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Albert Einstein

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Growing Up and Early Life

Where did Albert Einstein grow up?

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879. His father, Hermann, managed a featherbed business in Ulm, which was situated on the River Danube in southern Germany. Around a year after Albert was born, his father's featherbed business failed and the family moved to Munich, Germany where Hermann went to work for an electrical supply company. Einstein spent his childhood and his early education in the city of Munich.

Albert Einstein at age 3 standing
Albert Einstein age 3
Author: Unknown

Einstein's Family

Both of Einstein's parents were of Jewish heritage. They came from a long line of Jewish tradesmen who had lived in southern Germany for hundreds of years. Einstein's mother, Pauline, came from a fairly wealthy family and was known to have a sharp wit and be outgoing. His father tended to be more quiet and gentle. They were both intelligent and educated. Einstein's mother enjoyed music and playing the piano. His father gained a reputation in mathematics, but didn't have the finances to attend university.

Albert Einstein's mother
Albert Einstein's Mother Pauline
Author: Unknown
When Einstein turned two, his parents had a daughter named Maria. Maria went by the nickname "Maja." Like most siblings, they had their differences growing up, but Maja would grow to be one of Albert's closest and best friends throughout his life.

Early Development

As one might expect, Albert Einstein was not the typical child. However, not in the way one might think. He was not a child prodigy who could read at the age of two and do high level math at four, but quite the opposite. Albert appeared to have great difficulty in learning to talk. An older Albert once recalled that his parents became so concerned about his speaking difficulties that they consulted a doctor. Even when he did start talking, Albert had the strange habit of repeating sentences several times to himself. At one point, he earned the nickname "der Depperte," which means "dopey one."

As he grew older and entered school, Einstein developed a rebellious attitude towards his teachers and authority in general. Perhaps it was a result of being so intelligent, but not being able to communicate it. His first school was a Catholic school where the teachers treated him fairly, but he was constantly picked on by the other students for being Jewish. He eventually began to excel in school and, contrary to some legends about Einstein, he did not flunk out of math, but typically performed at the top of his class.

Albert would later conjecture that perhaps his ability to think in unique ways and to develop new scientific concepts differently came from his early struggles. He liked to think in pictures, rather than in words. He also enjoyed rebelling and thinking about things in ways that were not normal.

Music and Entertainment

As a child, Albert preferred to play by himself rather than with other boys his age. He enjoyed constructing towers with playing cards and building complex structures with blocks. He also liked to work on puzzles or read books about mathematics. It was Albert's mother who introduced him to one of his favorite pastimes; music. At first, Albert wasn't sure he wanted to learn to play the violin. It seemed too regimented. But then Albert heard Mozart and his world changed. He loved listening to and playing Mozart. He became an excellent violin player and even played duets with this mother. Later in life, Albert would turn to music when stuck on a particularly difficult scientific concept. Sometimes he would be playing his violin in the middle of the night and then suddenly stop and exclaim "I've got it!" as the solution to a problem jumped into his mind.

As an older man, Einstein explained how important music was to his life and his work saying "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music."

Einstein at age 14 sitting
Albert Einstein age 14
Author: Unknown

The Compass

When Albert was around the age of five or six, he fell ill. To try and make him feel better, his father bought him a compass to play with. Einstein became fascinated with the compass. How did it work? What was the mysterious force that caused the compass to point north? Einstein claimed as an adult that he could remember how he felt examining the compass. He said it made a profound and lasting impression on him even as a child and sparked his curiosity to want to explain the unknown.

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Albert Einstein Biography Contents
  1. Overview
  2. Growing up Einstein
  3. Education, the Patent Office, and Marriage
  4. The Miracle Year
  5. Theory of General Relativity
  6. Academic Career and Nobel Prize
  7. Leaving Germany and World War II
  8. More Discoveries
  9. Later Life and Death
  10. Albert Einstein Quotes and Bibliography
Back to Biographies >> Inventors and Scientists

Other Inventors and Scientists:
Alexander Graham Bell
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George Washington Carver
Francis Crick and James Watson
Marie Curie
Leonardo da Vinci
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
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Ben Franklin
Robert Fulton
Jane Goodall
Johannes Gutenberg
Stephen Hawking
Antoine Lavoisier
James Naismith
Isaac Newton
Louis Pasteur
The Wright Brothers

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