“It is important that you keep asking questions.”

Albert Einstein, 1955

FAQFrequently Asked Questions

Answers to FAQ concerning Albert Einstein.

1 Portrait diagram
(chalk lithography)
“Albert Einstein”, around 1920/21
by Max Liebermann

When and where was Albert Einstein born?

He was born on Friday, March 14, 1879 at 11.30 a.m. in Ulm, Württemberg, in Bahnhofstraße B 135, later renamed Bahnhofstraße 20.

When and where did Albert Einstein die?

Aged 76 he died in hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, USA on Monday, April 18, 1955 early in the morning at 1.15 a.m.

What did Einstein die from?

The aneurysm, an enlargement of the abdominal artery filled with blood, which had been diagnosed earlier, had burst. He bled to death internally.

Was Einstein’s brain removed during the autopsy?

Yes! The pathologist, who did this without permission, was Dr. Thomas S. Harvey. The autopsy was carried out few hours after Einstein’s death. As the bereaved learned about it they gave their belated approval to take out and scientifically examine Einstein’s brain.

Where was Albert Einstein buried?

There is no grave. According to Einstein’s wish his body was burned on the same day and the ashes were scattered after a simple ceremony at an unknown place.

Did Einstein write a last will?

Yes! It was signed by him on March 18, 1950. His secretary Helen Dukas and Dr. Otto Nathan were inserted as administrators of his will. The heirs were among others his step daughter Margot and his two sons Hans Albert and Eduard. His whole written property was given to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where it is still to be seen today, in the Albert Einstein Archives.

Who were Albert Einstein’s parents?

His father was Hermann Einstein (1847-1902) and his mother was Pauline Einstein, nee Koch (1858-1920).

Did Einstein have siblings?

He had a sister – Maria, called Maja (1881-1951). Brother and sister always liked each other.

Where did Einstein spend his childhood?

He spent his childhood in Ulm from his birth in March 1879 until June 1880 and in Munich from June 1880 until December 1894. As a 15-year-old he followed his family to Milan (Italy), where his family had settled in the meantime.

What did Albert Einstein like to play with as a child?

Maja, Albert Einstein’s sister, reports in „Albert Einstein – Beitrag für sein Lebensbild“ (Albert Einstein – Contribution for his biography), that her brother very much liked to play with “puzzles, jigsaw works, building complex constructions with a construction kit”. He liked best building houses of cards, which he was able to build up to 14 stories high as a ten-year-old. He was less interested in wild and sportive games with other children. With increasing age he began to read very much and very concentrated.

Is it true that Albert Einstein had a quick temper as a child?

Young Albert had a quick temper, however, it vanished during his first school years. Albert’s sister Maja reports in Albert Einstein – Beitrag für sein Lebensbild (Albert Einstein – Contribution for his biography) the following: “In such moments his face became all yellow, however, the tip of his nose became snow-white, and he was no longer under control. At such an opportunity he once grabbed a chair and threw it after his teacher, who was so terrified, that she ran away and never came back again. His little sister was once thrown a big skittles ball on the head and a third time a children’s pick served as a device for, hitting somebody on the head.”

Which schools did Einstein attend?

Einstein received private lessons at home starting in 1884 and attended „Petersschule” (Peter’s School), a catholic public school in Munich, from October 1885 until 1888. „Luitpold-Gymnasium“ (Luitpold Grammar School), also in Munich, followed from October 1888 until 1894. However, he left this grammar school before time in December 1894 without taking his exams. To make up his graduation exam (Matur) he attended the business department of the Cantonal School in Aarau, Switzerland from October 1895 until October 1896. He studied at the Polytechnic (the later Swiss Technical Academy, ETH) in Zurich starting in October 1896.

Was Albert Einstein a good or a bad pupil?

Albert Einstein, whose school performance seemed already very promising in elementary school, became a good student. He was always amongst the better students in his class. He received especially good marks in maths and the natural sciences, some worse marks in the languages, in drawing and in sports.

Is it true, that Albert Einstein had a 5 in maths?

Einstein’s performance in maths was always well up to excellent and in his school reports he received the marks good and very good. The rumour about the 5 in maths has proposedly developed from the fact that in Einstein’s school reports, for example from the Cantonal School Aarau, the mark 5 and even 6 can be found in maths. However, we have to consider that the criteria for school performance in Germany and Switzerland are different. That means, mark 1 (very good) in Germany corresponds to mark 6 in Switzerland; mark 2 (good) equals mark 5; etc.

Did Einstein „have to repeat a year“ in school?

Albert Einstein never had to “repeat a year” during his whole school time.

Which school leaving certificate did Einstein have?

He passed the school leaving examination (Matur) at the Cantonal School in Aarau, Switzerland, in October 1896.

What did Albert Einstein do after passing his school leaving exam?

Einstein studied at the Polytechnic (the later Swiss Technical Academy, ETH) in Zurich from 1896 until 1900. The aim of his studies was the subject teacher diploma for maths and physics. He ended his studies successfully in July 1900.

Did Einstein have to do his military service?

No! Einstein escaped the German military service by giving up the German citizenship as 17-year-old with the approval of his father. It was different with Swiss army. Einstein became a Swiss citizen in February 1901 and was summoned by the military officials for the medical examination one month later. At the medical examination on March 13, 1901 Einstein was attested varicosities, flat and sweaty feet. Thus he was declared “Unqualified A” (“Untauglich A”) by the examination committee. The “A” means, that he could only be used for “helpers’ services” (“Hülfsdienste und Platzdienst”). However, the Swiss Army has never summoned Einstein to perform these services.

Was Albert Einstein married?

Yes! Albert Einstein was married two times. He married Mileva Maric (1875-1948) in January 1903, a former fellow student from his time as a student at the Polytechnic in Zurich. They were divorced in February 1919. 4 months later, in June 1919, he married his cousin Elsa Löwenthal (1876-1936), nee Einstein.

Did Albert Einstein have children?

With Mileva Maric, his first wife, he had three children. Lieserl (1902-?), who was born illegitimate, Hans Albert (1904-1973) and Eduard (1910-1965). His second wife, Elsa Löwenthal, nee Einstein, brought two daughters from her first marriage, Ilse Löwenthal (1897-1934) and Margot Löwenthal (1899-1986).

Which nicknames did Mileva and Albert Einstein have for their sons Hans Albert and Eduard?

As a child Hans Albert was called Buio, Swiss for “boy”. However, in Einstein’s letters he was also only called Bu. Later Hans Albert was called Adn or just Albert. Eduard was only called Tede or Tedel by Mileva, Serbian word for “child”. In Einstein’s letters he is also called Tete, Tetel and Teddy.

How tall was Einstein?

In his Swiss “little log book” (Dienstbüchlein) of 1901 a body height of 171,5 cm is stated. In his passport dated 1923 175 cm are stated.

What colour did Albert Einstein’s eyes have?

Einstein had brown eyes (Source: Einstein’s passport dated 1923).

Was Albert Einstein left- or right-handed?

Einstein was right-handed.

Which hobbies did Albert Einstein have?

Einstein very much liked to play the violin and the piano. Sailing was also special to him.

Did Einstein play an instrument?

He played the violin and the piano.

Did Albert Einstein have one or more violins?

He had several violins in his life. The “last” violin was handed down to his grandson, Bernhard Caesar. Legend has it that Einstein called all its violins Lina – supposedly deduced from “violin”.

Was Einstein a good violin-player?

Here different opinions do exist. Ze’ev Rosenkranz writes in his book , Albert Einstein – Privat und ganz persönlich (Albert Einstein – Private and very personal) about Einstein playing the violin: “… He himself liked to scoff at his ‘incompetence’, which he rarely found “impressing”, however, this did not reduce his joy in playing the ‘violin’. Supposedly he was a good amateur musician with an own intuitive understanding of the music. In his later years he didn’t like the notes produced by himself any more; in the end he stopped playing the violin and only fantasized on the piano.”

Who were Einstein’s favourite composers?

Next to Mozart, whose music he liked best, there were for example Vivaldi, Bach, Schubert and Corelli.

Did Einstein have a sailing boat of his own?

Einstein had a boat in Caputh, near Potsdam, named Tümmler, which was confiscated during the national socialist seizure of power in 1933 and sold one year later. In the US he had a sailing boat of his own called Tinnef.

Could Albert Einstein swim?

Though Einstein liked sailing very much he could not swim. He even denied to use swim vests. This led to his family always worrying very much when he was out sailing.

Did Albert Einstein have a car?

Albert Einstein had no car of his own and he also never learned how to drive. If he had to, he was driven by friends and relatives or their chauffeurs.

Did Einstein smoke?

He smoked cigar and pipe despite his wife Elsa and his doctors forbid him to smoke.

Did Einstein drink alcohol?

Albert Einstein drank only few alcohol. If at all, a glass of wine or a little glass of cognac. Mostly he only sipped on the alcoholics served to him.

Did Einstein have a favourite book and a favourite author?

Einstein liked reading very much and he read a lot. Therefore it is difficult to name single books or authors. Despite that fact a small selection in the following: He very much liked to read Don Quijote by Cervantes Saavedra and The Karamasow Brothers by Dostojewski. David Humes Traktat about human nature had according to Einstein’s own words quite an influence on his development.Here the authors have to be mentioned Poincaré, Mach, Tolstoi, Heine, Shaw as well as Schopenhauer and Spinoza. As a student he read with increasing enthusiasm the Naturwissenschaftlichen Volksbücher (Natural-Scientific Popular Books) by Aaron Bernstein and dealt among other things with Ludwig Büchners Kraft und Stoff (Energy and Matter) and Kant’s Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason).

Did Albert Einstein write books of his own?

Next to very many scientific and non-scientific publications Albert Einstein has also written, i.e. published several books. About the special and the general theory of relativity (intelligible to everybody), Basics of the theory of relativity, The evolution of physics, with Leopold Infeld. The books mentioned here have been translated into many languages.

Did Albert Einstein write some kind of diary?

During his journeys he wrote a diary. Today the following travel diaries exist: (Albert Einstein Archives, Jerusalem).

1: Japan, Palestine, Spain – October 1922 to March 1923

2: South America – 1925

3: USA – November 1930 to January 1931

4: USA – December 3, 1931 to February 4, 1932; December 10, 1932 to December 18, 1932

5: Berlin, London – April 1931 to June 1931

6: USA – January 28, 1933 to February 16, 1933

Einstein had worked at the Patent Office (Swiss Office for Intellectual Property) for some years in Bern. Did he also have own patents?

Yes, he owned more then twenty patents. However, always together with a partner. Thus for example with the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard among other things a patent for a refrigerator. With the industrial Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe a patent for a gyroscopic compass, with Rudolf Goldschmidt, a professor for mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, a patent for a hearing device and with the doctor Gustav Bucky a patent for an automatic camera.

When was Einstein working at the Swiss Office for Intellectual Property in Bern?

He was employed as technical expert third-class with an annual salary of 3500 Swiss Francs in June 1902 and he was promoted to be technical expert second-class, with an annual salary of 4500 Swiss Francs in April 1906. He handed in his notice to start a new job as extraordinary professor for theoretical physics at the university Zurich in July 1909.

What became of Einstein’s working place (office) in the Patent Office in Bern? Is it open to the public today?

Einstein’s former working place, i.e. his office in the back then Bern Patent Office in Speichergasse has been rebuilt during the course of time. The building, which is not open to the public, is used no longer as patent office today and except for a commemorative plaque in the foyer nothing anymore points out that Albert Einstein has worked there.

What became of Einstein’s office in Princeton, in which he worked until shortly before his death?

From Einstein’s office in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton there is only the known photograph still left, which shows the room how Einstein left it in 1955. Nothing more is left of “his office”. After Einstein’s death is was again used as office by an employees of the institute.
On the official website of the Institute for Advanced Study the following hint can be found:
It is possible to visit Albert Einstein’s office at the Institute?
Professor Einstein’s Institute office has been occupied, since his death in 1955, by other members of the Institute’s Faculty. The office of all Faculty and Members are private.”

What is the theory of relativity?

Whole books might be filled with answering this question. Very briefly the following: Concerning Einstein’s theory of relativity it can be differentiated between the special theory of relativity dated 1905, and the general theory of relativity (gravity theory) of 1915. The special theory of relativity deals with questions of systems of reference moving with constant speed against each other. It lead to a revision of the terms space and time and is based on the principle of the constancy of the speed of light and on the principle of relativity, which postulates the impossibility of the determination of an absolute movement. However, the general theory of relativity deals with systems of reference relatively accelerated against each other, as well as the impact of gravity on space and time.

Was it possible to confirm the effects predicted by the general theory of relativity with experiments?

To the classical confirmed tests of the general theory of relativity belong among others the predicaments of the perihelion motion of Mercury, the gravitation red shift as well as of the deviation of light in the gravitational field of the sun. The gravity waves predicted by Einstein and his theory have now been proven.

How many people understand the theory of relativity?

Was the special theory of relativity still “intelligible”, the general theory of relativity could not be understood by most of Einstein’s contemporaries. Legend has it that the English astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington is said to have answered on the question, whether three people could understand the theory of relativity: “And who is going to be the third?” Today things have changed. The theories of relativity are already dealt with in the upper classes of grammar school and are basic components of every physics study. Thus it can be assumed that very many people are able to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity, at least the basics of it.

What does the formula: E = m · c2 mean?

Einstein’s famous formula of the Equivalence of Mass and Energy: E = m · c2 (energy equals mass times speed of light squared) is a direct consequence of his special theory of relativity from the year 1905. It says that any energy, which is supplied to a body, also increases its mass and each energy, which is deduced from the body, reduces its mass. The conversion from mass into energy was sadly confirmed at the latest in August 1945 by the throwing two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

How big is the part of Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, in the theory of relativity?

Again and again there are people claiming that Mileva Maric had a big part in Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Of course the two of them have jointly discussed Einstein’s work, in which Mileva has introduced some thoughts. However, it is pure speculation to say that Mileva played a bigger part in Einstein’s theories. There are no known documents, from which it becomes clear that Mileva has scientifically contributed to Einstein’s theories. Her personal and intellectual relationship with the young Einstein however, has played an important role in his development. But she could not help him with the creative part of the theory of relativity.

In the 20ies there is said to have been a film by Einstein concerning the theory of relativity. What do you know about this film?

The German version of the film about Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which was first shown on April 2, 1922, is no longer be traceable. Hanns-Walter Kornblum had the idea to this film, which almost entirely consisted of animated pictures. Today only the English version of the film from the year 1923 is preserved. However, this is a version which is very shortened of the German original version.

Was Albert Einstein awarded the Nobel Price?

Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Price for physics in 1921. The price was given to him “for his merits concerning theoretical physics, especially for his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect”. It has to be mentioned that Einstein was not awarded the Nobel Price for the theory of relativity.

What had Einstein to do with the construction of the atomic bomb?

Frightened that Germany worked on the development of the atomic bomb, Albert Einstein signed a letter to the American president Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939 to point out the possibility of an atomic danger to him. In the letter indicated to the president that there was a military threat with atomic energy and gave him the tip, that also the US should increase its nuclear research. This was the only part Einstein played in connection with the atomic bomb! In a letter to his long-time friend Max von Laue Einstein wrote in March 1955: “…The thing with the atomic bomb and Roosevelt was restricted to the fact that I have signed a letter by Szilards facing the danger that Hitler could be in possession of the atomic bomb first. If I had known that this danger was not real, I would not have participated in opening Pandora’s box, by the way as little as Szilard. […]”.

Which contemporary technical modern comforts can be traced back to Albert Einstein?

Today Einstein’s findings are also applied in technical systems. Such for example in laser technology, the CD player, the digital camera, the solar cell and in the „Global Positioning System“, abbreviated GPS, which we are no longer to imagine being without, which is used in our cars as navigation system.

Are there still descendants of Albert Einstein today (2013)? If yes, where do they live?

Yes, there are still descendants. However, due to reasons of personality protection their addresses are not published.

Again and again it can be read, e.g. on the internet, that there is a “Einstein-riddle” with the following or similar conceptual formulation:

  1. There are 5 houses, each with a different colour.
  2. In each house lives a person of another nationality.
  3. Each tenant prefers a certain beverage, smokes a certain cigarette brand and has a certain pet.
  4. None of the 5 persons is drinking the same, smoking the same or has the same pet.
    The question is: To whom does the fish belong? …”

Is this riddle really from Albert Einstein?

The riddle is not from Albert Einstein! There is no prove for the fact that it is from him.


Illustrations credits:
Courtesy of the Archiv der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Porträtgrafiksammlung, Nr. 192 Ü, Berlin: 1