It is hard to find anything to say about the most famous scientist of all time that you don't probably already know. His father was a largely unsuccessful engineer who kept starting businesses and going bust, then moving on to start another one. Albert hated school in Germany, and was particularly miserable when he was left behind to finish his education when the family moved to Italy. He engineered an early departure from the school, on the pretext of a nervous breakdown, and spent a year visiting the art centres of Italy before reluctantly going back into education. He attended the technical university in Zurich (the ETH), graduating with a poor degree in 1901, because he could- n't be bothered to attend lectures. His attitude at the ETH had been so bad that he also couldn't get a decent reference, and had a series of temporary teaching jobs before a friend managed to wangle him the famous job at the patent office in Berne. During this time, he also managed to get his girlfriend pregnant; the baby was adopted.
It turned out that the patent office job was ideal for Einstein. He could rattle through the work in the morning, and spent the afternoon thinking about physics. He also had access to the university library. The result was that as well as completing a PhD in his spare time, in 1905 he produced a series of three papers that transformed physics. One, on Brownian motion, provided direct proof that atoms exist. Another, on the photoelectric effect, offered the first hint that photons exist. The third introduced the special theory of relativity.
Although it wasn't quite all plain sailing thereafter, a couple of years later Einstein became part of the academic system, and ended up working in Berlin, where he completed the general theory of relativity during the harsh conditions of World War 1. A genuine breakdown left him with the shock of white hair that became his trademark. By then, his first marriage had broken down, and he was nursed by his cousin, Elsa, who became his second wife. Einstein continued to make impor- tant contributions to science (notably quantum physics) in the 1920s, but by the 1930s, when he moved to Princeton after he Nazi takeover in Germany, he was no more than a scientific figurehead.John Gribbin
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?