key: personal/general, physics, political/historical/religious.
|1867||Parents Hermann and Pauline marry.|
|1879||Born 14th March, Ulm, Germany.|
|1880||Move to Munich. Hermann and brother Jakob establish an electrical engineering firm.|
|1881||Sister Maria (Maja) born.|
|1884||Sense of wonder at a compass given to him by his father. Private tuition.|
|1885||Starts catholic school and violin lessons (until 14.) Jewish religious instruction at home.|
|1888||Passes entrance exam for Luitpold Gymnasium, Munich.|
|1889||Meets 21 year old student Max Talmud, introduces Einstein to key science and philosophy texts including Kant’s "Critique of pure reason"|
2nd major sense of wonder with Euclidean geometry. Wrote later: “If Euclid fails to kindle your youthful enthusiasm, you were not born to be a scientific thinker.”
|1892||Einstein is not bar mitzvahed so not technically a member of the Jewish community.|
|1894||June – Parent’s engineering company go into liquidation, the family move to Milan while Einstein remains in Munich with distance relatives to finish his schooling.|
29th December - Einstein leaves school early with a medical certificate, joins family in Milan. He had no school leaving certificate but a letter from his maths teacher confirming his excellent maths abilities.
Essay “On the investigation of the state of the Ether in a magnetic field” in summer sent to his uncle Caesar Kock in Belgium.
Released from Wurttemburg/ German citizenship. This allows him to avoid military service.
Meets Michele Besso at a musical soiree when Einstein played violin.
October – passes intermediate diploma exam, top of class.
Applies for Swiss citizenship
28th July – passes diploma (but only 4th out of 5), Mileva fails (5th). Einstein is now qualified as a secondary school teacher.
21st February – Becomes a Swiss citizen.
January – Daughter Liesel born.
|1903||6th January – marries Mileva in Bern registry office. Witnesses are Solovine and Habicht. No family present, no honeymoon.|
January – sends his only paper to Annalen der Physik this year: “A theory of the foundations of thermodynamics” (AdP11)
April - Einstein, Maurice Solovine and Conrad Habicht formally found the Olympia Academy. They discuss scientific, philosophical and literary works. Einstein disregards John Stuart Mill’s praise for an inductive method as being unable to lead to the fundamentals of physics. Instead he follows a deductive method, assuming certain truths from which consequences can be deduced which could be tested against observation and by experiment. Einstein gives credit to Hume, with his critique of causality, for giving him the confidence to work that way. Ernst Mach’s scepticism is also important. In his “Mechanik” Mach showed that absolute time could not be measured in any way and so “was of no practical and also of no scientific value; no one is entitled to say that he knows anything about it, it is a useless ‘metaphysical’ concept.” Mach only criticised absolute time, rather than providing any way forward in its analysis. Similarly he also claimed that Newtonian absolute space was a “conceptual monstrosity.” Poincare’s new book “Science and hypothesis” also deeply impressed the academy, with Solovine remembering how it “held us spellbound for weeks on end.” It questions the absolutes of space and time and even simultaneity as something we can’t directly experience. Poincare developed a procedure for synchronising clocks by light signals, that was used by Einstein in his theory of special relativity. But Lorentz, Poincare and others worked inductively and although they developed ideas close to some of the conclusions of relativity, they could not form a single completed theory. The Academy often met in the Café Bollwerk, also frequented in 1904/05 by Einstein and Besso.
August – Mileva travels to Budapest, probably to arrange for Lieserl to permanently leave them.
October – Couple move to 49 Kramgasse, Bern, now an Einstein museum.
14th May – son, Hans Albert born.
|1905||His annus mirabilis.|
17th March - submits “On a heuristic point of view concerning the production and transformation of light” to Annalen der Physik (AdP17). This provides a solution of the puzzling photoelectric effect noticed by Heinrich Hertz in 1888. It overturned the wave theory of light, which even Hertz proclaimed as a certainty in the 1890s. It claims a reality for Planck’s quanta of energy, and heralds the beginning of quantum theory. Einstein wrote in the paper:
“Energy during the propagation of a ray of light is not continuously distributed over steadily increasing spaces, but it consists of a finite number of energy quanta localised at points in space, moving without dividing and capable of being absorbed or generated only as entities.”
The revolutionary theory of light as energy quanta (named photons by Gilbert Lewis in 1926) rather than continuous waves was very slow to take hold. Notably Robert Millikan, at the University of Chicago, experimented at length from 1912 to 1915 to try to disprove the predictions of Einstein’s theory. Eventually he had to concede “…its unambiguous experimental verification in spite of its unreasonableness since it seems to violate everything that we knew about the interference of light.” Only in 1923 did experiments of light diffusion directly demonstrate its quantised nature.
It was this theory on the photoelectric effect that was cited as the principal contribution that earned Einstein the 1921 Nobel Prize.
30th April – completes “A new determination of molecular dimensions”. Privately printed in Bern and submitted as a doctoral dissertation, accepted by the university of Zurich in July. Also published in Annalen der Physik in 1906 (AdP19.) This paper and the next were both in the top 10 most cited papers pre-1912 in any exact science. It used the increase in viscosity of different concentrations of sugar solutions to calculate the size of sugar molecules. It was part of an attempt to demonstrate the existence of atoms beyond doubt. It contained a mathematical error (corrected in 1911).
11th May – Annalen der Physik receives ”On the motion of small particles suspended in liquids at rest required by the molecular – kinetic theory of heat” published late September (AdP17). Explaining Brownian Motion and containing groundbreaking use of statistical mechanics.
May/June – After years of trying to redefine the motion of electromagnetic waves (including light) Einstein had a revelation one beautiful day, around mid-May 1905. This provided the solution to the problem of how relative motion effects electromagnetic phenomena, which to Einstein had been his “...life for over 7 years.” During these 7 years Einstein had struggled through many dead-ends and failures, writing later
“I was more and more in despair…The longer and more desperately I tried, the more I gained the conviction that only the discovery of a general formal principle could lead us to safe results.”
Einstein was talking to Besso about an aspect of the problem when “…suddenly I understood where the key to this problem lay.” After a night of work Einstein told Besso:
“I’ve completely solved the problem. An analysis of the concept of time was my solution. Time cannot be absolutely defined, and there is an inseparable relation between time and signal velocity.”
The new ideas that came from this revelation were written up in the next few weeks and formed the special theory of relativity.
The new theory overturns Newton’s ideas of the late 17th century, based on those of Galileo in the early 17th century, of simple relative motion through space. Newton made the definition: “Absolute space in its own nature, without regard to anything external remains always similar and immovable.” The almost complete success of Newtonian mechanics meant that this idea was almost universally accepted as a prerequisite of knowledge, for example by Immanuel Kant.
Physicists at the time knew that Maxwell’s equations didn’t obey the simple laws of relative motion. Up to 1905 no one else had been able to do any more than effectively introduce mathematical devices to hide the inconsistencies, notably Lorentz. Henri Poincare, a foremost mathematician at the beginning of the 20th century, embraced Lorentz’s work. He did some interesting work on the nature of time and extended Lorentz’s local time and true time. But neither of them, or anyone else until Einstein, dared to think of abandoning the fundamentals that had stood unquestionably at the heart of physics for well over 200 years. As Einstein struggled over the 7 years to develop a complete theory of relative motion that worked for electromagnetics, he put the discrepancy of relative motion at the core of his new theory, but then had to challenge the fundamental concepts of absolute time, absolute space and the simple assumptions of relative motion, in order to find a solution.
“It turned out, surprisingly, that it was only necessary to define the time concept precisely enough to overcome the …problem. All it needed was the realisation than an auxiliary term introduced by H. A. Lorentz and called by him ‘local time’ could be defined as ‘time’ purely and simply.”
When this was applied to Maxwell’s electromagnetics all the associated problems in physics were solved:
• Einstein could derive the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction, now seen as the changing of lengths themselves rather than just as an apparent contraction, breaking the foundation of Newtonian Space.
• The Lorentz force, arbitrarily introduced to explain electron behaviour in electromagnetic fields, emerged naturally from the analysis.
• Maxwell’s equations worked with relative motion.
• No reference frame was preferred so no ether was needed.
• The speed of light was a universal constant value as provided in Maxwell’s equations.
• Mass-energy equivalence (E = mc2) soon followed providing an explanation for the energy source of the stars, the sun and the recently discovered radioactivity, also later to pave the way for the energy source of the atomic bomb and nuclear power.
At all this Einstein said “My joy is indescribable.”
In 1909 Max Planck wrote of relativity “This principle has brought about a revolution in our physical picture of the world, which, in extend and depth, can only be compared to that produced by the introduction of the Copernican world system.”
30th June - Annalen der Physik receives “On the electrodynamics of moving bodies.” This article outlines the special theory of relativity, details of which are not provided here. The first sentence translates:
“It is well known that Maxwell’s electrodynamics – as usually understood at present – when applied to moving bodies, leads to asymmetries that do not seem to be inherent in the phenomena.”
The example of electromagnetic induction was important to Einstein when this idea was being developed. Electromagnetic induction was a fundamental discovery made by 7Michael Faraday in 1831 and led to the generator. Induction occurs when a current is created (induced) in a wire when there is relative motion of the wire and a magnetic field. To Faraday and Maxwell it made no difference if the wire or the magnet move, but in the Lorentz theory, introduced to make Maxwell’s equations appear consistent with relative motion, a moving wire or a moving magnet lead to different interpretations of induction. This was unacceptable to Einstein and led him to search for a new way of formulating the basis of motion in which to set electromagnetic and all other phenomena. This lead him to his postulates about the equivalence of all inertial reference frames, the foundation of the special theory.
After writing the article he goes to bed, exhausted, for 2 weeks.
27th September – Annalen der Physik receives “Does the inertia of a body depend on its energy content?” (AdP18.) A 3 page supplement to the special theory containing the famous formula E = mc2.
19th December - Annalen der Physik receives “On the theory of the Brownian Motion” Published in 1906 (AdP19.)
Einstein also published 21 review articles for the Suppliment toAnnalen der Physik in 1905.
(Publications after this date not all individually mentioned)
|1906||Doctorate from University of Zurich. |
1st April - promoted to technical expert, 2nd class (having heard of his promotion in his 27th Birthday.)
9th November – Annalen der Physik receives 1st paper on quantum state of solids (specific heats.)
|1907||October or November – Einstein has the happiest thought of my life:|
“I was sitting in the patent office in Bern when all of a sudden a thought occurred to me: if a person falls freely, he won’t feel his own weight. I was startled. This simple thought made a deep impression on me. It impelled me towards a theory of gravitation.”
This leads in 1912 to the Equivalence principle.
June – applies for a post at Bern University.
October - turned down by Bern University.
August - Max von Laue visits (as an assistant of, an encouraged by, Max Planck)
4th December – Completes his work “On the relativity principle and the conclusions drawn from it.” Published 22nd January 1908. This includes approximation methods to extend special relativity to accelerated motion and so includes some early ideas later to be developed in the General Theory of Relativity.
|1908||24th February - becomes Privatdozent at Bern University. This unsalaried position entitles a researcher to offer courses. Einstein’s course was unpopular and later cancelled.|
April - Visit of Jahob Laub, 1st collaborator, who describes Einstein’s position in the patent office as a “bad joke.”
Designs sensitive voltmeter.
[Minkowski formulates 4D spacetime continuum]
|1909||7th May – Appointed Extraordinary Professor of Theoretical Physics, University of Zurich.|
6th July - resigns from Patent Office.
9th July - 1st honorary doctorate (Geneva).
21st September - lecture on radiation theory at annual congress of Germany National Scientists and Physicians, his first international conference. Einstein predicted the search for a solution to wave-particle duality that he had himself started. This was a turning point in the evolution of theoretical physics, according to Wolfgang Pauli.
2nd October - nominated for Nobel Prize.
15th October - moves to Zurich, begins teaching activities.
Einstein has as affair that was suspected by Mileva. Their already cooling relationship darkens.
Einstein is becoming increasingly recognised as a great physicist.
|1910||21st April - Proposal for professorship, Prague. Planck was consulted and recommended Einstein as a new Copernicus.|
Walther Nernst also visited Einstein around this time to discuss Einstein’s quantum hypothesis, which he described as “probably the strangest thing ever thought up.”
28th July - 2nd son, Eduard, born, known as Tete.
September – Visits Ernst Mach.
October – paper on Opalescence, using the colour of the sky as further evidence for molecules of a specific size.
|1911||6th January - Appointed Prague. To qualify Einstein had to state he was jewish, which he did for the first time, thinking it a formality.|
11th January – Invited to lecture in the Netherlands by Hendrick Anton Lorentz, one of Einstein’s intellectual father-figures. He travels there in February with Mileva.
March - Leaves Zurich for Prague, arriving on 3rd April.
Life in Prague was unpleasant with brown drinking water, fleas and bureaucracy.
June - realises solar eclipse could test general relativity by bending light from distant stars that passes close to the surface of the sun.
Einstein receives offers from Utrecht (August) and Zurich (September) for which Poincare recommended him. In November and December Einstein negotiates for the best terms.
November – lecture on Specific Heat to 1st Solvay Congress, Brussels attended by Walther Nernst, Henri Poincare, Max Planck, Lorentz, Marie Curie, Ernest Rutherford and others.
Also in 1911 Max von Laue publishes first book on relativity and Rutherford develops his theory of the Nuclear Atom (alpha particle scattering experiment)
|1912||30th January - appointed a full Professor of Theoretical Physics, Zurich Polytechnic. |
April - visits Berlin, meets cousin Elsa again (surname from first marriage, Lowanthal)
25th July – leaves Prague for new post in Zurich.
August – starts collaboration with Marcel Grossman (now professor of Mathematics at Zurich) on mathematical aspects of general relativity (particularly Reimann’s work on curved surfaces and Tensor theory.) Einstein writes:
“Never before in my life have I troubled myself over anything so much…compared with this problem, the original theory of relativity is child’s play.”
At some time in 1912 he formally states the principle of equivalence, fundamental to his development of a theory of gravity through general relativity.
|1913||May – Paper on gravitation turns out to be a partial solution.|
July – Planck and Walther Nernst visit, offer membership of Prussian Academy of Sciences and professorship at Berlin without teaching duties.
December - accepts post in Berlin, resigns Zurich.
|1914||April - arrives in Berlin, with Mileva and the boys following a few days later. Einstein spends most of his time at the academy or with relatives rather than at home with his family.|
Late June - separation with Mileva.
July - Mileva and boys return to Zurich.
1st August – start of WW1
November. - Signs antiwar manifesto. German colleagues are very patriotic, it was “like living in a madhouse.” Members of a German expedition to Russia are arrested and can’t measure the deflection of starlight in the solar eclipse, predicted by Einstein.
|1915||June – stays with David Hilbert in Gottingen.|
Einstein works on the general theory “at the cost of extraordinary effort…the search is hell.”
4th-25th November – 4 lectures to Prussian Academy presenting complete General Theory. Details of the theory are not given here. It includes the correction to Newtonian calculations for the rate of Mercury’s precession by 43 arc seconds per century (out of nearly 5,600 arc seconds.) “I was beside myself with joy for days.”
From November 1915 to Spring 1917 Einstein publishes a paper a month.
|1916||20th March – publishes “The foundations of the General Theory of relativity” in Annalen der Physik and as a booklet. Max Born describes the theory as “the greatest feat of human thinking.”|
5th May – Einstein succeeds Planck as President of German Physical Society.
June - work on gravity waves
July – work on quantum theory including induced emission and the particle concept of the photon.
December – completes his popular exposition book.
|1917||Physical collapse. Einstein loses 4 stone over the coming year, suffering from digestive problems and with poor food in wartime Berlin. Recovery takes about 4 years.|
1st February – paper on Cosmology. Introduces Cosmological constant.
September – moves into Elsa’s apartment.
|1918||February – second paper on gravity waves.|
9th November – German Reich surrenders.
|1919||14th February - divorces Mileva, with Einstein’s adultery cited as grounds for divorce. Settlement includes the Nobel Prize money, yet to be won despite 6 nominations already.|
Spring - Kurt Blumenfeld encourages interest in Zionism.
2nd June - marries Elsa.
22nd September – learns of success of May 29th’s solar eclipse results from Arthur Stanley Eddington’s expedition to Western Africa (Principe) and Brazil. The team had photographed stars near to the eclipsed sun and shown that their position was deflected by the amount predicted by general relativity.
6th November – Announcement in London. Royal Society President Joseph John Thomson said “This is the most important result obtained in connection with the theory of gravitation since Newton’s day.”
7th November – announcement published worldwide next day. For example the Times headline read: “Revolution in Science – New theory of the Universe – Newtonian Ideas Overthrown.”
1919 can be seen as a turning point. Einstein has achieved his best (but not yet everything) in science and is now famous and increasingly involved in political debates, particularly for Zionism, pacifism and World Government.
|1920||February – mother dies of cancer having stayed for the last 2 months in Einstein’s apartment.|
24th August – Anti-relativity lectures in Berlin Philharmonic Hall. Strong anti-semitic overtones.
23rd September - argues with Philipp Lenard. This leads to an irrevocable split in German physics, with relativity being seen as unacceptable to nationalists.
|1921||April - May - 1st visit to USA. At Princeton he said “Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not.” This was later inscribed in Fine Hall, the mathematics department building. He considered it his sacred duty to help with this fundraising tour for the World Zionist Organisation. Regarding belief in God, Einstein said: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of all being, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and activities of men.”|
June - Einstein returns to Europe via England.
|1922||January - 1st paper on unified field theory.|
April – Member of League of Nations Commission for Intellectual Cooperation
October – departs for Far East including Japan.
8th November – awarded 1921 Nobel Prize. Einstein hears of it in December on route to Japan.
|1923||February – Einstein visits Palestine on return from Japan. He inaugurates the Hebrew University.|
11th July – Nobel Lecture in Goteborg, Sweden. Einstein then visits Bohr who had been awarded the 1922 prize, announced at the same time as Einstein’s.
|1924||December - Einstein Tower, Potsdam opened.|
|1925||Collaborate with Bose, discovers Bose-Einstein condensate and statistics. These are arguably his last great contributions to physics other than the EPR paradox (in 1935.)|
|1926||This year sees the foundations of quantum mechanics by Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Born and others. Einstein expresses his doubts about the direction that quantum theory, that he largely initiated, was taking.|
|1927||September – Bohr outlines his Principle of Complementarity, accepting both wave and particle nature of radiation.|
October – Solvay conference. Einstein debates the nature of Quantum Mechanics, disliking the lack of causality inherent in it (e.g. the Uncertainty Principle) and its probabilistic nature, saying “God does not play dice.” Bohr countered all his objections and said “It is not our business to prescribe to God how he should run the world.”
|1928||February – Develops serious heart problems after collapsing in Davos. He is confined to bed for four months and it takes him about a year to recover.|
Continues work on Unified Field Theory.
Helen Dukas becomes his secretary.
|1929||Continues work on Unified Field Theory. Arrives at a partial solution.|
For his 50th birthday he gets a sailing boat and the Einstein’s commission a house at Caputh by Bauhaus, the famous school of architecture and design. Sailing was a major form of relaxation for Einstein, second to the violin.
28th June – receives 2nd Max Planck Medal (immediately after Planck received the first medal) that was instigated to mark Planck’s 70th birthday.
October – Begins friendship with Belgian royal family (especially the queen.)
|1930||Eduard develops schizophrenia. His condition worsens throughout the 1930s and he becomes hospitalised after becoming violent. Mileva devoted the rest of her life to caring for him. He died in 1965|
Nazis begin their rise to power. Berlin becomes more dangerous and Einstein spends more time at Caputh or abroad.
December – Einstein begins visiting professorship at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He works with Edwin Hubble and returns in March 1931.
|1931||Rejects cosmological constant.|
May – offered research fellowship at Christchurch College, Oxford.
December – March ’32 at Caltech.
|1932||August – appointed to the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, started October ’33.|
10th December – Depart for Caltech. As they leave Caputh, Einstein says to Elsa “Take a good look at it, you will never see it again.”
|1933||January – Hitler becomes Chancellor.|
March – Nazis search home. Returns to Europe (Belgium).
Renounces German citizenship, resigns from Prussian Academy.
Publishes “Why War?” with Freud based upon their correspondence in July 1932.
Einstein visits Eduard and Mileva for last time.
In a speech at the Royal Albert Hall Einstein encourages Western Europeans to stand against Fascism. His former pacifist views change as he realises nations need to arm against Hitler.
17th October – arrives New York, goes straight to Princeton with Elsa, Helen Dukas and Walther Mayer.
|1934||Princeton. Publishes “The world as I see it.”|
|1935||15th May - Jointly publishes “Can Quantum Mechanical description be considered complete?” known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox.|
May – Travels to Bermuda to apply for permanent residency, never leaves America again.
August – move to 112, Mercer Street.
Receives Franklin Medal.
|1936||Hans Albert gets doctorate from Zurich Polytechnic.|
7th September – Marcel Grossman dies
20th December - Elsa dies (aged 60).
|1937||Hans Albert emigrates to America.|
Collaborates with Leopold Infeld on “The Evolution of Physics” published in 1938.
|1939||Maja moves in, fleeing from Florence and Mussolini’s anti-semetic policies|
2nd August – signs letter to Roosevelt, written with Leo Szilard, with whom Einstein had patented refrigerators.
1st September – Germany invades Poland, start of WWII.
|1940||Einstein becomes American citizen but retains his Swiss citizenship. The FBI monitor him as a “subversive.” Later McCarthy describes him as an “enemy of America.”|
|1941||6th November – start of the Manhattan Project, not including Einstein as he was seen as a security risk.|
7th December – Japanese attack Pearl Harbour, America enters the war
|1943||Consultant for Navy ordnance.|
|1944||3rd February – A handwritten copy of the special relativity paper auctioned for $6 million, for war effort.|
|1945||Atomic Bombs destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 6th and 9th August, killing 100 thousand and 70 thousand people immediately, and the same again subsequently due to radiation.|
Over WWII Einstein had lost many relatives in concentration camps including two cousins.
10th December – Speech “The war is won but the peace is not.”
|1946||23rd May – Einstein is the chair of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists.|
League of Nations winds up. UN forms. Einstein campaigns for a world government.
|1947||Hans Albert becomes professor of Hydraulic Engineering, University of California.|
|1948||State of Israel proclaimed.|
4th August – Mileva dies in Zurich (age 73) due to suffering a stroke after Eduard ransacked the apartment in a schizophrenic state.
December – Aneurysm of abdominal aorta discovered.
|1950||18th March – Draws up will. (Papers to Hebrew University, violin to Grandson Bernhard, 1st son of Hans Albert and Frieda, born 1930)|
|1951||Famous “tongue” photo taken on his 72nd Birthday. He wrote to his doctor, Rudolf Nissen, with a copy from a newspaper: “To Nissen my tummy/the world my tongue!”|
Maja dies, having had a stroke 5 years earlier.
Electric power from atomic energy, Idaho USA.
|1952||1st H bomb.|
November – Einstein offered presidency of Israel, declines.
|1953||14th March – Einstein is very touched by a card from Habicht and Solovine, who had met 2 days earlier in Paris, addressed to the President of the Olympia Academy.|
16th May – Controversial open letter published, defending civil rights and opposing the McCarthy committee.
|1955||15th March – Michele Besso dies.|
11th April – Last letter, to Bertrand Russell, supporting nuclear disarmament.
13th April – Aneurysm ruptures.
15th April – Admitted to Princeton Hospital.
18th April – Died 1.10 a.m. Cremated, ashes scattered at secret location. Brain preserved for medical research in accordance with his wishes. His eyes were also preserved, kept by his ophthalmologist in a safe deposit box!