Perhaps the greatest scientist of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein transformed the way school children would learn about science, math, and physics for generations to come. He was born at Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879, and spent his early life in Munich, Italy, and finally Switzerland, where he obtained citizenship
and trained to be a teacher in mathematics and physics. As is often the case with recent graduates, he was unable to secure a job in his chosen field of teaching, and instead accepted a position in the Swiss Patent Office, as a technical clerk. He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and fathered a daughter and two sons.
He did not give up on his education, however; and obtained his doctorate in 1905. In his spare time away from the patent office, Einstein produced some of his most remarkable work, which would become the basis for his enduring legacy. As his “freelance” work gained prominence, Einstein filled successive academic posts, (from 1908-1911) going from Privatdozent in Berne to Professor Extraordinary at Zurich and on to Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague. After which he came back to Zurich in 1912 and filled an equivalent post. In short order for academic circles, he was then appointed as Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute, and Professor in the University of Berlin, and became a German citizen (returning to the land of his birth) in 1914.
Einstein’s marriage to Maric ended in 1919, wherein he promptly married his cousin, Elsa Lowenthal. In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work explaining the photoelectric effect. He became world famous – practically a household name – which proved a remarkable achievement for a scientist in an advanced and theoretical field. Normally such men toil in near obscurity unknown to any outside his field, but Einstein brought science to the forefront of international imaginations, as no other had done in the modern era.
He remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his German citizenship (World War II was brewing) and immigrated to America. He took the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). Lowenthal died in 1936. In 1940, he became an American citizen, and continued to work and teach until he retired in 1945.
Not long after WWII, Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel which he declined, but working with Dr. Chaim Weizmann, he helped to establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received honorary doctorates from universities in Europe and America, was awarded memberships in all the prevalent international societies of the day, and won quite a number of awards and medals for his work and research in addition to the Nobel.
But it is his work in the related fields of mathematics and physics that made his name synonymous with genius. He was able to look at the world, and in turn view mathematics and physics in ways unthought-of before. It is to his credit (and ours) that he did not simply give up, forgetting his passion for mathematics and physics when at first he was unable to find a correlating post. And whether or not all of his theories bear fruit, we are in his debt.
He died on 18-April-1955, having remained at Princeton, New Jersey for the remainder of his life.