Back to Biographies
Academic Career and Nobel Prize
Author: Carl A. Gist
After graduating from the Zurich Polytechnic in 1900, Einstein wanted to work as a teacher at a university. He hoped to gain a professorship at a school where he could teach, but still have time work on his theories. This wasn't to be the case, however, as he struggled for two years to find a teaching position. Eventually, he landed a job examining patent applications. Einstein worked at the patent office for seven years, spending what free time he could muster reading scientific papers and working on his own theories. Even after he published four groundbreaking scientific papers in 1905 (see Einstein's Miracle Year) and earned his doctorate, he still struggled to find a job teaching. Finally, in 1908, he was hired as a lecturer at the University of Bern.
As Einstein's fame as a theoretical physicist grew, so did his opportunities in the academic arena. A year after becoming a lecturer at the University of Bern, he was appointed to the position of associate professor of physics at the University of Zurich. He then became a full professor at the University of Prague in 1911 and, a year later, returned to Zurich as a full professor. His academic life reached its peak when he became a professor at the University of Berlin and a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. At the University of Berlin, Einstein earned the salary of a professor without any teaching duties. This allowed him to focus on research and developing new theories full time. He also served as the Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. Einstein would remain at the University of Berlin until the early 1930s.
Albert Einstein standing in front of blackboard at
California Institute of Technology in 1932
Source: Los Angeles Times photographic archive
World War I
Einstein considered himself a pacifist and disagreed with the prevailing nationalist politics of Germany. During World War I, ninety-three famous German scientists, artists, and scholars signed a manifesto supporting Germany in the war. Einstein, however, refused to sign, instead signing a counter-manifesto protesting Germany's involvement in the war.
Despite living in Germany during World War I, the war seemed to have little effect on Einstein's academic and scientific career. It was in 1915, a year after the war started, that Einstein completed his Theory of General Relativity. This work was arguably his greatest achievement and is considered one of the great scientific theories in history. His academic career continued to flourish during the war as well.
Not long after World War I, Einstein's Theory of General Relativity was confirmed by experiments conducted on reflected starlight during an eclipse in 1919. He became instantly famous. Universities and scholars from around the world invited him to visit their country and lecture on his, now famous, theories. He spent much of 1921 to 1923 traveling the world and speaking to groups of students and scientists. He also met several world leaders including U.S. President Harding, the emperor of Japan, and the King of Spain.
Albert Einstein in Norway
Source: University of Oslo, Norway
In 1922, Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect." Oddly enough, Einstein never received a Nobel Prize for his work in relativity. Einstein considered the omission a slap in the face and opted to travel to Japan rather than go to Sweden and receive the prize. When Einstein finally gave an official acceptance speech later that year, he spoke about relativity rather than the photoelectric effect.
Personal Life and Divorce
Einstein married Maliva Maric in 1903 and they had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard. In 1914, Maric discovered that Einstein was in love with his cousin Elsa. For the next five years the two lived apart. Einstein lived in Berlin, while Maric and the boys lived in Zurich. They finally got divorced in 1919.
Not long after getting divorced, Einstein married Elsa. They remained married until Elsa died in 1936.
Albert Einstein and his second wife Elsa
Source: Underwood and Underwood, New York
Einstein wasn't offered his first professorship until nearly four years after he changed the world of modern physics with his "Miracle Year" papers in 1905.
The Nobel Prize came with a $32,250 monetary award, which was a considerable sum in 1921. The money was given to Einstein's ex-wife Maric as part of the divorce settlement.
Albert Einstein Biography Contents
Back to Biographies >> Inventors and Scientists
- Growing up Einstein
- Education, the Patent Office, and Marriage
- The Miracle Year
- Theory of General Relativity
- Academic Career and Nobel Prize
- Leaving Germany and World War II
- More Discoveries
- Later Life and Death
- Albert Einstein Quotes and Bibliography
Other Inventors and Scientists: