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Dr. Albert Einstein: Theoretical Physics, Relativity and the Photoelectric Effect, 1935

In Need of a Liberal Arts Education

As his thoughts turned towards college and more advanced studies, Albert determined that he would apply to the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT) in Zurich, Switzerland. He disliked the Lutipold-Gymnasium and did not complete his studies there. He instead committed himself to a period of self-study, during which he acquired knowledge of theoretical physics. He took the FIT's competitive entrance exam at age sixteen, more than a year younger than the other students who sat for the exam at the same time. The results of his exam revealed that he had done well on the mathematical-physical section of the test, while he had failed the general portion of the exam which tested his knowledge of literary and political history and of foreign language. Albert was thus required to attend a secondary school in the nearby Swiss town of Aarau before he was admitted to the FIT.

Einstein began his studies at the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT) in October of 1896. As a college student he often skipped lectures and studied for tests by borrowing notes from his classmates, and would later describe himself as a mediocre university student. While not an avid participant in his classes, Albert's genuine interest in theoretical physics inspired him to devote large periods of time to its study. He participated in a number of physics experiments while a student, and consistently strove to unite the abstract concepts of theoretical physics with practical matters. His doctoral thesis made strides towards such unification, combining the theoretical claim for the existence of molecules with a description of the physical law governing the behavior of molecules. Einstein used experimental data to further describe this law and to further develop the relationship between the theoretical and the practical.

In 1935, The Franklin Institute presented Einstein with a Franklin Medal, "In recognition of his contributions to theoretical physics, especially his work on Relativity and the Photo-Electric effect." The full text of the Committee of Science and the Arts investigation into Einstein's work can be accessed by clicking on the thumbnails at right.