Einstein House in Bern

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

This is the house where Albert Einstein and his familiy lived from late 1903 to May 1905 and where he developed his quantic theory.

Photography by Eduard Ribas

Photography by Eduard Ribas

The house host one of the most productive career of Albert Einstein meanwhile he worked in the patent office of Bern.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

In the house you can see the dining room and some dormitories and you can imagine Einstein’s family having lunch and Einstein discussing with his wife malena about his researches in Physics!

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

But… do you want to know something more about Eintein’s biography? Here you have one:

Childhood and youth

A man, distinguished by his desire, if possible, to efface himself and yet impelled by the unmistakable power of genius which would not allow the individual of whom it had taken possession to rest for one moment.

With these words Lord Haldane described Einstein after he had stayed at Lord Haldane’s house on his first visit to England in 1921.

Albert Einstein at the age of 3. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein at the age of 3.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Einstein has become, with no doubt, one of the most well known scientists in history. He was born in March 14, 1879 in Ulm, in the German Empire. In a Jewish family. His parents Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch. Albert was the first of two sons: he had a sister, Maria, -or Maja, as she was always called- to whom Einstein felt very close. At his early years, Einstein had a great devotion for music, specially Mozart and Beethoven sonatas that he used to play with his mother. At his 12 birthday, he was given a book which he later referred as “the holy geometry book”: it was a book on Euclidean geometry, “the clarity and certainty of its contents made an indescribable impression on me”. It is true that Einstein was slow to speak, but the widespread belief that he was also a bad student is a myth, probably because the first bibliographers that wrote about him didn’t know that in Germany 1 is the maximum grade while 6 is the worst one, and in Switzerland is the opposite way. He actually was one of the best ones. There is a story that Einstein himself would occasionally tell quite amused from when he went at the Gymnasium in Munich. A teacher once said to him that he would be much happier if Einstein was not in his class. Einstein replied to him that he had done nothing wrong and the teacher said “Yes, that is true. But you sit there in the back row and smile, and that violates the feeling of respect which a teacher needs from his class”.

Switzerland: Bern and Zurich

Photography by Albert Ribas

Photography by Albert Ribas

When he was 16, Hermann’s business didn’t go so well and Einstein’s parents moved to Pavia, Italy, while he stayed in Munich to finish his courses. Albert felt alone and depressed in Munich, so he decided to leave before he had finished them and study by his own for passing the exam for the admission at the ETH in Zurich. He did it very well on sciences and mathematics, although he failed the general exam. Then he went to a school in Arau , in the German speaking part of Switzerland. That school made a great impression on him as he wrote shortly before his death:

This school has left an indelible impression on me because of its liberal spirit and the unaected toughness of the teachers, who in no way relied on external
authority.

In that year, 1896, Einstein successfully obtained the Matura, gave up the German citizenship, and finally enrolled at the ETH. During his years in Zurich he liked to go at a Kaeehaus to talk with friends. He spent happy hours with the distinguished historian Alfred Stern and his family, and started a life-long friendship with Michele Angelo Besso, a young engineer whom Einstein called “the best sounding board in Europe” for his scientic ideas. And it was also in this first year in the ETH when Einstein met Mileva Maric, a Serbian classmate -and the only woman in a group of six students- whom Einstein fell in love with, and would later become his wife. In 1900, Einstein passed the exams together with three other students, who immediately found a position as assistant at ETH. Mileva was unable to pass and, although Einstein did pass, he was jobless. After some more tries to find an university position, he worked as a teacher in Winterthur, Schahausen, and finally moved to Berna where he spend the most creative years of his life.

He moved to Berna thanks to Marcel Grossman, a classmate in the ETH which afterwards would develop a principal role in the mathematics behind general relativity, whose father recommended Einstein to Friedrich Haller, the director of the federal patent office in Berna, back in 1900. Finally, Einstin applied for a vacant in the patent office and he was settled there in February 1902. Firstly Einstein worked as provate teacher of mathematics and physics and hence he met Maurice Solovine, a student of philosophy who read the advertisement where Einstein offered private lessons and contacted him because he was tired of the great abstraction of philosophy and he wanted to learn more about physics. Instead of that, they began to meet on a regular basis to discuss their shared interests in physics and philosophy. Soon Konrad Habicht, a good friend of Solovine, joined them. They called themselves the Akademie Olympia, and although sometimes a friend would join them, the Akademy remain basically among this trio.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Einstein and Mileva married on January 6, 1903 and hired his residence at Kramgasse 49, second door, in the autumn (they had a secret daughter since 1902). On May 1904, they had a son, Hans Albert Einstein. That same year Einstein got a permanent job at the patent office.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

In 1905 Einstein widened the horizons of physics in such a short time as no one had done before or since. This period is often referred as the Annus Mirabilis. In March 18 he completed a paper on the Photoelectric effect On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light which let him to win the Noble prize and in May 11 he finished an article on Brownian motion On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid, as Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat which gained him the PhD degree from the University of Zurich. apparently this idea. On June 30 Einstein sent his third paper that year On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies which was known later as Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Finally on September 27 Einstein sent to Annalen der Physik a fourth paper Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content? in which Einstein developed an argument for probably the most famous equation in Physics: E=mc2. In 1906 Einstein was promoted to “2nd class technical expert” and at the end of 1907 Einstein made the first attempts to apply the laws of gravitation to the Special Theory of Relativity, which would eventually become the General Theory of Relativity. During all these years he did not have easy access to a complete set of scientic reference materials, although he regularly read and contribute reviews to Annalen der Physik. In addition to that, he often met with scientic colleagues such as Michele Besso or the members of the Akademie Olympia, and the most important colleague Einstein had: Mileva, his wife. In his own words:

How lucky I am to have found a creature who is my equal, who is as strong and independent as I am myself.

Also:

I’ve got an extremely lucky idea that will make it possible to apply our theory of molecular forces to gases as well.

Eventually , in 1909 Einstein resigned from his job at the patent office and accepted a position at the Zurich University, where began another phase of his life: his academic career. At the end of his life, Einstein wrote that the greatest thing Marcel Grossman did for him was to recommend him to the patent office.

This post has been written by Pau de Jorge and Eduard Ribas in the subject Història de les Matemàtiques (History of Mathematics, 2014-15).

Location: Kramgasse 49, Bern (map)

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