Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. Around 1886 Albert Einstein began his school career in Munich. In 1894 Einstein’s family moved to Milan but Einstein remained in Munich. In 1895 Einstein failed an examination that would have allowed him to study for a diploma as an electrical engineer at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. Einstein renounced German citizenship in 1896 and was to be stateless for a number of years. He did not even apply for Swiss citizenship until 1899, citizenship being granted in 1901.
During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton*. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired from his post in 1945.
Another temporary position teaching in a private school in Schaffhausen followed. Then Grossmann’s father tried to help Einstein get a job by recommending him to the director of the patent office in Bern. Einstein was appointed as a technical expert third class.
Einstein worked in this patent office from 1902 to 1909, holding a temporary post when he was first appointed, but by 1904 the position was made permanent and in 1906 he was promoted to technical expert second class. While in the Bern patent office he completed an astonishing range of theoretical physics publications, written in his spare time without the benefit of close contact with scientific literature or colleagues.
Einstein earned a doctorate from the University of Zurich in 1905 for a thesis On a new determination of molecular dimensions. He dedicated the thesis to Grossmann.
In the first of three papers, all written in 1905, Einstein examined the phenomenon discovered by Max Planck, according to which electromagnetic energy seemed to be emitted from radiating objects in discrete quantities. The energy of these quanta was directly proportional to the frequency of the radiation. This seemed to contradict classical electromagnetic theory, based on Maxwell’s equations and the laws of thermodynamics which assumed that electromagnetic energy consisted of waves which could contain any small amount of energy. Einstein used Planck’s quantum hypothesis to describe the electromagnetic radiation of light.
Einstein’s second 1905 paper proposed what is today called the special theory of relativity. He based his new theory on a reinterpretation of the classical principle of relativity, namely that the laws of physics had to have the same form in any frame of reference. As a second fundamental hypothesis, Einstein assumed that the speed of light remained constant in all frames of reference, as required by Maxwell’s theory.
Later in 1905 Einstein showed how mass and energy were equivalent. Einstein was not the first to propose all the components of special theory of relativity. His contribution is unifying important parts of classical mechanics and Maxwell’s electrodynamics.