Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Historical Figure Project - Paul You

Childhood and Upbringing

Einstein's Birth

  • Born: March 14th, 1879 in the city of Ulm, Württemberg, Germany

  • Father: Hermann Einstein

  • Mother: Pauline Koch

  • Sibling: Maja Einstein

Upbringing & Education

  • Einstein was birthed in a secular, middle class family by his father Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer, and his mother Pauline Koch in the city Ulm, Germany.

  • He had one sibling by the name of Maja Einstein who was born two years after himself.

  • In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle ran the Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment.

  • Einstein attended elementary school at the Luitpold Gymnasium in his new home in Munich. He felt alienated and struggled with the strict, Prussian style of education he received there.

  • He experienced a speech difficulty, a slowness in his speaking where he’d often stop and pause to consider what to say next.

  • In 1894, Hermann Einstein’s company started to fall in hard times and the family was forced to move his family to Milan, Italy, while Albert was left at a relative's house to finish and graduate from the Luitpold Gymnasium.

  • Afraid he would have to perform his military duty in the city of Munich, Einstein abandoned his school and ran away to Milan to join his parents. Thus, he was left in a contemptible state: a school dropout and draft dodger with no specific skills for employment

  • Fortunately, Einstein was able to attend and graduate from the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (Swiss Federal Polytechnic School) in Zürich, Switzerland after completing his secondary education in a special high school in Aarau, Switzerland.

  • He worked as a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office until he was invited to work and study in the University of Zurich and later Princeton University


  • At the age of 5, Einstein had his first encounter with a compass that his father brought home with him. He was fascinated by the compass and the invisible magnetic forces that turned needle. This encounter was what first sparked his interest in science.

  • In 1889 Einstein's family often invited a poor student name Max Talmud to their home to dine with them. Talmud became a source of inspiration to young Albert, introducing him to high level mathematics. Despite the high difficulty of the books that he was given, Albert cherished those books, reading them over and over again until he knew the material by heart. This showed Einstein's genius in math and science and further sparked in interest in math and science.


Einstein's Miracle Year (Annus Mirabilis)

During his time working as a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office, Albert Einstein used his spare time to produce some of his most remarkable and celebrated work. He managed to publish four unique and original scientific papers that astonished the scientific community:

  • The photoelectric effect - He explained that light energy came in chuncks or quanta, now called 'photons'. This explanation changed the way researchers thought about the nature of light.
  • Brownian motion - He discussed the Brownian motion that helped in proving the existence of molecules.
  • Special relativity - He also gave forth explanation regarding the dynamics of individual moving bodies.
  • The equivalence of matter and energy - And last, but not the least, he explained the nature of space and time.

Thus, 1905 is considered to be Einstein's "Miracle Year"

More Works

... here are some more influential works by Albert:

  • General Theory of Relativity (1916)
  • Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926)
  • The Evolution of Physics (1938)

He also published nonscientific work that had quite significant impacts:

  • About Zionism (1930)
  • Why War? (1933)
  • My Philosophy (1934)
  • The World As I See It Out of My Later Years (1950)

The Atom Bomb: Einstein's Most Significant "Contribution" to the World

Not all of his creations had positive impacts on the world. During WWII, Einstein contributed significantly in the development and invention of the deadly atom bomb, in that he provided the theories and knowledge necessary for its creation. Einstein knew the implications that would come along with the bomb: many innocent civilians would lose their lives. However, Einstein felt that the quick end of World War II was worth the moral struggle; besides, if they didn't figure it out first, it was only a matter of time before the Germans succeeded in inventing it. Thus he wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt approving the construction of this deadly weapon. This new weapon was used by the United States to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. This new devastating technology contributed to the country in that it allowed the United States to gain a swift victory in the second world war. The atomic weapon technology spread rapidly around the world until a plentiful number of powerful countries were in hold of atomic explosives. Due to its potential to cause extreme amounts of harm, it has changed the world's warfare completely in that countries are now extremely careful and that wars became much more small-scale. Despite the other important contributions Einstein made for the country, none match the disastrous impact of the development of the atomic bomb.

Einstein's Legacy

This brilliant man has actively participated and pioneered in scientific research and helped opened many doors for future scientists and mathematicians to explain the ideas of space, light and time. However, he also played a key role in creating one of the deadliest weapons known to mankind: the atom bomb.

He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey at the age of 76. He worked on his studies until his very last breath.

Einstein's Motivation

The main driving force that motivated and allowed Einstein to make his great achievements was his sense of Curiosity. Ever since he was a child, Einstein was morbidly curious about the world. For example, when Einstein first encountered a compass at the age of five, he was fascinated by the invisible forces that moved the needle of the compass and studied until he finally understood the magnetic forces causing the movement. Once something caught his attention, he never let it go without understanding the subject completely. Throughout his life, Einstein developed a morbid curiosity about the underlying rules and equations of the universe. This motivated Einstein to become a scientist and devote his whole life to making discoveries and better understanding the world around him.
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Inspirational Quotes:

"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." —Albert Einstein

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein

"E=mc^2“ —Albert Einstein

A Compare/contrast of figure’s acceptance/choices/impact on a different time period

Albert Einstein's personal beliefs would have made him a less acceptable figure in an the late 18th Century and early 19th Century of the America (The early days of the US)

  • Einstein was a passionate anti-racist in his personal life. He considered racism America's "worst disease," and worked with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to work for the civil rights of African Americans. In the early ages of the United States, this would have been frowned upon by a great number of people, due to the fact that slavery was a common practice in the time period.
  • Einstein's favored socialism and viewed capitalism in a very negative manner. The notion of "giving more power to the federal government" which is a part of socialism very much contradicts the freedom and liberty-minded mindset of the time period. Thus, Einstein's achievements, no matter how significant, would likely have been largely ignored.
  • Einstein was agnostic and believed in a "pantheistic" God, or a less personal interpretation of god similar to Spinoza. This agnostic view on religion would have sparked an exorbitant amount of hatred and suspicion among the citizens of the early stages of the United States. The religious intolerance of the US in this time period can be exemplified by the trial practices, in which people with differing beliefs were prosecuted.

Due to the relative inaccessibility of education and the underdeveloped scientific discoveries of this time period compared to his own, Einstein would not have been able to make the exact same discoveries that he managed to achieve in his lifetime. However, due to his curiosity, imagination, and genius in the mathematical and scientific area, he would have made other discoveries that are just as significant. Thus, despite the lack of education and intellectual prowess of the early stage of the United States, Einstein would have made a huge impact of the time period by making discoveries that are just as significant if not more than the achievements he made in his own time period.

If I had the same skills of imagination, morality, and curiosity as Albert Einstein in this time period, I would not invent a new machine or make a new discovery, but rather work as a social reformer for African Americans and immigrants. In this time period, the issue of slavery and oppression of minorities was a much bigger problem than industrialization. If I invented a new industrial machine, the country would indeed be industrialized and the nation's economy would flourish, but the quality of life of the oppressed will not improve and instead deteriorate significantly. Thus, since immoral practices were a much more important issue to deal with than industrialization, I would use Einstein's personal beliefs and genius to create abolitionist organizations and look to effectively push for social reform and abolition.

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Parallels/Conclusions: Time Period & Environment vs. Einstein's Actions

The surrounding environment time period of the late 1800's and early 1900's that Einstein encountered impacted his actions and beliefs significantly. As an example, Einstein was born and raised in a Jewish family in late 19th century Germany. Thus, he naturally encountered racism and segregation throughout his childhood. Due to his childhood experiences as an oppressed minority, he later grew up to develop anti-racist personal beliefs and worked as a member of the NAACP to combat racism in America. Another example of this can be seen when tracing the causes of his agnostic beliefs. As a young child, Einstein grew up in a Jewish family where he practiced Jewish tradition and beliefs. However, when he grew up and started attending elementary school, he encountered a completely new religion that was strictly imposed on him by the staff. Thus, his conflicting religious beliefs forced him to rethink their legitimacy, and Einstein ended up choosing his own agnostic belief in a non-personal and omnipresent version of god.


Secondary Source:

Summation: Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in the southern German city of Ulm, Then he moved to Munich and spent most of his childhood in a middle-class Jewish family. Einstein developed a big interest in music, mathematics, and science. Albert was afraid he would have to spend time in the military if he stayed in Germany. Therefore, he dropped out of school and moved to Switzerland. Despite his lack of formal education (Periodic Sentence), he was able to gain admission to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich. After graduating, he found a job as a clerk at the Swiss patent office in Bern and married Maric in 1903. While working at the patent office (Periodic Sentence), Einstein managed to achieve some of the most creative work of his life, producing four groundbreaking studies in 1905. Thus, 1905 is known as Einstein's Miracle Year, or "Annus Mirabilis." Einstein, armed with his 4 revolutionary discoveries as well as his general theory of relativity (Participial Phrase), was able to study at the University of Zurich, and later Princeton University. In his later years of his life, Einstein was appalled to hear that the theories he had developed in his previous years were being used by the US government to build an atomic bomb. However, he ended up signing a letter to the president of the United States approving the bomb's construction. The rest of the years of his life was spent in an effort to discover a Unified Field Theory that would incorporate all the laws of the universe into a single framework or equation. It remained unfinished when he died of an aortic aneurysm in 1955.

Interesting Facts:

1) Albert Einstein's second wife was his own cousin: Elsa Lowenthal

2) Einstein had a strong love for music: he often played the violin and other instruments

3) Despite the curable state of his fatal disease, "abdominal aortic aneurysm", he refused the surgery saying:

"I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly."

4) Albert Einstein has an extraordinary IQ of 160

Synthesis Question

Analyze the primary and secondary sources on Edison's contribution on the development of the atomic bomb. How effective was this technology in the second world war? How did this change the pattern of war in the modern era? Use the documents and your knowledge of the period of WWII (1939–1945) to construct your essay.


Political Cartoon: Einstein the Pacifist

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MLA format

"Albert Einstein." Albert Einstein. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

"Albert Einstein - Biographical." Albert Einstein - Biographical. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

Einstein, Albert. The World as I See It ; Out of My Later Years. New York: Quality Paperback, 1990. Print.

"Einstein Biography." Einstein Biography. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Pakhare, Jayashree. "Accomplishments of Albert Einstein." Buzzle., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.