. Political freedom includes the freedom to express political convictions orally and in writing; tolerance includes respect for any convictions of an individual. These conditions are currently not met in Germany. ... I hope that healthy conditions will soon arise in Germany and that in the future the great men like Kant and Goethe will not only be celebrated there from time to time, but that the principles they taught will also prevail in public life and in general awareness . "

At the same time he modified his pacifist stance:

“Up until 1933 I campaigned for refusal to do military service. But when fascism emerged, I realized that this position could not be upheld unless the power of the world was to fall into the hands of the worst enemies of humanity. Against organized power there is only organized power; I don't see any other means, as much as I regret it. "

The letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt , which preceded the development of the atomic bomb, also sprang from this attitude:

“I believed we had to avoid the possibility for Germany to be in sole possession of this weapon under Hitler. That was the real danger at that time. "

Accordingly, after the defeat of Nazi Germany , he was actively involved in international arms control and cooperation in the sense of the title of a speech he gave at a Nobel memorial dinner in New York in 1945 : The war is won, but peace is not. So he set up an Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists and proposed the formation of a world government .

Einstein was also hostile to violence against animals and sympathized with the idea of vegetarianism . Presumably, however, he did not eat vegetarian himself until the end of his life.


Einstein together with leading representatives of Zionism (second from left: Chaim Weizmann ), 1921
Einstein at the Technion in Haifa , ca.1925
Israeli 5 pound banknote

When he was appointed to Charles University in Prague (1911), Einstein initially described himself as “non-denominational”. It was only after the Austro-Hungarian administration insisted on declaring his religion that he confessed himself to be a member of Judaism . Later, however, Einstein, affected by the situation of Eastern European Jewish refugees after the First World War, showed increased commitment to a state of Israel. His participation in a provisional committee in preparation for a Jewish congress in Germany in 1918 is documented. At that time, the German Empire was already experiencing an increasing penetration of anti-Semitism .

He largely supported the Zionist ideals, but without ever joining a Zionist organization. After leaving the Jewish religious community as a youth, he became a member of the Jewish community in Berlin in 1924, although he did not do this for religious reasons, but to demonstrate his solidarity with Judaism. His name is also closely associated with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem . One of the purposes of his first trip to the USA was to collect donations for such a university. In 1923 he traveled to what was then Palestine to lay the foundation stone  - during this trip he was also granted the first honorary citizenship of the city of Tel Aviv . In 1925 he was appointed to the university's administrative board. Finally, in his will, Einstein ordered the transfer of his written estate to the Hebrew University.

Einstein's relationship with Judaism was evidently not religious in nature . So he wrote in 1946:

“Although I am something of a Jewish saint, I have not been to a synagogue in so long that I fear God will no longer recognize me. But if he did, it would be worse. "

When Menachem Begin visited New York shortly after the independence of the state of Israel in order to collect donations for his newly founded Cherut party, Albert Einstein was one of the signatories of a letter to the editor to the New York Times on December 4, 1948 , which mentioned in sharp terms of the Cherut party (which was incorporated into what is now Likud in 1973).

After Chaim Weizmann's death in 1952, Einstein received the offer to become the second president of the newly founded state of Israel , which he refused.

In December 1982 the Hebrew University in Jerusalem received Albert Einstein's private archive. The material dates from 1901 to 1955 and comprises 50,000 pages and around 33 unpublished manuscripts by 1982.


In 1949 Einstein wrote his little-known essay Why Socialism? ("Why socialism ?"), In which he outlined his political position: Although he admits that he is not an expert in the field of economics, he considers a statement to be permissible:

"[...] we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express their views on questions that affect the organization of society."

He emphasized the dependence of the individual on society and the possibility of shaping society:

“The memory, the capacity to try new things and the ability to communicate verbally have made developments possible for humans that were not dictated by biological conditions. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions and organizations, in literature, in scientific and technical achievements, in artistic works. This explains why people can influence their own life in a certain sense and that conscious thinking and willing play a role in this process. "

He criticized capitalism for not doing justice to society in terms of its economic needs:

“Production is there for profit - not for needs. There is no provision to ensure that those who are able and willing to work can always find work. "

This has an impact right into the education system:

“Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of work and this paralysis of the social consciousness of individuals that I mentioned earlier. I consider this paralysis of the individual to be the greatest evil of capitalism. Our entire education system suffers. An exaggerated competitiveness is instilled into the student and he is trained to view greedy success as preparation for his future career [...] I am convinced that there is only one way to eliminate these serious evils, namely the establishment of the socialist economy combined with one Education with social goals: The work equipment becomes the property of society and is used by it in a planned economy. "

But he also demanded that the strived for socialism must respect the rights of the individual :

“A planned economy as such can go hand in hand with the total enslavement of the individual. Socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: in the face of far-reaching centralization of political and economic forces, how is it possible to prevent a bureaucracy from becoming omnipotent and excessive? How can the rights of the individual be protected and thereby a democratic counterweight to the bureaucracy secured? [...] Clarity about the goals and problems of socialism is of the utmost importance for our time of transition. Unfortunately, given the current state of society, the free discussion of these things is made difficult by a powerful taboo. "

He also raised questions that were topical in the Eastern Bloc ( Stalinism ). Unlike his other ideals , such a discussion went unnoticed in the West during the Cold War , which is why the text was hardly circulated outside of socialist circles. In the United States, Einstein was under surveillance by the FBI for his political views . Agents not only tapped his phone and checked his mail, but also searched the trash. The FBI file with so-called "incriminating information" against Einstein comprises a total of 1800 pages.

Einstein was a member of the Society of Friends of the New Russia , which promoted friendship between Germany and the Soviet Union. He was also honorary president of the Soviet-German society “Culture and Technology” .

Abortion, Homosexuality, and Sex Education

Die Neue Generation , organ of the German Association for Maternity Protection , quoted a letter from Einstein dated September 6, 1929 to the World League for Sexual Reform, Institute for Sexual Science , Berlin:

“I do not have such a rich human experience that I am entitled to speak publicly on these difficult social issues. I only have the feeling of a certain security in the following point: Abortion up to a certain stage of pregnancy should be allowed if the woman so wishes. Apart from the necessary protection of young people, homosexuality should be exempt from punishment. Regarding the sex education no secrecy. "

Einstein later belonged to the supporters or sympathizers of a committee for self-incriminations against § 218 , see Abortion # first half of the 20th century .

Attitude to religion

Einstein comes from a Jewish family. When he renounced his German citizenship in 1896, however, his father noted, presumably at his request, “no religious affiliation”, which he repeated several times over the next two decades.

Up into the 21st century there are different interpretations of Einstein's attitude towards religion, as he expressed himself in many contradicting ways, among other things with the aphorism : "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." A privately owned letter from Einstein to the esoteric Erich Gutkind published on January 3, 1954. In this Einstein refers to his non-religious attitude. In doing so, he distances himself with clear words from the biblical conception of a personal God, which he calls "childish superstition":

"For me the word God is nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable, but nevertheless abundantly primitive legends."

“For me, the unadulterated Jewish religion, like all other religions, is an incarnation of primitive superstition. And the Jewish people, to which I like to belong and whose mentality I am deeply rooted in, has for me no different quality than all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, it is no better than other human groups, even if it is secured against the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything 'chosen' about him. "

In another letter in 1954 he wrote:

“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious beliefs, a lie that is systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this, but have made it clear. If there is anything in me that could be called religious, it is unlimited admiration for the structure of the world as far as our science can reveal it. "

In one of a total of 27 personal letters from Einstein that were auctioned in June 2015 by the auction house Profiles in History in Los Angeles, Einstein replied to the history teacher Guy Raner in 1949 when asked about his belief that he had repeatedly said that the idea of ​​a personal God, in his opinion, is a childlike one. One could call him an agnostic , but he does not share the combative spirit of atheism, but prefers a humble attitude according to the weakness of our intellectual knowledge of nature and our own existence:

“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of ​​a personal God is a childlike one, […]. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist ... I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. "

“I have said several times that, in my opinion, the idea of ​​a personal God is a childlike one [...]. You can call me an agnostic, but I don't share the fighting spirit of a professional atheist… I prefer a humble attitude about the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and our being. "


Honorary doctorate certificate, 1919
5 Mark commemorative coin of the GDR for the 100th birthday (1979)


Effects on Family Members

1957 made bust of Einstein by Hermann Hubacher at the ETH

On August 3, 1944, near Rignano sull'Arno, the wife and two daughters of Einstein's cousin Robert were shot by uniformed Germans, presumably because they were related to Albert Einstein. As a result of the fact that as a case, Einstein is known Robert Einstein committed in 1945 at the wedding of suicide . The state police of Baden-Wuerttemberg tried on 23 February 2011 the triple murder by a broadcast in the show ... unsolved file number XY educate. After the broadcast, dozens of tips were received, but these did not prove to be effective. The proceedings against a suspected perpetrator living in Kaufbeuren, which were later initiated on the basis of a testimony by the niece who was present at the time, were discontinued due to incapacity to stand trial , without his possible involvement in the crime being publicly clarified. So the deeds have not yet been clarified and have not been atoned for .

Lasting memories of Albert Einstein

Einstein terrace in Bern

In December 2014 Princeton University (where Einstein once taught) put around 5,000 texts and documents online. The documents date from the first 44 years of his life.

A tram car in Ulm bears his name. The Ulm Einstein Marathon is also named after him.

Also, a genus Einsteinia from the family of the redness plants (Rubiaceae) received by Adolpho Ducke 1934 his name.

In Bern there is an Einstein Museum, an Einstein House, an Einstein Terrace and an Einsteinstrasse within the Historical Museum , in other cities there are Einsteinstrasse such as in Radebeul and Albert Einstein schools in numerous locations.


Compare Albert Einstein's handwriting and Albert Einstein's computer font

Albert Einstein's handwriting was digitized as a font in an art project by Elizabeth Waterhouse and the typographer Harald Geisler . This makes it possible to write texts in Einstein's handwriting on the computer or smartphone. The project was presented in 2015 in cooperation with the Albert Einstein Archive Jerusalem on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and financed by 2334 supporters. The font contains several variants of each letter, each based on models from Einstein's manuscripts. These different letters are automatically adjusted as you write and create a natural typeface.

The Albert Einstein font was used to reproduce the correspondence between Einstein and Sigmund Freud . 2017 for the 85th anniversary of the correspondence, which in 1933 under the title Why War? was published, Harald Geisler presented the project on Kickstarter in collaboration with the Sigmund Freud Museum and the Albert Einstein Archive . Supporters received the letters in the handwriting of the respective author or could send them to politicians of their choice. The letters were sent from the same place and day as in 1932, Einstein's letter on July 30th from Caputh and Freud's reply in September from his apartment in Vienna.


Work edition

Scientific papers

Other works

Online sources for Einstein's publications

More texts



Biographical aspects

Einstein in Potsdam - Book of Offizin Andersen Nexö Leipzig - 1986
  • Konrad Kleinknecht : Einstein and Heisenberg: Founders of modern physics. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart, 2017.
  • Reiner Braun, David Krieger (ed.): Albert Einstein: Peace Today - Visions and Ideas. Melzer, Neu-Isenburg 2005, ISBN 3-937389-53-9 . (English edition Einstein - Peace now! Wiley-VCH) - Texts by Nobel Prize winners who deal with Einstein's political and peace engagement.
  • Hubert Goenner : Einstein in Berlin. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-52731-0 .
  • Dieter Hoffmann : Einstein's Berlin - On the trail of a genius. 1st edition. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2006, ISBN 3-527-40596-8 .
  • Alexander Moszkowski : Einstein. Insights into his world of thought. Hamburg 1921, online
  • Thomas Levenson: Albert Einstein - The Berlin Years 1914–1932. Bertelsmann, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-570-12289-1 .
  • Siegfried Grundmann: Einstein's file. Springer, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-540-20699-X (Science and politics: Einstein's time in Berlin with an appendix on Einstein's FBI files).
  • Jürgen Renn (editor and co-author): Albert Einstein - Engineer of the Universe. 3 volumes (Einstein's life and work in context, a hundred authors for Einstein, documents from his path through life). Exhibition in the Kronprinzenpalais Berlin, from May 16 to September 30, 2005, which was developed by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science on the occasion of the Einstein Year 2005. Wiley-VCH, Weinheim 2005, ISBN 3-527-40579-8 (for the volume Einstein's life and work in context ).
    • English edition: Albert Einstein - Chief Engineer of the Universe. 3 volumes. Wiley-VCH , Weinheim 2005, ISBN 3-527-40571-2 (for the sub-volume of Einstein's Life and Work in Context ).
  • Jürgen Renn with Hanoch Gutfreund: Albert Einstein. Relativity. The Special & the General Theory. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 2015, ISBN 978-0-691-16633-9 .
  • Jürgen Renn with Hanoch Gutfreund: The Road to Relativity. The History and Meaning of Einstein's "The Foundation of General Relativity". Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 2015, ISBN 978-1-4008-6576-5 .
  • Alexis Schwarzenbach : The scorned genius. Albert Einstein and Switzerland. DVA, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-421-05853-9 .
  • Abraham Pais : I trust intuition. The other Albert Einstein. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1998, ISBN 3-8274-0394-4 . Einstein Lived Here. Clarendon Press 1994 .
  • Thomas de Padova : Alone against gravity. Einstein 1914-1918. Hanser, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-446-44481-2 .
  • Dietmar Strauch : Einstein's summer idyll in Caputh. Biography of a summer house. Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-88777-024-2 .
  • Michael Hagner : Einstein on the Beach: The physicist as a phenomenon. Fischer Tb, 2005 Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 3-596-16515-6 .
  • Dieter Hoffmann : Einstein's Berlin . Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-947215-14-0 .

Film documentaries

  • Einstein's universe. (Original title: Einstein's Universe ). British TV documentary, BBC , 1979. 118 min. Script: Nigel Calder , Presentation: Peter Ustinov .
  • Albert Einstein. History channel documentation (video, 90 min.)
  • NOVA - Einstein Revealed. PBS documentation (video, 106 min.)
  • Albert Einstein. DDR TV archive in the DVD series Great Stories. See IMDB (170 min., Produced in 1989, first broadcast in 1990, DVD released in 2012).
  • Genius . American television series with biographical elements for National Geographic . (10 episodes in season 1, production and premiere in 2017).

Web links

Commons : Albert Einstein  - Collection of Images
Wikibooks: Einstein's World  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Documents: text, image and sound


  1. a b Physics World Magazine , 1999 - Compare: "Einstein the greatest" , BBC , November 29, 1999.
  2. Markus Pössel: From E = mc² to the atomic bomb. ( Memento from April 30, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) On: from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics .
  3. ^ Albrecht Fölsing: Albert Einstein. Suhrkamp Taschenbuch, p. 15.
  4. Armin Hermann: Einstein. The wise man and his century. A biography. Piper, 1994, ISBN 3-492-03477-2 , pp. 69-73.
  5. Abraham Pais: The Lord God is refined ... Albert Einstein. A scientific biography. Spektrum Akademie Verlag, 2000, p. 34 f.
  6. Albert Einstein (1879–1955). ( Memento from August 12, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) City of Ulm online, accessed on February 16, 2010.
  7. Stolpersteine ​​Ulm »Lina Einstein. Retrieved August 15, 2017 .
  8. Abraham Pais: The Lord God is refined ... Albert Einstein. A scientific biography. Spektrum Akademie Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-8274-0529-7 , p. 36.
  9. F. Uppenborn (ed.): The supply of cities with electrical power. Springer Berlin 1891, p. 63. Quoted from A. Pais.
  10. Jürgen Renn : On the shoulders of giants and dwarfs. Albert Einstein's unfinished revolution. Viley-VCH, Weinheim 2006, ISBN 3-527-40595-X , pp. 61 and 143.
  11. Jürgen Neffe : Einstein. A biography. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2005, ISBN 3-499-61937-7 , p. 79 ff.
  12. Felix Eberty : The stars and the world history. Thoughts about space, time and eternity. With a foreword by Albert Einstein. Comino, Berlin 2014 eBook ISBN 978-3-945831-01-4 .
  13. Felix Eberty : The stars and the world history. Thoughts about space, time and eternity. With a foreword by Albert Einstein. Edited by Gregorius Itelson. Rogoff, Berlin 1923.
  14. a b Armin Hermann: Einstein. The wise man and his century. A biography. Piper, 1994, ISBN 3-492-03477-2 , pp. 90, 104.
  15. Walter Isaccson: Einstein: His Life and Universe. Simon & Schuster 2007, ISBN 978-1-4165-3932-2 , pp. 22-23, 29-30. ( Excerpt (Google) )
  16. Albert Einstein: About the investigation of the etheric state in the magnetic field. Facsimile in Physikalische Blätter, 1971, issue 9, volume 27 ( doi: 10.1002 / phbl.19710270901 , free full text).
  17. a b Armin Hermann: Einstein. The wise man and his century. A biography. Piper, 1994, ISBN 3-492-03477-2 , pp. 91-93.
  18. At the Gewerbeinstitut Berlin , the later TH Berlin, a high school diploma was also required as access authorization.
  19. October 12, 2018: Love is relative
  20. Walter Isaacson: Einstein: His Life and Universe. Simon & Schuster 2007, ISBN 978-1-4165-3932-2 , pp. 22-23, 29-30. ( Excerpt (Google) )
  21. Armin Hermann: Einstein. The wise man and his century. A biography. Piper, 1994, ISBN 3-492-03477-2 , pp. 93-96.
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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on May 26, 2005 .