As the most influential physicist of the twentieth century who devised his theory of relativity, which revolutionized our understanding of space, time, gravity, and the universe you might be curious as to where Albert Einstein grew up.
Although Albert Einstein was born in the urban district of Ulm, Germany, he and his family uprooted to a city just shy of 100 miles southeast from Ulm and the second most populous state of Germany known as Munich. Later, the family moved to Switzerland.
Read more below on Einstein’s earlier years and how he made history with his theory of relativity.
The Fascinating Early Life of Einstein
Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, to secular, middle-class Jews, Hermann Einstein, a featherbed salesman, and Pauline Koch, who ran the family household. He had a younger sister Maria, who was born two years after Einstein in 1881.
Due to the nature of his father’s job, the family moved around a fair bit so that Hermann could expand his business opportunities. Many of them were successes while others weren’t so successful.
According to Britannica, Einstein wrote that two “wonders” deeply affected his early years. The first was his encounter with a compass at age five. He was mystified that invisible forces could deflect the needle. This would lead to a lifelong fascination with invisible forces. The second wonder came at age 12 when he discovered a book of geometry, which he devoured, calling it his “sacred little geometry book.”
Another important influence on Einstein was a young medical student, Max Talmud (later Max Talmey), who often had dinner at the Einstein home. Talmud became Einstein’s informal tutor, introducing him to higher mathematics and philosophy.
A turning point occurred when Einstein was 16. Talmud had earlier introduced him to a children’s science series by Aaron Bernstein, Naturwissenschaftliche Volksbucher (1867–68; Popular Books on Physical Science), in which the author imagined riding alongside electricity that was traveling inside a telegraph wire.
It was at this time that Einstein wrote his first scientific paper: “The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields.”
Shortly after, Einstein dropped out of high school and fled to Milan where his parents had moved to so that he could avoid military service and continue his education. With no high school qualifications, his future didn’t look so promising at this point.
In his education, Einstein excelled in both mathematics and physics but he failed at other subjects including French, chemistry, and biology. Eventually, in 1896, Einstein graduated from high school in Switzerland, which is the time when he also renounced his German citizenship for political reasons.
Theory of Relativity
In 1915, a revolutionary thing happened: Einstein published his work on the theory of relativity. The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories: special relativity and general relativity.
Special relativity applies to all physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature.
Coming up with the theory of relativity was one of Einstein’s greatest achievements to this day, but at the time nobody really understood it. It wasn’t until years later that his work was truly appreciated for what it was: extraordinary.
Einstein is quoted for saying to a journalist, “Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me?”
To add to that in the 1940s, Einstein told a biographer: “I never understood why the theory of relativity with its concepts and problems so far removed from practical life should for so long have met with a lively, or indeed passionate, resonance among broad circles of the public… I have never yet heard a truly convincing answer to this question.”