einstein and bern


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Einstein and Bern

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Einstein's contribution to 20th century physics is uncontested and has been described in countless publications of all kinds. He is probably best known for his Special and General theories of Relativity. But his scientific works also include papers on theoretical mechanics, on quantum theory, and important contributions to cosmology. Einstein's revolutionary ideas touched off heated debates, and not only among the scientists in his own field. Many philosophical articles, for example, have also dealt with his theories.


Scientific Papers
In 1905, while living at Kramgasse No. 49, Albert Einstein developed the Special Theory of Relativity. His work on the General Theory also began in Bern.


Einstein himself called the years from 1902 to 1909 the happiest and most fruitful period in his life. He presented no less than 32 scientific publications. Six of them stand out in particular: the fundamental papers Einstein published as a 26-year-old in 1905, the year of his breakthrough:

On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light
(For this paper on the photoelectric effect he received the Nobel Prize of 1921.)

On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat
(On a problem in statistical mechanics)

On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies
(Special theory of relativity)

Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon Its Energy Content?
(Equivalence of mass and energy)

On the Theory of Brownian Motion
(Published in 1906)

A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions
(His doctoral dissertation)

Thus, Bern became the starting point of a unique academic career. The year 1905 - often called his "annus mirabilis" - was the most creative period of scientific endeavours for Einstein (and for the whole community of physicists). His theories were received very sceptically at first. Today they are an indispensable part of physics. The consequences of the theory of relativity, for instance, are confirmed daily by modern acceleration experiments.


In 1903, Albert Einstein married Mileva Maric against the will of their parents. The two had met while studying at the ETH (Federal Institute of Technology) in Zurich. Mileva, originally from Serbia, had come to Switzerland to study, encouraged by her father, who was aware of her exceptional intellectual abilities. Mileva was one of the first women ever to enrol at the ETH for physics.
In 1902 she gave birth to a girl, Lieserl, whose fate remains largely in the dark. In 1904 Hans Albert was born. He became an engineer, and, in 1937, a professor of hydraulic engineering in Berkeley, California.


Einstein's most important friends and partners in discussion were Maurice Solovine and Conrad Habicht. Together they founded the so-called "Olympia Academy," having, as its purpose, the discussion of philosophical and scientific problems. Einstein kept up these contacts after his departure from Bern.
With another lifetime friend, Michele Besso, Einstein often discussed scientific matters on the way home from the Patent Office.

Work at the Patent Office
In June 1902, Einstein started work as a "technical expert third class" at the Patent Office in Bern. He had been recommended by his friend, Marcel Grossmann. In 1906 he was promoted to "expert second class." His bread-winning job left him enough time for his scientific work. In 1908 he lectured at Bern University, and in 1909 he resigned from the Patent Office in order to take up the post of associate professor of theoretical physics at Zurich University.


Albert Einstein is born in Ulm (Germany) on 14 March. He is the first child of Hermann and Pauline Einstein-Koch.
His family moves to Munich.
Birth of Albert's sister Maja.
Albert's parents move to Pavia and Milan. He stays in Munich.
Albert arrives in Switzerland.
"Matura" exams at the cantonal school in Aarau. Albert starts studying physics and mathematics at the Polytechnic in Zurich (ETH).
Diploma as a teacher in mathematics and physics.
Swiss citizen, assistant teacher at the "Technikum" in Winterthur.
Albert moves to Bern and starts work at the Swiss Federal Patent Office in Bern as a "technical expert third class." The "Olympia Academy" is founded.
Birth of Lieserl.
He marries Mileva Maric on 6 January.
They take up residence at Kramgasse No. 49 in the autumn.
Birth of Hans Albert.
Einstein's "annus mirabilis": doctoral dissertation, publication of 5 fundamental papers in the "Annalen der Physik."
Einstein promoted to "technical expert second class."
First attempts to apply the laws of gravitation to the Special Theory of Relativity.
He gains teaching qualification at Bern University.
Resignation from the Patent Office.
Associate professor of theoretical physics at Zurich University.
Birth of Eduard.
Full professor at the German University in Prague.
Full professor at the ETH in Zurich.
Draft of a generalized theory of relativity, i.e. a theory of gravitation.
Member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin.
The Einsteins move to Berlin. His wife, Mileva, and his sons return to Zurich 3 months later.
Einstein completes the General Theory of Relativity.
Health collapse. First publication on cosmology.
Divorce from Mileva Maric. Einstein marries his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal.
Solar eclipse expedition furnishes proof of the bending of stellar light in gravitational fields, as predicted by Einstein.
Nobel Prize (Physics) "for his outstanding contributions to theoretical physics and, in particular, for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect."
Member of the League of Nations' Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
Publication of the "Unified Field Theory." (Like his later publications on the same topic it presents no satisfactory solution.)
Resignation from the Prussian Academy of Sciences. Einstein immigrates to the USA, as many other Jews do..
Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Death of Einstein's second wife, Elsa.
American citizen.
Death of Einstein's first wife, Mileva Maric, in Zurich.
Albert Einstein dies on 18 April, at the age of 76, from a rupture of his aorta.


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