Albert Einstein

  • From:

    Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University │ Princeton, New Jersey

  • Year:

    1935

  • Subject:

    Benjamin Franklin Medal: Physics

  • Award:

    Franklin

  • Citation:

    For work on relativity and the photo-electric effect.

Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany, in 1879. In his youth, his family moved to Munich and then to Italy, and Einstein received much of his early education in Switzerland. In 1896 he entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, he gained his degree and acquired Swiss citizenship. Unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905, he obtained his doctoral degree.

It was during his employment at the Patent Office that he produced much of his groundbreaking work. In 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne; in 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich; and in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, then returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. He was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute (later the Max Planck Institute for Physics) and Professor in the University of Berlin in 1914. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired from his post in 1945.

Einstein realized the inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.

He postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation. In 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics. In the 1920s, Einstein embarked on the construction of unified field theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology.

Einstein was honored with the Franklin Award of The Franklin Institute in 1935. Additionally, he received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine, and philosophy from many European and American universities. He was awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientific academies throughout the world.

Information as of 1935