A Complete Biography of Albert Einstein and his Life

Biography of Albert Einstein and his Life

In the seventeenth century, the simplicity and elegance with which Isaac Newton had managed to explain the laws that govern the motion of bodies and that of the stars, unifying terrestrial and celestial physics, dazzled his contemporaries to such an extent that he came to be considered mechanics completed. At the end of the 19th century, however, the relevance of some phenomena that classical physics could not explain was already unavoidable. It was up to Albert Einstein to overcome such deficiencies with the creation of a new paradigm: the theory of relativity, the starting point of modern physics.

Albert Einstein in 1947

As an explanatory model completely removed from common sense, relativity is among those advances that, at the dawn of the 20th century, would lead to the divorce between ordinary people and increasingly specialized and unintelligible science. However, already in the life of the physicist or posthumously, even the most surprising and incomprehensible aspects of relativity would end up being confirmed. It should not be surprising, then, that Albert Einstein is one of the most famous and admired characters in the history of science: knowing that so many barely conceivable ideas are true (for example, that the mass of a body increases with speed) does not leave more choice than to surrender to his genius.

A bad student

Albert Einstein was born in the German city of Ulm on March 14, 1879. He was the first-born son of Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch, both Jews, whose families came from Swabia. The following year they moved to Munich, where the father established himself, together with his brother Jakob, as a merchant in the electrotechnical novelties of the time.

Little Albert was a quiet and self-absorbed child and had a slow intellectual development. Einstein himself attributed to this slowness the fact that he was the only person to develop a theory such as relativity: “a normal adult does not worry about the problems posed by space and time since he considers that everything there is What to know about it has already known him since his early childhood. I, on the other hand, have developed so slowly that I did not begin to ask myself questions about space and time until I was older.

In 1894, economic difficulties caused the family (increased since 1881 with the birth of a daughter, Maya) to move to Milan; Einstein remained in Munich to finish his secondary studies, meeting with his parents the following year. In the autumn of 1896 he began his higher studies at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, where he was a student of the mathematician Hermann Minkowski, who later generalized the four-dimensional formalism introduced by the theories of his former student.

Einstein with Elsa, his second wife

On June 23, 1902, Albert Einstein began to serve at the Confederal Office for Intellectual Property in Bern, where he worked until 1909. In 1903 he married Mileva Maric, a former fellow student in Zurich, with whom he had two children. : Hans Albert and Eduard, born in 1904 and 1910 respectively. In 1919 they divorced, and Einstein remarried his cousin Elsa.


During 1905, he published five works in the Annalen der Physik: the first of them earned him a doctorate from the University of Zurich, and the remaining four would end up imposing a radical change in the image that science offers of the universe. Of these four, the first provided a theoretical explanation in statistical terms of Brownian motion (named after its discoverer, Robert Brown), and the second gave an interpretation of the photoelectric effect based on the hypothesis that light is composed of quanta. the individual later called photons. The two remaining works laid the foundations of the restricted theory of relativity, establishing the equivalence between the energy Eof a certain amount of matter and its mass m in terms of the famous equation E = mc², where c is the speed of light, which is assumed constant.

Einstein’s effort immediately placed him among the most eminent of European physicists, but public recognition of the true scope of his theories was slow in coming; the Nobel Prize in Physics, which he received in 1921, was awarded exclusively “for his work on Brownian motion and his interpretation of the photoelectric effect.” In 1909 he began his career as a university teacher in Zurich, then moved to Prague and returned again to Zurich in 1912 to be a professor at the Polytechnic, where he had completed his studies.

Einstein playing the violin, one of his favorite hobbies (c. 1930)

In 1914 he went to Berlin as a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. The outbreak of the First World War forced him to separate from his family (at that time on vacation in Switzerland), who no longer met him again. Against the general sentiment of the Berlin academic community, Einstein at that time manifested himself openly anti-war, influenced in his attitudes by the pacifist doctrines of Romain Rolland.

On a scientific level, his activity was focused, between 1914 and 1916, on the improvement of the general theory of relativity, based on the postulate that gravity is not a force but a field created by the presence of a mass in the space-time continuum. The confirmation of his forecasts came in 1919 when the solar eclipse of May 29 was photographed; The Times presented him as the new Newton, and his international fame grew, forcing him to multiply his outreach conferences around the world and popularizing his image as a third-class railway traveler, with a violin case under his arm.

Towards a unifying theory

For the next decade, Einstein concentrated his efforts on finding a mathematical relationship between electromagnetism and gravitational attraction, determined to advance towards what, for him, should be the ultimate goal of physics: discovering the common laws that, supposedly, had of governing the behavior of all objects in the universe, from subatomic particles to stellar bodies, and grouping them into a single “unified field” theory. Such an investigation, which occupied the rest of his life, was unsuccessful and ended up causing him to be estranged from the rest of the scientific community. From 1933, with the accession of Hitler to power, his loneliness was compounded by the need to renounce German citizenship and move to the United States; Einstein spent the last 25 years of his life at the Institute for Higher Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, the city where he died on April 18, 1955.

Einstein once said that politics had a passing value, whereas an equation was valid for all eternity. In the last years of his life, the bitterness at not finding the formula that would reveal the secret of the unity of the world had to be accentuated by the need he felt to intervene dramatically in the political sphere. In 1939, at the urging of physicists Leo Szilard and Eugene Paul Wigner, and convinced that the Germans were in a position to make an atomic bomb, he approached President Roosevelt urging him to undertake a research program on atomic energy.

After the Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions ended World War II, Einstein joined scientists seeking to prevent the future use of the bomb and proposed the formation of a world government from the embryo made up of the United Nations. But his proposals for humanity to avoid the threats of individual and collective destruction, formulated in the name of a singular amalgam of science, religion and socialism, received a rejection from politicians comparable to the respectful criticisms that his successive scientists aroused among scientists. versions of the idea of ​​a unified field.

Albert Einstein remains a mythical figure of our time; more, even, than he came to be in life if one takes into account that that photograph of him in which he exhibits an unusual gesture of mockery (sticking out his tongue in a comical and irreverent expression) has been elevated to the dignity of an icon domestic after being turned into a poster as common as those of song idols and Hollywood stars. However, it is not his scientific genius or his human stature that best explains him as a myth, but, perhaps, the accumulation of paradoxes that his own biography contains, accentuated with the historical perspective. Einstein champion of pacifism is still remembered as the “father of the bomb”; and it is still common that the demonstration of the principle that “everything is relative” is attributed precisely to him.