Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist widely regarded
as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. He was the author
of the general theory of relativity and made important contributions
to the special theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, statistical
mechanics, and cosmology. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for
Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905
(his "miracle year") and "for his services to Theoretical
British solar eclipse expeditions in 1919 confirmed that light
rays from distant stars were deflected by the gravity of the sun
in the exact amount he predicted in his generalized theory of
relativity, Einstein became world-famous, an unusual achievement
for a scientist. In his later years, his fame perhaps exceeded
that of any other scientist in history. In popular culture, his
name has become synonymous with great intelligence and genius.
Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 at Ulm in Baden-Württemberg,
German Empire, about 100 km east of Stuttgart. His parents were
Hermann Einstein, a featherbed salesman who later ran an electrochemical
works, and Pauline, whose maiden name was Koch. They were married
in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. The family was Jewish (non-observant);
Albert attended a Catholic elementary school and, at the insistence
of his mother, was given violin lessons. Though he initially disliked
(and eventually discontinued) the lessons, he would later take
great solace in Mozart's violin sonatas.
Albert was five, his father showed him a pocket compass, and Einstein
realized that something in "empty" space acted upon
the needle; he would later describe the experience as one of the
most revelatory of his life. Though he built models and mechanical
devices for fun and showed great mathematical faculty early on,
he was considered a slow learner, possibly due to dyslexia, simple
shyness, or the significantly rare and unusual structure of his
brain (examined after his death).1 He later credited his development
of the theory of relativity to this slowness, saying that by pondering
space and time later than most children, he was able to apply
a more developed intellect. Some researchers have speculated that
Einstein may have exhibited some traits of mild forms of autism,
although they concede that a reliable posthumous diagnosis is
1889, a student named Max Talmud introduced Einstein to key science
and philosophy texts including Kant's Critique of Pure Reason.
Two of his uncles would further foster his intellectual interests
during his late childhood and early adolescence by suggesting
and providing books on science, mathematics and philosophy.
attended the Luitpold Gymnasium where he received a relatively
progressive education. He began to learn mathematics around age
twelve: in 1891, he taught himself Euclidean plane geometry from
a school booklet and began to study calculus. There is a recurring
rumor that he failed mathematics later in his education, but this
is untrue; a change in the way grades were assigned caused confusion
years later. While there, he clashed with authority and resented
the school regimen, believing the spirit of learning and creative
thought were lost in such an endeavor as strict memorization.
1894, following the failure of Hermann's electrochemical business,
the Einsteins moved from Munich to Pavia, Italy (near Milan).
Einstein's first scientific work was written contemporaneously
(called "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic
Fields"). Albert remained behind in Munich lodgings to finish
school, completing only one term before leaving the gymnasium
in spring 1895 to rejoin his family in Pavia.
quit without telling his parents and a year and a half prior to
final examinations, Einstein convinced the school to let him go
with a medical note from a friendly doctor, but this meant he
had no secondary-school certificate.3 That year, at the age of
16, he performed the thought experiment known as Albert Einstein's
mirror. After gazing into a mirror, he examined what would happen
to his image if he were moving at the speed of light; his conclusion
that the speed of light is independent of the observer would later
become one of the two postulates of special relativity.
excelling in the mathematics and science portion, his failure
of the liberal arts portion of the Eidgenössische Technische
Hochschule (ETH, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich)
entrance exam the following year was a setback; his family sent
him to Aarau, Switzerland, to finish secondary school, where he
studied the seldom-taught Maxwell's electromagnetic theory and
received his diploma in September 1896. During this time he lodged
with Professor Jost Winteler's family and became enamoured with
Marie, their daughter, his first sweetheart.
sister Maja, perhaps his closest confidant, was to later marry
their son Paul, and his friend Michele Besso married their other
daughter Anna.4 Einstein subsequently enrolled at the Eidgenössische
Technische Hochschule in October and moved to Zurich, while Marie
moved to Olsberg for a teaching post. The same year, he renounced
his Württemberg citizenship and became stateless.
the spring of 1896, the Serbian Mileva Maric started initially
as a medical student at the University of Zurich, but after a
term switched to the same section as Einstein as the only woman
that year to study for the same diploma. Einstein's relationship
with Mileva developed into romance over the next few years.
1900, he was granted a teaching diploma by the Eidgenössische
Technische Hochschule (ETH Zurich). Einstein then wrote his first
published paper on the capillary forces of a drinking straw, wherein
he tried to unify the laws of physics, an attempt he would continually
make throughout his life. (It was titled "Folgerungen aus
den Capillaritätserscheinungen," which translated is
"Consequences of the observations of capillarity phenomena,"
found in "Annalen der Physik" volume 4, page 513.) Shortly
thereafter, Einstein was accepted as a Swiss citizen in 1901;
he kept his Swiss passport for his whole life.
his friend Michelle Besso, an engineer, he was presented with
the works of Ernst Mach and later would consider him "the
best sounding board in Europe" for physical ideas. During
this time Einstein discussed his scientific interests with a group
of close friends, including Besso and Mileva. The men referred
to themselves as the "Olympia Academy." He and Mileva
had a daughter born out of wedlock, Lieserl, born in January 1902.
Her fate is unknown; some believe she died in infancy, while others
believe she was given out for adoption.
Einstein in 1905, when he wrote the "Annus Mirabilis Papers"Upon
graduation, Einstein could not find a teaching post, mostly because
his brashness as a young man had apparently irritated most of
his professors. The father of a classmate helped him obtain employment
as a technical assistant examiner at the Swiss Patent Office5
in 1902. There, Einstein judged the worth of inventors' patent
applications for devices that required a knowledge of physics
to understand — in particular he was chiefly charged to
evaluate patents relating to electromagnetic devices.6 He also
learned how to discern the essence of applications despite sometimes
poor descriptions, and was taught by the director how "to
express [him]self correctly". He occasionally rectified their
design errors while evaluating the practicality of their work.
married Mileva Maric on January 6, 1903. Einstein's marriage to
Maric, who was a mathematician, was both a personal and intellectual
partnership: Einstein referred to Mileva as "a creature who
is my equal and who is as strong and independent as I am".
Ronald W. Clark, a biographer of Einstein, claimed that Einstein
depended on the distance that existed in his and Mileva's marriage
in order to have the solitude necessary to accomplish his work;
he required intellectual isolation.
Joffe, a Soviet physicist who knew Einstein, in an obituary of
Einstein, wrote, "The author of [the papers of 1905] was
... a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern, Einstein-Maric"
and this has recently been taken as evidence of a collaborative
relationship. However, according to Alberto A. Martínez
of the Center for Einstein Studies at Boston University, Joffe
only ascribed authorship to Einstein, as he believed that it was
a Swiss custom at the time to append the spouse's last name to
the husband's name.7 Whatever the truth, the extent of her influence
on Einstein's work is a highly controversial and debated question.
1903, Einstein's position at the Swiss Patent Office had been
made permanent, though he was passed over for promotion until
he had "fully mastered machine technology". He obtained
his doctorate after submitting his thesis "A new determination
of molecular dimensions" ("Eine neue Bestimmung der
Moleküldimensionen") in 1905.
same year, he wrote four articles that participated in the foundation
of modern physics, without much scientific literature to which
he could refer or many scientific colleagues with whom he could
discuss the theories. Most physicists agree that three of those
papers (on Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect, and special
relativity) deserved Nobel Prizes. Only the paper on the photoelectric
effect would be mentioned by the Nobel committee in the award.
is ironic, not only because Einstein is far better-known for relativity,
but also because the photoelectric effect is a quantum phenomenon,
and Einstein became somewhat disenchanted with the path quantum
theory would take. In each of these papers, Einstein boldly took
an idea from theoretical physics to its logical consequences and
explained experimental results that had baffled scientists for
Einstein submitted the series of papers to the "Annalen der
Physik". They are commonly referred to as the "Annus
Mirabilis Papers" (from Annus mirabilis, Latin for 'year
of wonders'). The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
(IUPAP) commemorated the 100th year of the publication of Einstein's
extensive work in 1905 as the 'World Year of Physics 2005'.
first paper, named "On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the
Production and Transformation of Light", ("Über
einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen
Gesichtspunkt") proposed that "energy quanta" (which
are essentially what we now call photons) were real, and showed
how they could be used to explain such phenomena as the photoelectric
effect. This paper was specifically cited for his Nobel Prize.
Max Planck had made the formal assumption that energy was quantized
in deriving his black-body radiation law, published in 1901, but
had considered this to be no more than a mathematical trick. The
photoelectric effect thus provided a simple confirmation of Max
Planck's hypothesis of quanta.
second article in 1905, named "On the Motion—Required
by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat—of Small Particles
Suspended in a Stationary Liquid", ("Über die von
der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Wärme geforderte Bewegung
von in ruhenden Flüssigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen")
covered his study of Brownian motion, and provided empirical evidence
for the existence of atoms.
this paper, atoms were recognized as a useful concept, but physicists
and chemists hotly debated whether atoms were real entities. Einstein's
statistical discussion of atomic behavior gave experimentalists
a way to count atoms by looking through an ordinary microscope.
Wilhelm Ostwald, one of the leaders of the anti-atom school, later
told Arnold Sommerfeld that he had been converted to a belief
in atoms by Einstein's complete explanation of Brownian motion.
At the same time as Einstein, Brownian motion was also described
third paper that year, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving
Bodies" ("Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper"),
was published in September 1905. This paper introduced the special
theory of relativity, a theory of time, distance, mass and energy
which was consistent with electromagnetism, but omitted the force
of gravity. While developing this paper, Einstein wrote to Mileva
about "our work on relative motion", and this has led
some to ask whether Mileva played a part in its development.
few historians of science believe that Einstein and his wife were
both aware that the famous Frenchman Henri Poincaré had
already published the equations of Relativity, a few weeks before
Einstein submitted his paper; most believe their work was independent,
especially given Einstein's isolation at this time. Similarly,
it's debatable if he knew the 1904 paper of Lorentz which contained
most of the theory and to which Poincaré referred.
a fourth paper, "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its
Energy Content?", ("Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers
von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?"), published late
in 1905, he showed that from relativity's axioms, it is possible
to deduce the famous equation that the energy of a body at rest
(E) equals its mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared:
E = mc². He was the first to present that equation together
with the interpretation that mass is a measure for energy content.
In 1906, Einstein was promoted to technical examiner second class.
In 1908, Einstein was licensed in Bern, Switzerland, as a Privatdozent
(unsalaried teacher at a university). During this time, Einstein
described why the sky is blue in his paper on the phenomenon of
critical opalescence, which shows the cumulative effect of scattering
of light by individual molecules in the atmosphere. In 1911, Einstein
became first associate professor at the University of Zurich,
and shortly afterwards full professor at the (German) University
of Prague, only to return the following year to Zurich in order
to become full professor at the ETH Zurich. At that time, he worked
closely with the mathematician Marcel Grossmann. In 1912, Einstein
started to refer to time as the fourth dimension (although H.G.
Wells had done this earlier, in 1895 in The Time Machine).
1914, just before the start of World War I, Einstein settled in
Berlin as professor at the local university and became a member
of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He took German citizenship.
His pacifism and Jewish origins irritated German nationalists.
After he became world-famous, nationalistic hatred of him grew
and for the first time he was the subject of an organized campaign
to discredit his theories. From 1914 to 1933, he served as director
of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, and it
was during this time that he was awarded his Nobel Prize and made
his most groundbreaking discoveries. He was also an extraordinary
professor at the Leiden University from 1920 until officially
1946, where he regularly gave guest lectures.
1917, Einstein published "On the Quantum Mechanics of Radiation"
("Zur Quantenmechanik der Strahlung", Physkalische Zeitschrift
18, 121-128). This article introduced the concept of stimulated
emission, the physical principle that allows light amplification
in the laser. He also published a paper that year that used the
general theory of relativity to model the behavior of the entire
universe, setting the stage for modern cosmology. In this work
he created his self-described "worst blunder", the cosmological
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. Hans Albert became a professor of hydraulic engineering
at the University of California, Berkeley, having little interaction
with his father. Eduard, the younger brother, intended to practice
as a Freudian analyst but was institutionalized for schizophrenia
and died in an asylum.
divorced Mileva on February 14, 1919, and married his cousin Elsa
Löwenthal (born Einstein: Löwenthal was the surname
of her first husband, Max) on June 2, 1919. Elsa was Albert's
first cousin (maternally) and his second cousin (paternally).
She was three years older than Albert, and had nursed him to health
after he had suffered a partial nervous breakdown combined with
a severe stomach ailment; there were no children from this marriage.
In November 1915, Einstein presented a series of lectures before
the Prussian Academy of Sciences in which he described his theory
of gravity, known as general relativity. The final lecture climaxed
with his introduction of an equation that replaced Newton's law
of gravity, the Field Equation.9 This theory considered all observers
to be equivalent, not only those moving at a uniform speed. In general
relativity, gravity is no longer a force (as it is in Newton's law
of gravity) but is a consequence of the curvature of space-time.
theory provided the foundation for the study of cosmology and
gave scientists the tools for understanding many features of the
universe that were discovered well after Einstein's death. A truly
revolutionary theory, general relativity has so far passed every
test posed to it and has become a powerful tool used in the analysis
of many subjects in physics.
scientists were skeptical because the theory was derived by mathematical
reasoning and rational analysis, not by experiment or observation.
But in 1919, predictions made using the theory were confirmed
by Arthur Eddington's measurements (during a solar eclipse), of
how much the light emanating from a star was bent by the Sun's
gravity when it passed close to the Sun, an effect called gravitational
lensing. The observations were carried out on May 29, 1919, at
two locations, one in Sobral, Ceará, Brazil, and another
in the island of Principe, in the west coast of Africa. On November
7, The Times reported the confirmation, cementing Einstein's fame.
scientists were still unconvinced for various reasons ranging
from disagreement with Einstein's interpretation of the experiments,
to not being able to tolerate the absence of an absolute frame
of reference. In Einstein's view, many of them simply could not
understand the mathematics involved. Einstein's
public fame which followed the 1919 article created resentment
among these scientists some of which lasted well into the 1930s.
the early 1920s Einstein was the lead figure in a famous weekly
physics colloquium at the University of Berlin. On March 30, 1921,
Einstein went to New York to give a lecture on his new Theory
of Relativity, the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Though
he is now most famous for his work on relativity, it was for his
earlier work on the photoelectric effect that he was given the
Prize, as his work on general relativity was still disputed. The
Nobel committee decided that citing his less-contested theory
in the Prize would gain more acceptance from the scientific community.
Einstein and Niels Bohr sparred over quantum theory during the
1920s.Einstein's postulation that light can be described not only
as a wave with no kinetic energy, but also as massless discrete
packets of energy called quanta with measurable kinetic energy
(now known as photons) was a landmark break with the classical
physics. In 1909 Einstein presented his first paper on the quantification
of light to a gathering of physicists and told them that they
must find some way to understand waves and particles together.
the mid-1920s, as the original quantum theory was replaced with
a new theory of quantum mechanics, Einstein balked at the Copenhagen
interpretation of the new equations either because it settled
for a probabilistic, non-visualizable account of physical behaviour,
or because it described matter as being in necessarily contradictory
states. However, Einstein agreed that the theory was the best
available, but he looked for a more "complete"
explanation, i.e., either more deterministic or one that could
more fundamentally explain the reason for probabilities in a logical
way. He could not abandon the belief that physics described the
laws that govern "real things", nor could he abandon
the belief that there is no such thing as a contradiction, which
had driven him to his successes explaining photons, relativity,
atoms, and gravity.
a 1926 letter to Max Born, Einstein made a remark that is now
famous: “Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But
an inner voice tells me it is not yet the real thing. The theory
says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret
of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not
throw dice. “
this, Bohr, who sparred with Einstein on quantum theory, retorted,
"Stop telling God what He must do!" The Bohr-Einstein
debates on foundational aspects of quantum mechanics happened
during the Solvay conferences.
was not rejecting probabilistic theories per se. Einstein himself
was a great statistician, using statistical analysis in his works
on Brownian motion and photoelectricity and in papers published
before the miraculous year 1905; Einstein had even discovered
Gibbs ensembles. He believed, however, that at the core reality
behaved deterministically. Many physicists argue that experimental
evidence contradicting this belief was found much later with the
discovery of Bell's Theorem and Bell's inequality. Nonetheless,
there is still space for lively discussions about the interpretation
of quantum mechanics.
In 1924, Einstein received a short paper from a young Indian physicist
named Satyendra Nath Bose describing light as a gas of photons
and asking for Einstein's assistance in publication. Einstein
realized that the same statistics could be applied to atoms, and
published an article in German (then the lingua franca of physics)
which described Bose's model and explained its implications.
statistics now describe any assembly of these indistinguishable
particles known as bosons. The Bose-Einstein condensate phenomenon
was predicted in the 1920s by Bose and Einstein, based on Bose's
work on the statistical mechanics of photons, which was then formalized
and generalized by Einstein. The first such condensate was produced
by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman in 1995 at the University of Colorado
at Boulder. Einstein's original sketches on this theory were recovered
in August 2005 in the library of Leiden University.10
also assisted Erwin Schrödinger in the development of the
quantum Boltzmann distribution, a mixed classical and quantum
mechanical gas model although he realized that this was less significant
than the Bose-Einstein model and declined to have his name included
on the paper.
Einstein and former student Leó Szilárd co-invented
a unique type of refrigerator (usually called the Einstein refrigerator)
in 1926.11 On November 11, 1930, U.S. Patent 1,781,541 was awarded
to Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd. The patent covered
a thermodynamic refrigeration cycle providing cooling with no
moving parts, at a constant pressure, with only heat as an input.
The refrigeration cycle used ammonia, butane, and water.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in January 1933, Einstein was
a guest professor at Princeton University, a position which he
took in December 1932, after an invitation from the American educator,
Abraham Flexner. In 1933, the Nazis passed "The Law of the
Restoration of the Civil Service" which forced all Jewish
university professors out of their jobs, and throughout the 1930s
a campaign to label Einstein's work as "Jewish physics"—in
contrast with "German" or "Aryan physics"—was
led by Nobel laureates Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark.
the assistance of the SS, the Deutsche Physik supporters worked
to publish pamphlets and textbooks denigrating Einstein's theories
and attempted to politically blacklist German physicists who taught
them, notably Werner Heisenberg. Einstein renounced his German
citizenship and stayed in the United States, where he was given
permanent residency. He accepted a position at the newly founded
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton Township, New Jersey.
He became an American citizen in 1940, though he still retained
1939, under the encouragement of Szilárd, Einstein sent
a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt urging the study
of nuclear fission for military purposes, under fears that the
Nazi government would be first to develop atomic weapons. Roosevelt
started a small investigation into the matter which eventually
became the massive Manhattan Project. Einstein himself did not
work on the bomb project, however.
International Rescue Committee was founded in 1933 at the request
of Albert Einstein to assist opponents of Adolf Hitler.
for Advanced Study
His work at the Institute for Advanced Study focused on the unification
of the laws of physics, which he referred to as the Unified Field
Theory. He attempted to construct a model which would describe
all of the fundamental forces as different manifestations of a
single force. This took the form of an attempt to unify the gravitational
and electrodynamic forces, but was hindered because the strong
and weak nuclear forces were not understood independently until
around 1970, fifteen years after Einstein's death. Einstein's
goal of unifying the laws of physics under a single model survives
in the current drive for unification of the forces, embodied most
notably by string theory.
Einstein began to form a generalized theory of gravitation with
the Universal Law of Gravitation and the electromagnetic force
in his first attempt to demonstrate the unification and simplification
of the fundamental forces. In 1950 he described his work in a
Scientific American article. Einstein was guided by a belief in
a single statistical measure of variance for the entire set of
Generalized Theory of Gravitation is a universal mathematical
approach to field theory. He investigated reducing the different
phenomena by the process of logic to something already known or
evident. Einstein tried to unify gravity and electromagnetism
in a way that also led to a new subtle understanding of quantum
postulated a four-dimensional space-time continuum expressed in
axioms represented by five component vectors. Particles appear
in his research as a limited region in space in which the field
strength or the energy density are particularly high. Einstein
treated subatomic particles as objects embedded in the unified
field, influencing it and existing as an essential constituent
of the unified field but not of it. Einstein also investigated
a natural generalization of symmetrical tensor fields, treating
the combination of two parts of the field as being a natural procedure
of the total field and not the symmetrical and antisymmetrical
parts separately. He researched a way to delineate the equations
and systems to be derived from a variational principle.
became increasingly isolated in his research on a generalised
theory of gravitation and was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempts.
In particular, his pursuit of a unification of the fundamental
forces ignored work in the physics community at large, most notably
the discovery of the strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force.
In 1948, Einstein served on the original committee which resulted
in the founding of Brandeis University. A portrait of Einstein
was taken by Yousuf Karsh on February 11 of that same year. In
1952, the Israeli government proposed to Einstein that he take
the post of second president. He declined the offer, and is believed
to be the only United States citizen ever to have been offered
a position as a foreign head of state. On March 30, 1953, Einstein
released a revised unified field theory.
died at 1:15 AM in Princeton hospital in Princeton, New Jersey,
on April 18, 1955 at the age of 76 from internal bleeding, which
was caused by the rupture of an aortic aneurism, leaving the Generalized
Theory of Gravitation unsolved. The only person present at his
deathbed, a hospital nurse, said that just before his death he
mumbled several words in German that she did not understand. He
was cremated without ceremony on the same day he died at Trenton,
New Jersey, in accordance with his wishes. His ashes were scattered
at an undisclosed location.
autopsy was performed on Einstein by Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey,
who removed and preserved his brain. Harvey found nothing unusual
with his brain, but in 1999 further analysis by a team at McMaster
University revealed that his parietal operculum region was missing
and, to compensate, his inferior parietal lobe was 15% wider than
normal. The inferior parietal region is responsible for mathematical
thought, visuospatial cognition, and imagery of movement. Einstein's
brain also contained 73% more glial cells than the average brain.
Albert Einstein appeared outwardly jovial and animated and was
known for his aphorisms and doggerel, evidenced by the several
editions of The Quotable Einstein. He possessed a shaggy-haired
visage, a moustache and "a haloe of unruly white hair,"
in his later years, and was said to have a piercing gaze. He minimized
his wardrobe, so he would not waste time on deciding what to wear.
Einstein draped himself in mothy sweaters and baggy pants held
up by suspenders, and stopped wearing socks, since his big toes
poked holes in them.
enjoyed sailing, playing the violin, and listening to Beethoven,
Bach, Mozart and Schubert. Albert indulged his appetite for heavy
German cooking. He would leisurely walk to work with a friend
and colleague, whether it was the Bern patent office or the Institute
for Advanced Study (with Michelle Besso and Kurt Gödel, respectively).
The absent-minded professor had the ability to focus on a problem
years on end, and like Newton faced his "intellectual demons."
Einstein's writings on religion are frequently associated with
pantheism, an areligious spirituality that regards the natural
world as definitionally equivalent to God, and deism, a natural
religion that has become identified with the belief that God created
the universe but does not intervene in the world. Although he
was raised Jewish, he was not a believer in the religious aspect
of Judaism, though he still considered himself an ethnic Jew.
From a letter written in English, dated March 24, 1954, Einstein
wrote, "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious
convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do
not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but
have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be
called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure
of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
also said (in an essay reprinted in Living Philosophies, vol.
13, 1931): "A knowledge of the existence of something we
cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and
the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms
are accessible to our minds—it is this knowledge and this
emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and this
[sense] alone, I am a deeply religious man."
following is a response made to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the
International Synagogue in New York which read, "I believe
in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of
what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates
and actions of human beings." After being pressed on his
religious views by Martin Buber, Einstein exclaimed, "What
we [physicists] strive for is just to draw His lines after Him."
He also quoted once "When I read the Bhagavad Gita, I ask
myself how God created the universe. Everything else seems superfluous."
Summarizing his religious beliefs, he once said: "My religion
consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit
who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive
with our frail and feeble mind."
was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association
beginning in 1934, and was an admirer of Ethical Culture.
Einstein and Solomon Mikhoels, the chairman of the Soviet Jewish
Anti-Fascist Committee, in 1943.Einstein considered himself a
pacifist and humanitarian,15 and in later years, a committed democratic
socialist. He once said, "I believe Gandhi's views were the
most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should
strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence for fighting
for our cause, but by non-participation of anything you believe
is evil." Einstein's views on other issues, including socialism,
McCarthyism and racism, were controversial.
a 1949 article entitled "Why Socialism?", Albert Einstein
described the "predatory phase of human development",
exemplified by a chaotic capitalist society, as a source of evil
to be overcome. He disapproved of the totalitarian regimes in
the Soviet Union and elsewhere, and argued in favor of a democratic
socialist system which would combine a planned economy with a
deep respect for human rights. Einstein was a co-founder of the
liberal German Democratic Party and a member of the AFL-CIO-affiliated
union the American Federation of Teachers.
was very much involved in the Civil Rights movement. He was a
close friend of Paul Robeson for over 20 years. Einstein was a
member of several civil rights groups (including the Princeton
chapter of the NAACP) many of which were headed by Paul Robeson.
He served as co-chair with Paul Robeson of the American Crusade
to End Lynching. When W.E.B. DuBois was frivolously charged with
being a communist spy during the McCarthy era while he was in
his 80s, Einstein volunteered as a character witness in the case.
The case was dismissed shortly after it was announced that he
was to appear in that capacity. Einstein was quoted as saying
that "racism is America's greatest disease".
U.S. FBI kept a 1,427 page file on his activities and recommended
that he be barred from immigrating to the United States under
the Alien Exclusion Act, alleging that Einstein "believes
in, advises, advocates, or teaches a doctrine which, in a legal
sense, as held by the courts in other cases, 'would allow anarchy
to stalk in unmolested' and result in 'government in name only'",
among other charges. They also alleged that Einstein "was
a member, sponsor, or affiliated with thirty-four communist fronts
between 1937-1954" and "also served as honorary chairman
for three communist organizations".17 It should be noted
that many of the documents in the file were submitted to the FBI,
mainly by civilian political groups, and not actually written
by FBI officials.
In 1939, Einstein signed a letter, written by Leó Szilárd,
to President Roosevelt arguing that the United States should start
funding research into the development of nuclear weapons.Einstein
opposed tyrannical forms of government, and for this reason (and
his Jewish background), opposed the Nazi regime and fled Germany
shortly after it came to power. At the same time, Einstein's anarchist
nephew Carl Einstein, who shared many of his views, was fighting
the fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
initially favored construction of the atomic bomb, in order to
ensure that Hitler did not do so first, and even sent a letter18
to President Roosevelt (dated August 2, 1939, before World War
II broke out, and probably written by Leó Szilárd)
encouraging him to initiate a program to create a nuclear weapon.
Roosevelt responded to this by setting up a committee for the
investigation of using uranium as a weapon, which in a few years
was superseded by the Manhattan Project.
the war, though, Einstein lobbied for nuclear disarmament and
a world government: "I do not know how the Third World War
will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth—rocks!"
was a supporter of Zionism. He supported Jewish settlement of
the ancient seat of Judaism and was active in the establishment
of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which published (1930)
a volume titled About Zionism: Speeches and Lectures by Professor
Albert Einstein, and to which Einstein bequeathed his papers.
However, he opposed nationalism and expressed skepticism about
whether a Jewish nation-state was the best solution.
may have imagined Jews and Arabs living peacefully in the same
land. In later life, in 1952, he was offered the post ofsecond
president of the newly created state of Israel, but declined the
offer, claiming that he lacked the necessary people skills. Einstein
was disturbed by the violence taking place in the Palestine after
the Second World War and expressed that he was disappointed with
the Jewish Ultra-Nationalist Organization (Irgun and Stern Gang).
Nonetheless, Einstein remained deeply committed to the welfare
of Israel and the Jewish people for the rest of his life.
along with Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell, fought against
nuclear tests and bombs. As his last public act, and just days
before his death, he signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which
led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. His
letter to Russell read:
Thank you for your letter of April 5. I am gladly willing to sign
your excellent statement. I also agree with your choice of the
With kind regards, A. Einstein
German, Swiss or American?
Einstein was born a German citizen. At the age of seventeen, on
January 28, 1896, he was released from the German citizenship
by his own request and with the approval of his father. He remained
stateless for five years. On February 21, 1901 he gained Swiss
citizenship, which he never revoked. Einstein regained German
citizenship in April 1914 when he entered German civil service,
but due to the political situation and the persecution of Jewish
people in Nazi Germany, he left civil service in March 1933 and
thus also lost the German citizenship. On October 1, 1940, Einstein
became an American citizen. He remained both an American and a
Swiss citizen until his death on April 18, 1955.
and cultural impact
Einstein's popularity has led to widespread use of Einstein in
advertising and merchandising, including the registration of "Albert
Einstein" as a trademark.
Albert Einstein has become the subject of a number of novels,
films and plays, including 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., Alan Lightman's
novel 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. His humorous
side is also the subject of Ed Metzger's one-man play Albert Einstein:
The Practical Bohemian.
is often used as a model for depictions of mad scientists in works
of fiction; his own character and distinctive hairstyle suggest
eccentricity, or even lunacy and are widely copied or exaggerated.
TIME magazine writer Frederic Golden referred to Einstein as "a
cartoonist's dream come true."
Einstein's 72nd birthday in 1951, the UPI photographer Arthur
Sasse was trying to coax him into smiling for the camera. Having
done this for the photographer many times that day, Einstein stuck
out his tongue instead.20 The image has become an icon in pop
culture for its contrast of the genius scientist displaying a
moment of levity. Yahoo Serious, an Australian film maker, used
the photo as an inspiration for the intentionally anachronistic
movie Young Einstein.
Einstein bequeathed his estate, as well as the use of his image
(see personality rights), to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.21
Einstein actively supported the university during his life and
this support continues with the royalties received from licensing
activities. The Roger Richman Agency licences the commercial use
of the name "Albert Einstein" and associated imagery
and likenesses of Einstein, as agent for the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem. As head licensee the agency can control commercial
usage of Einstein's name which does not comply with certain standards
(e.g., when Einstein's name is used as a trademark, the ™
symbol must be used).22 As of May, 2005, the Roger Richman Agency
was acquired by Corbis.
this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every
human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and
aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding
men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty
Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain
extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined
with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?"
people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for
reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. "
do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes
has not done so up to now." [Einstein's reply to a reporter's
question if religion will promote peace]
man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy,
education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary.
Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by
fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."
the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution, human fantasy
created gods in man's own image who, by the operations of their
will were supposed to determine, or at any rate influence, the
phenomenal world... The idea of God in the religions taught at
present is a sublimation of that old conception of the gods. Its
anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact
that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the
fulfillment of their wishes... In their struggle for the ethical
good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the
doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear
and hope which in the past placed such vase power in the hands
do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider
ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority
foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor
tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy
of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and
cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence
the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment
on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of
the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent,
been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum
Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.] My religiosity
consists in a humble admiratation of the infinitely superior spirit
that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory
understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest
importance -- but for us, not for God."
doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but
only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind,
with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for
the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to
give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that
source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power
in the hands of priests.... The further the spiritual evolution
of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the
path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life,
and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after
most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is
the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art
and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder,
no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.
It was the experience of mystery-- even if mixed with fear --
that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something
we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason
and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive
forms are accessible to our minds -- it is this knowledge and
this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense,
and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man."
mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in
the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism,
is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since
our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations
of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem
to me to be empty and devoid of meaning."
cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures,
or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither
can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives
his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism,
cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the
eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous
structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving
to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that
manifests itself in nature."
human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part
limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts
and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of
optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind
of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to
affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its
was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions,
a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe
in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed
it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious
then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world
so far as our science can reveal it. "
I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend
only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with
a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that
has nothing to do with mysticism. "
research is based on the idea that everything that takes place
is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for
the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will
hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced
by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being."
cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos."
more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events
the firmer become his conviction that there is no room left by
the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different
nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of 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, in the real sense, by science, for this
doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific
knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. But I am convinced
that such behavior on the part of representatives of religion
would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which
is to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark,
will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable
harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good,
teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine
of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope
which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests.
In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces
which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful
in humanity itself. This is, to be sure a more difficult but an
incomparably more worthy task.."
cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his
creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in
short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I
believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although
feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press,
usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to
organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool
am convinced that some political and social activities and practices
of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous
for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here
only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation
in various countries has become a serious threat to the health
of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace
on this planet. "
will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds
without a religious feeling of his own. But it is different from
the religiosity of the naive man. For the latter, God is a being
from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one
fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for
its father, a being to whom one stands, so to speak, in a personal
relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe.
the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation...
There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair.
His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement
at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of
such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking
and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection...
It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed
the religious geniuses of all ages. "
received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit
priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell
such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am,
of course, and have always been an atheist. "
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 whose
fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters
of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude
of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual
understanding of nature and of our own being."
idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am
unable to take seriously."
road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the
road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable,
and I have never regretted having chosen it."
religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility
of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from
the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling
of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe.
It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like
being in our own image-a personage who makes demands of us and
who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither
a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being. For this
reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter,
albeit the most important in the human sphere."
deep religiosity... found an abrupt ending at the age of twelve,
through the reading of popular scientific books."
is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which
[I] lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of
the 'merely personal,' from an existence which is dominated by
wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings."
idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in
the world is absolutely impossible."
religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion
which based on experience, which refuses dogmatic. If there's
any religion that would cope the scientific needs it will be Buddhism...."
man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of
the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of
a being who interferes in the course of events... He has no use
for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral