Einstein is celebrated as a genius, and one of the most influential thinkers that the world has ever had. Did this revered intellectual ever go to college?
Albert Einstein went to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich and received his diploma for teaching physics and mathematics in 1900. Five years later, when Einstein was 26, he was given a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich for the revolutionary papers that he published.
Read more below on Einstein’s early life and education as well as his career as a university professor.
Early Life and Education
Einstein was born in Germany and went to a school there until he was 15. He’d always excelled in math and physics from a young age, which he brought into his adult career.
When he was 12 years old, Einstein worked through the entire geometry book that his tutor had given him, found his own innovative proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, and began teaching himself calculus, which he’d mastered by 14 years old.
He’d been playing the violin since he was 6 years old, but discovered Mozart’s violin sonatas at 13, and fell in love with the music.
In an interview when he was older, Einstein spoke of his love for music, saying, “Life without playing music is inconceivable for me. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.” Had Einstein not become a famous theorist, he likely would’ve dedicated more time to playing the violin.
Elsa, Einstein’s second wife, reflected on the relationship between his music and his work. “Music helps him when he is thinking about his theories. He goes to his study, comes back, strikes a few chords on the piano, jots something down, returns to his study.”
Many scientists and musicians today reflect on this relationship between the two professions in posts like this one, which reads, “Science and music go hand-in-hand,” and how both science and music “belong to the same sphere.”
When Einstein was 16 years old, he excelled in the math and physics part of the entrance exam for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School, but didn’t score high enough in the general knowledge section. As a result, he finished his secondary education at the Argovian cantonal school in Aarau before enrolling at 17 to the college in a four-year teaching program for mathematics and physics.
The Travelling Professor
His time at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School was not the only time that Einstein spent in a college. After publishing revolutionary papers on subjects like the equivalence of mass and energy, special relativity, and the photoelectric effect, the University of Zurich awarded him a Ph.D.
As his work gained more and more attention, he was given many opportunities to teach and lecture at different universities around the world. In his early career as a professor, he taught at the University of Bern, the University of Zurich, at Charles University, and the Federal Polytechnic School that he graduated from.
Then, in 1914, he began working at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, where he worked for 19 years and did most of his work on gravitational fields and general relativity.
In the early 1930s, Hitler and the Nazi party were steadily gaining power in Germany. He officially came into power in 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, and because Einstein was born an Ashkenazi Jew, he couldn’t return home.
So Einstein remained in the United States and became a part of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and became a United States citizen in 1940. He spent much of his life traveling to different universities and giving lectures, and remains an inspirational, intellectual hope even today.
Watch the YouTube video below to learn more about Einstein’s time in the United States.