"...look into all things with a searching eye” - Baha'u'llah (Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith)


Dec 10, 2012

Einstein's Early Years

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, on March 14, 1879. His parents were Jewish but not observant. Initially, they were concerned about his intelligence because he was slow to speak, but these worries passed quickly.

Because his father was an electrical engineer with a manufacturing business in Munich, Einstein was exposed to science at an early age. The needle of his father's compass held particular interest for him. He understood intuitively that if two objects were in contact, one could exert a force upon the other. But the idea that the earth could exert a force upon the compass needle without touching it amazed him.

When Einstein was ten years old, a family friend introduced him to some important texts on math and science, and Einstein began studying them, teaching himself geometry and calculus. Particularly important was his study of logic, especially the deductive reasoning associated with Euclidean geometry. Deductive reasoning is the process by which one moves from general premises to specific conclusions. To create his system of geometry, Euclid began with a set of statements, called postulates, that he asserted as true, even though they were unprovable. From these, Euclid made a series of deductions to arrive at his theorems. If one accepts the truth of the postulates that form the basis of the system, then the theorems must also be true because they follow logically from the postulates. Einstein used a similar method when developing his own work on relativity.

As a teenager, Einstein attended the prestigious Luitpold Gymnasium, a secondary school considered quite progressive for its time. Even so, he disliked the rote memorization at the heart of the school's curriculum and tended to ignore assignments that he considered unnecessary. His impatient attitude toward restrictions on his creativity persisted throughout his entire life, and though it sometimes caused him trouble, it also freed up his mind to challenge established scientific orthodoxy.

When Einstein was fifteen, his father's company failed, and the family moved to Italy. At first, Einstein remained in Munich to finish his schooling, but he disliked the gymnasium so much that he withdrew and finished his secondary education in Switzerland. Next, he attended the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, from which he obtained a physics degree in 1900. For the next two years, Einstein searched for a teaching position but found none, eventually accepting employment as an assistant examiner with the Swiss patent office in Bern. (The Bedside Baccalaureate, edited by David Rubel)