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The Wonders Of Albert

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Around 1886 Albert Einstein began his school career in Munich. As well as his violin lessons, which he had from age six to age thirteen, he also had religious education at home where he was taught Judaism. Two years later he entered the Luitpold Gymnasium and after this his religious education was given at school. He studied mathematics, in particular the calculus, beginning around 1891.

In 1894 Einstein's family moved to Milan but Einstein remained in Munich. In 1895 Einstein failed an examination that would have allowed him to study for a diploma as an electrical engineer at the Eidgenцssische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. Einstein renounced German citizenship in 1896 and was to be stateless for a number of years. He did not even apply for Swiss citizenship until 1899, citizenship being granted in 1901.

Following the failing of the entrance exam to the ETH, Einstein attended secondary school at Aarau planning to use this route to enter the ETH in Zurich. While at Aarau he wrote an essay (for which was only given a little above half marks!) in which he wrote of his plans for the future, see [13]:-

If I were to have the good fortune to pass my examinations, I would go to Zurich. I would stay there for four years in order to study mathematics and physics. I imagine myself becoming a teacher in those branches of the natural sciences, choosing the theoretical part of them. Here are the reasons which lead me to this plan. Above all, it is my disposition for abstract and mathematical thought, and my lack of imagination and practical ability.

Indeed Einstein succeeded with his plan graduating in 1900 as a teacher of mathematics and physics. One of his friends at ETH was Marcel Grossmann who was in the same class as Einstein. Einstein tried to obtain a post, writing to Hurwitz who held out some hope of a position but nothing came of it. Three of Einstein's fellow students, including Grossmann, were appointed assistants at ETH in Zurich but clearly Einstein had not impressed enough and still in 1901 he was writing round universities in the hope of obtaining a job, but without success.

He did manage to avoid Swiss military service on the grounds that he had flat feet and varicose veins. By mid 1901 he had a temporary job as a teacher, teaching mathematics at the Technical High School in Winterthur. Around this time he wrote:-

I have given up the ambition to get to a university ...

Another temporary position teaching in a private school in Schaffhausen followed. Then Grossmann's father tried to help Einstein get a job by recommending him to the director of the patent office in Bern. Einstein was appointed as a technical expert third class.

Einstein worked in this patent office from 1902 to 1909, holding a temporary post when he was first appointed, but by 1904 the position was made permanent and in 1906 he was promoted to technical expert second class. While in the Bern patent office he completed an astonishing range of theoretical physics publications, written in his spare time without the benefit of close contact with scientific literature or colleagues.

Einstein earned a doctorate from the University of Zurich in 1905 for a thesis On a new determination of molecular dimensions. He dedicated the thesis to Grossmann.

In the first of three papers, all written in 1905, Einstein examined the phenomenon discovered by Max Planck, according to which electromagnetic energy seemed to be emitted from radiating objects in discrete quantities. The energy of these quanta was directly proportional to the frequency of the radiation. This seemed to contradict classical electromagnetic theory, based on Maxwell's equations and the laws of thermodynamics which assumed that electromagnetic energy consisted of waves which could contain any small amount of energy. Einstein used Planck's quantum hypothesis to describe the electromagnetic radiation of light.




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