Albert Einstein transformed the world of physics. He was recognized countless times for his contributions to the sciences. He was also awarded the noble prize in physics in 1921.
Here are 21 interesting facts about Albert Einstein you might not know
21 Interesting Facts about Albert Einstein
1. Einstein Created Modern Physics With 4 Papers in 1 Miracle Year, 1905
Albert Einstein often worked on physics when he should have been examining patents at his day job. To Einstein’s credit, he continued his education, even while he worked. While working as a patent clerk, Albert Einstein continued to study physics and submit papers for publication.
In 1905, Einstein would have the most incredible year of his life. He published four important papers on physics. These were papers that would change physics forever, and alter the course of life in the 20th century. All his papers were published in the Annalen der Physik, a prestigious scientific journal.
Einstein’s first paper, on the photoelectric effect, would later earn him the Nobel Prize. His second paper, on Brownian motion described the movement of molecules.
The next two papers were so revolutionary, that it would be another 30 years or more until Einstein’s theories could be proven. Einstein’s paper on special relativity was the first big leap beyond Isaac Newton’s theories from almost 250 years earlier.
Newton had his own miracle year or annus mirabilis, the Latin name often used to describe this phenomenon of events in a person’s life or in history. Newton’s miracle year was 1666 when he created breakthrough inventions and made important discoveries in calculus, motion, optics, and gravitation.
Two hundred and thirty-nine years later, Einstein was blazing the path for modern physics that would take humankind beyond the classical worldview of Newtonian motion and gravity. Einstein’s discoveries in physics are important because they changed the way we see the world and made a number of new discoveries and inventions possible. Einstein was only 26 years old and he was already altering the course of human history with only his mind, paper and pen!
Einstein’s fourth paper in 1905 is perhaps his most famous, as it contains his equation, E = mc2 . This is a revolutionary paper in nuclear physics that describes the behavior of matter as it approaches the speed of light.
The amazing conclusion of this paper is that mass is equivalent to energy! This idea, even today, seems fantastic, but is one of the most important Albert Einstein facts that he established.
Many people consider E = mc2 to be the most famous equation ever. It was a monumental work that would change human life forever, as well as Einstein’s life. While his three other papers from 1905 would have been enough to establish Einstein as one of the greatest geniuses of all time, this fourth paper would make Einstein an international celebrity.
During the April of this same year, Einstein also received his PhD from the University of Zürich. His doctoral dissertation was A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions. It’s amazing to think that Albert Einstein accomplished all of this when he was only 26 years old.
2. Albert Einstein Read Euclid and Kant When He Was 10 Years Old
Einstein was born in 1879 to a Jewish family living in Germany. His family was not observant, and Albert Einstein attended a Catholic school from the time he was five years old until he was eight.
At eight years old, Einstein was transferred to the Luitpold Gymnasium, which has now been named after him. Einstein attended the school until he was fifteen years old. Some people have said that Einstein struggled as a student early on, or was a daydreamer. This is not actually correct: Einstein excelled in his academic studies as a youth.
When Einstein was just 10 years old, he was introduced to the writings of philosopher Immanuel Kant, and the geometry of Euclid. These books made a big impression on the young Albert Einstein.
Perhaps it was Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason that led Einstein to question the authority at his school. When he was 15 years old, Einstein’s family moved to Italy after his father’s business failed. Einstein was supposed to stay behind and finish his schooling. Instead, he used a doctor’s note as an excuse and traveled to Italy to rejoin his family.
On a more serious note, Einstein later complained that the school’s teaching method was limiting his creativity and diminishing his love of learning. While in Italy, and only 15 or 16 years old, Einstein wrote a short essay entitled, On the Investigation of the State of Ether in a Magnetic Field. With an intellect as powerful as Albert Einstein’s, perhaps no school could satisfy the amount of information his young mind was capable of absorbing.
3. Albert Einstein Convinced FDR to Build the Atomic Bomb
One of the more surprising Albert Einstein facts is that Einstein was a pacifist, yet played a part in the building of the atomic bomb. Many people think that Einstein realized that his theories could be used to build a weapon, but this is not one of the Albert Einstein facts.
The truth is, before World War 2 began, Einstein was approached by European scientists who warned that Germany was developing an atomic weapon. This was the first time Einstein had conceived of the possibility of atomic weapons. He was a pacifist, so the thought of creating a weapon using his theories had never occurred to him.
Einstein contributed to a letter to President Roosevelt that suggested the United States begin atomic weapon research so they could build an atomic weapon before the Germans. Einstein even used his personal connections to get an audience with the President to convince him that the United States needed to win the race to build an atomic bomb.
The Manhattan Project was created to develop the atomic bomb, and the United States became the first country to develop an atomic weapon. Albert Einstein later regretted writing the letter and urging Roosevelt to pursue the creation of the atomic bomb. He later wrote another letter, along with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, advocating against the use of nuclear weapons.
While he was not directly involved in the creation of the atomic bomb, it would not have been possible without Einstein’s theories. This is one of the sad Albert Einstein facts that is also a sad fact about science and technology: too often humankind uses advances in science and technology for destructive purposes.
4. It Took 15 Years for Einstein’s Relativity Theory to Make Him Famous
When Eddington recorded the bending of light around the sun, Albert Einstein’s hypothesis became an established theory for most of the scientific community. There was proof that Einstein’s description of the Universe was better than Newton’s.
Einstein’s discovery was featured in headlines around the world during the fall and winter of 1919. It’s one of our more remarkable Albert Einstein facts that his initial insights in 1905 would make him world-famous 14 years later! Einstein had been refining and improving his hypotheses during this time, however, it was his miracle year of 1905 that laid the groundwork for his future work and much of modern physics.
In 1921, Einstein received the Nobel Prize for his work on the photoelectric effect. Despite the evidence, his theory of relativity was so advanced that the Nobel did not award him the prize for what may have been a more revolutionary insight.
Einstein toured the world and was given a hero’s welcome wherever he went. Einstein visited the United States, Japan, Singapore and Palestine, recording his observations of the different cultures he encountered in letters to friends and family.
5. Albert Einstein Failed His First Entrance Exam to College in 1895
In 1895, when Einstein was just 16 years old, he completed the entrance exams for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zürich, Switzerland. He achieved good grades in the math and physics portions but failed the general part of the exam.
Einstein found another school in Aarau, Switzerland to finish the general studies that he needed for entrance into the Polytechnic. During this time, in 1896, Einstein renounced his German citizenship so that he would not have to serve in the military. Later in the year, Einstein graduated with the equivalent of his high school diploma.
Shortly afterward, Einstein finally gained admittance to the Zürich Polytechnic. He finished the studies he needed for admittance to the Polytechnic within one year and was only 17 years old when he started college.
6. Einstein Was an Ordinary Patent Clerk When He Was 21
In 1900, Albert Einstein graduated from the Zürich Polytechnic with a teaching degree. During his time in college, Einstein excelled in his studies at school and continued to study physics in his spare time.
After graduation, Einstein searched in vain for a teaching position. He became a Swiss citizen in 1901, but he avoided being drafted into the military by citing medical reasons.
It’s not clear to us today what these medical reasons were, or whether this was another example of Einstein using a doctor’s note as an excuse! This might be another one of the fun facts about Albert Einstein, or his actions could have been due to his philosophy of pacifism.
When he was unable to find work teaching, Einstein landed a job as an assistant patent examiner. Einstein worked as an ordinary patent clerk. While this may seem like one of the more discouraging Albert Einstein facts, it is reported that this position gave Einstein plenty of free time during the day to contemplate the physics questions that occupied his mind.
He was given a permanent post in 1903, so Einstein must have been doing a sufficient job. He was passed over for promotion though, which leads us to believe he may have spent some of his time on the job working on the physics problems that interested him.
7. Albert Einstein Made His Breakthrough Discoveries in Relative Isolation
In 1905, Einstein was largely unknown and was working in relative isolation. While Einstein had access to the Annalen der Physik, he was not a part of any prestigious academic circles during his time as a patent clerk.
Perhaps this was for the best. Einstein had disdained the overly rigorous approach to education at his school as a youth. Remaining largely outside the confines of academia gave Albert Einstein the freedom he needed to let his mind race in whatever direction pleased him.
One of the Albert Einstein facts we know is that he was not completely alone. Einstein regularly met with a group of friends to discuss physics and philosophy. He also bounced many of his ideas off of a colleague that he knew from the Zürich Polytechnic and worked with at the Swiss patent office, Michele Besso. Einstein also discussed his work with his wife at the time, Mileva Marić.
However, there is no clear evidence that any of these people contributed significantly to Albert Einstein’s breakthrough papers. Albert Einstein was a singular genius.
8. In 3 Years Albert Einstein Went from Obscurity to Celebrity
In 1903, Albert Einstein still could not find a teaching job. Finally, in 1908, after the publication of his papers from his miracle year in 1905, he was appointed as a lecturer at the University of Bern. It took three years for even the brilliant academics at the time to realize the monumental nature of Einstein’s work.
In 1909, Einstein received a professorship at the University of Zürich. He briefly taught as a professor in Prague in 1911, before returning to the Zürich Polytechnic where he became a professor of theoretical physics.
Einstein returned to Germany in 1914 and was appointed as the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, a post he would hold until 1932. It’s one of the ironic Albert Einstein facts that he could hardly find a teaching job after receiving his degree but was now receiving offers and appointments from universities all across Europe.
9. Einstein’s Relativity Theory Was Proved in 1919 During a Solar Eclipse
Einstein was a theoretical physicist. Einstein was not an engineer who designed inventions, or someone who made practical discoveries that could be put to immediate use. Albert Einstein proposed hypotheses or descriptions of how the Universe operates.
In science, a hypothesis becomes a theory when there is significant evidence to show that the proposed way of describing the Universe more closely matches the observed evidence than any previous theories.
In this way, scientific theories gradually improve our understanding of the Universe through better and better descriptions and models. Einstein’s descriptions were a complete revolution over the Newtonian theories proven at the time.
For theoretical physicists, it is vital to find an experiment that will prove a hypothesis is better than a previous theory. For Einstein, finding an experiment was difficult, because his hypotheses were so far ahead of current physics and instrumentation that could measure the physical world.
In 1911, Albert Einstein discovered a way to prove his hypothesis of relativity. According the theory of relativity he had developed at the time, the light from a distant star should be bent by the Earth’s gravity. At the time, telescopes were only powerful enough to detect this event during a solar eclipse.
A race was on among experimental physicists. These are the physicists who create instruments and experiments that prove the hypotheses of theoretical physicists. A solar eclipse only occurs every so often and is only a total eclipse in certain parts of the world.
Experimental physicists traveled to the tropics and other destinations around the world, hoping to prove Einstein’s theory right. Bear in mind, they would not only have to be in the right place at the right time, but the experimental physicists would need enough time with no clouds overhead to measure the light from the distant star before, during, and after the solar eclipse.
When we consider this, it’s not surprising that it wasn’t until May of 1919 that Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington finally proved Einstein’s theory of relativity. Eddington also played an important role in translating and spreading Einstein’s theory of relativity to the English-speaking world.
One of the Albert Einstein facts we tend to forget is that he spoke German, and his original papers were published in German. Without the help of international scientists like Eddington, Einstein’s ideas may have only been circulated throughout Germany or Europe.
10. Albert Einstein Wasn’t a United States Citizen Until 1940
Albert Einstein was visiting the United States in 1933 when Adolf Hitler took power of Germany. He started a series of actions against Jews that would become the Holocaust. Einstein was Jewish and possessed enough common sense in addition to his incredible intellect to stay in the United States and take up residence.
Einstein was so famous that, on his return trip to the United States, which started in 1930, people working on his behalf limited public access to him. This was necessary so that he could focus on his work, and on meeting important intellectuals and luminaries in the United States.
The laws enacted in Germany by Hitler and the Nazi party prevented any Jewish person from holding a professor post at a university. Einstein helped other Jewish intellectuals avoid persecution by using his fame to convince world leaders to provide opportunities for emigration.
11. He had a unique sense of style.
Einstein had his own sense of style, to say the least. Besides the uncombed hair and raged look he never wore socks, It didn’t even matter for him because he said that it’s a very unnecessary habit to adopt.
Einstein once said: When I was young I found out that the big toe always ends up making a whole in the sock, so I stop wearing them.
12. A pocket compass sparked his interest in science
One day at the age of 5 Einstein was in bed and he was sick. In an effort to cheer him up, His father decided to show him his pocket compass. Young Einstein was mesmerized by this experience and at that time something led up in his brain.
For years he remembered this experience and often wondered what force was exerted on the needle in order for it to point in various directions. This experience was the beginning of his invention.
13. He suffered from depression
As part of his theory of relativity, he made the point that a large amount of energy can be released from a small amount of matter. He was well known for being a strict person for the majority of his life. He also didn’t want to do anything with the creation of the atomic bomb. Upon hearing that his research was being used for evil purposes, Einstein went into a deep depression.
14. Einstein published over 300 scientific papers.
15. He declined the presidency of Israel in 1952.
16. After Einstein’s death his brain was removed illegally from his body.
His brain was then lost for 50 years.
17. Einstein never learned how to drive.
18. It was claimed by some in the FBI that Einstein was actually a Soviet spy.
A document focusing on the scientist’s associations with pacifists and socialists was collated by the FBI in 1933; it stood a whopping 1,427 pages high.
19. In New York – buried away in a safe box – lies Einstein’s eyeballs after they were given to Henry Adams; the scientist’s eye doctor.
20. Einstein’s wrinkles and eyes appeared in Star Wars after the make-up supervisor responsible for Yoda based the features on the visionary.
21. Einstein loved to smoke
He smoked a pipe and claimed that it helps calm and focus a man.