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Essential Facts about Albert Einstein's Life

Part of the Einstein For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Albert Einstein and his theories of relativity and quantum physics is celebrated the world over. Einstein, the scientist, is familiar to all; Einstein, the man, is less well-known. The following list contains basic facts about Einstein's life:

  • Albert Einstein was born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany, and was raised in Munich.

  • A common — and incorrect — belief about Einstein is that he had a learning disability. In fact, he was a top student in grade school and in college. But he had a rebellious character and clashed with teachers and professors. He sometimes missed classes to study what he liked, and he ended up with some bad grades as a result.

  • Einstein originally wanted to become a mathematics and physics teacher but later changed his mind and wanted to be a university professor.

  • His first permanent job was as a clerk in a patent office in Bern, Switzerland.

  • In one year, his miracle year of 1905, Einstein discovered the special theory of relativity, the E = mc2 equation, and the idea of the quantum.

  • Einstein developed his special theory of relativity in five weeks. It took him four years to develop the general theory of relativity.

  • Einstein was married twice: first to his college girlfriend and classmate, Mileva Maric, and then to his cousin, Elsa Einstein.

  • He had three children, all with Mileva. Their first child was a daughter, Lieserl, who was apparently given up for adoption. Their second child was Hans Albert, who became a professor of engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. Their third child, Eduard, was extremely gifted but was institutionalized because of schizophrenia.

  • Einstein was a citizen of three countries. He was a German citizen by birth but gave up his citizenship in 1896 because he despised Germany's militarism. He became a Swiss citizen in 1901. In 1933, he moved to the United States to flee the Nazis, and he became a U.S. citizen in 1940.

  • In 1939, Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, bringing to his attention the real possibility that the recent discovery of nuclear fission "would also lead to the construction of bombs." He warned the president of the dangerous possibility that Nazi Germany might develop the bomb. Einstein's involvement with the bomb ended with this letter; he didn't participate in its development.

  • Quantum theory started with the first paper of Einstein's miracle year of 1905, but he always expressed doubts that quantum physics actually described the real world. "An inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing," he wrote in 1926.

  • In 1952, Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel after the death of the country's first president. Einstein declined the offer.

  • Einstein died in Princeton, New Jersey, on April 18, 1955.

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