10 Apr 07
Albert Einstein, German-born American physicist and Nobel laureate, best known as the creator of the special and general theories of relativity and for his bold hypothesis concerning the particle nature of light. He is perhaps the most well-known scientist of the 20th century. Einstein was born in Ulm on March 14, 1879, and spent his youth in Munich, where his family owned a small shop that manufactured electric machinery. He did not talk until the age of three, but even as a youth he showed a brilliant curiosity about nature and an ability to understand difficult mathematical concepts. At the age of 12 he taught himself Euclidean geometry. Einstein hated the dull regimentation and unimaginative spirit of school in Munich. When repeated business failure led the family to leave Germany for Milan, Italy, Einstein, who was then 15 years old, used the opportunity to withdraw from the school. He spent a year with his parents in Milan, and when it became clear that he would have to make his own way in the world, he finished secondary school in Arrau, Switzerland, and entered the Swiss National Polytechnic in Zürich. Einstein did not enjoy the methods of instruction there. He often cut classes and used the time to study physics on his own or to play his beloved violin. He passed his examinations and graduated in 1900 by studying the notes of a classmate. His professors did not think highly of him and would not recommend him for a university position. For two years Einstein worked as a tutor and substitute teacher. In 1902 he secured a position as an examiner in the Swiss patent office in Bern. In 1903 he married Mileva Mariç, who had been his classmate at the polytechnic. They had two sons but eventually divorced. Einstein later remarried.