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Albert Einstein

  b. 1879; d. 1955 | Swiss physicist

At The Bottom

Einstein had sent letters of inquiry to nearly every physics department in Europe...

After graduating in with a math and physics degree from the Polytechnic in Zurich, Albert Einstein was unable to secure a teaching position anywhere for the next several years.   His parents continued to support him financially but insisted that he leave Switzerland and live with them in Milan, Italy, if he could not find a job.  By April 1901 — a year after he earned his degree — Einstein had sent letters of inquiry to nearly every physics department in Europe, pleading for the opportunity to join their faculty.  Many of his letters went completely unanswered.  In 1903, Einstein at last returned to Switzerland and took a job in a patent office, where he earned a tolerable income but enjoyed almost no contact with other physicists.

At The Top

Einstein had completely revolutionized the field of physics.

Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922.  Over the previous two decades, Einstein had completely revolutionized the field of physics and had received a string of prestigious academic appointments at universities in Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, and Germany.  His published work on photoelectricity, atomic theory, electrodynamics and other subjects had sealed his reputation as one of the most brilliant thinkers in the history of science.  For the rest of his life, Einstein continued to produce great insights into physics, but he also spoke out passionately on political and humanitarian issues.

The Comeback

"I leave no stone unturned and do not give up my sense of humor."

Even as he suffered from a lack of job opportunities, Albert Einstein refused to give up his dream of making important contributions to the science he loved.  As he told his friend Marcel Grossman, “I leave no stone unturned and do not give up my sense of humor.” He compared himself to a donkey and noted that God had given them both thick skins.  When he finally received the patent office job, Einstein continued to conduct experiments and research, even though he was isolated from his peers.  In 1905, he published four separate articles in the most prestigious German physics journal.  Although these articles did not immediately bring him renown, they would eventually be seen as Einstein’s most original and ingenious work.  From his quiet job in a patent office, Einstein was on his way to becoming one of the most important thinkers in human history.

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