1. Not finding help here? Sign up for a free 30min tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What was Einstein's profesion?

  1. Sep 28, 2008 #1
    this question may sound strange,but I'd like the ideea,only there are a few misunderstandings...
    as a physicist you can get hired to research something for a company,or the army,or something like that,but who sponsored Einstein,when he developed the relativitey theory?something that no one could use...of course,you do get a lot of money from wining all kinds of awards,like the nobel prise,or so,but it's not a shore income...
    if I were to "continue" his work,who would pay me,and why? because having a second job to sustain you and do some research can be very tiering...
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 28, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    There are plenty of books on Einstein's biography. You may want to start with that. Or visit the Nobel Prize page for a short and condensed version of it.


    This should tell you clearly what he was doing when he produced the landmark 1905 papers.

    Be very careful though, if you intend to use his life as a "rule" for what is commonly practiced today. Things are a lot different now than they were then.

  4. Sep 28, 2008 #3
    ... but others have continued Einstein's work outside the military-industrial-academic establishment, like Julian Barbour:


    Lee Smolin gives an account of other modern mavericks "working from home" in "The Trouble with Physics".
  5. Sep 28, 2008 #4
    Did Einstein officially go to grad school right after he completed his undergrad studies?
  6. Sep 28, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Yes, Einstein did get a PhD, although it took him a few years(which was not unusual at the time). He was in fact very well educated, had some of the best known physicists of the time as his time as his teachers and studied at a prestigious university (ETH). Hence, the idea of the "lone genius" is to a large extent just a myth.
    The reason he ended up as a patent clerk was simply that he wasn't able to find a position at a university (there weren't many positions around at the time). He e.g. tried to get a job in Leiden in Kammerling Onnes group. Needless to say he didn't get it, which was perhaps a good thing thing since it was an experimental group which would not have given Einstein any time to work on SR.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2008
  7. Sep 28, 2008 #6


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    Problem is, how exactly are you going to earn a living if you stay away from the "establishment" ? By being a private college tutor to many students?
  8. Sep 28, 2008 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    Besides, one should NOT regard him as a lowly clerk, he was a technical advisor
  9. Sep 28, 2008 #8
    I don't see this as a "rule",but rather a very big coincidence...there is this local magasine,called "100 celebrities" (don't look for it,it is only in romanian...I think) and the first celeb was Einstein,and when I was reading it,it felt like I read my personal jurnal(if I had one) exept for the jeuish part(not that I have something personal with them..I simpley am not) so from that and from the pure atraction to find out "how the universe realy works" I have this ideea...
  10. Sep 29, 2008 #9
    Getting back to the original question and forgetting about Einstein (legendary geniuses are rarely good role models for the rest of us), most basic science research with no immediate commercial application is done in universities.
  11. Sep 29, 2008 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2016 Award

    Pay attention to your sources!

    Do not assume you know what's going on simply based on some superficial reading out of a "magazine". If you think your live parallels that of Einstein simply based on some magazine article, then you are basing this "fact" on some dubious source! Read his biography from the many respected books out there. You may need to even read more than one book to get a wider perspective on it. Till you have done that, you have no clue on what he was like.

  12. Sep 29, 2008 #11
    well,that number of the magazine was all about Einstein,and I've read it 3 times,very carefuly...+ I cheked out a lot of sources,so I do know a thing or two about him:) of course there are a few things I didn't found there,but I still got time...
    the thing I hate most is that I can't find a poster with him...a huge poster:)
    anyway,as a question with a very short answer: who funded Einstein's theoretical work,that no one could use at that time?
  13. Sep 29, 2008 #12
    I think he probably paid for his own pencils. :smile:

    He did work for the patent office for a time, during which he did his research on his own dime. It's not clear to me if he was getting any support while working on his Ph.D. or not. But shortly after he got his Ph.D., he started working at various universities and institutes, which is how he supported himself for the rest of his life.

    If you want to be supported to do theoretical work with no immediate applications, you want to become an academic.
  14. Sep 29, 2008 #13
    It isn't quite logical,couse if the research took 1 year,for example,then he had to have a huge rezerve of cash,about the equivalent of at least 25 000$ of today,if he had no job...3 meales a day= 1095 meales/year/person,and I don't think loanes were that big at that time...
  15. Sep 29, 2008 #14
    I work for a government contractor but do theoretical work on my own time. I have had two papers this year, expect a third, and am working on two more. It can be done.

    To answer the OP, I think a lot of people feel an affinity with Einstein. Much of it is a cobbling together of myths about his life. (Ben Franklin is another of these supposedly lone geniuses who really wasn't, although he was never an academic.) My recommendation is to forget about trying to be (or believe you are) like somebody famous in the hopes that you too will become so. Einstein was a genius but he was also extremely lucky and plenty of geniuses live and die without becoming famous (and plenty of lowly intelligences become famous). Rather you should focus on your interests and come up with a plan for pursuing them. Academics is a tried and true way for the theoretician, but its not easy, and you have to be committed for the right reasons; "because I think I'm Einstein" is not a good one.
  16. Sep 29, 2008 #15


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Einstein got his diploma from ETH in 1900 (I think) and after that he worked as a technical advisor at the patent office while working on his PhD thesis, i.e. that is how he supported himself.
    As far as I remember his thesis was suppose to have been done in 1902-03 but he had a falling out with his advisor (Weber, as in the unit Wb) so he did not present his thesis until 1905. By that time he had already made a name for himself and he managed to get a "proper" job at a university.

    Also, your example demonstrates why even theoretical physicists have to spend a LOT of time writing grant applications, doing research does cost a lot of money (and you haven't included the rent for the office in your calculation). For experimental physicists it is of course even worse since equipment, consumables etc cost a lot of money (I just came back from the office and have spent the the whole daying working on a proposal, it is really the worst part of the job:yuck:).
  17. Sep 29, 2008 #16
    It was considered a good job and was reserved for the more promising graduates.
  18. Sep 29, 2008 #17


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    More importantly do you think you can understand his ideas? And when I say understand, I mean understand them deeply and mathematically, not by simply gaining a superficial level of understanding easily obtained from a popular science book. That itself is more important than whether or not you think his life correlates with yours. It also serves as a guide as to whether you ought to believe that your life is on par with his.
  19. Sep 30, 2008 #18
    Not everyone eats three meals a day.

    The only thing you should see yourself as on par with Einstein is his curiosity, if you have this and have the will, then everything else is a triviality, really.
  20. Sep 30, 2008 #19
    seems like I didn't made myself very clearley...I didn't ment "hey,both me and Einstein liked kebab"(if he did...)I ment I like his work very much...if I understand it...I can't visualise how a 11 dimensional(4 at that time,but not even 3) universe bends,but I've been thinking at his ideas for 2 years or so,still they are a few things that simpley don't tie up...I can say that I deepley understand his work,but as I thought over it again and again,there allwais apeared a tiny thing that I didn't took in to calculation,so there can stil be some "small things" that I don't see right now...
    again,I don't think I look like Einstein,I don't think I live like Einstein(we have a lot of common points,but I can't say our lifes are perfectley identical) but I do think like Einstein(at least I think that I think like him)(after I posted this,when I cheked for erors...the last sentence is kind of hard to belive,but even harder to explain...)
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2008
  21. Sep 30, 2008 #20
    That's about what I made per year in grad school. I understand that Einstein did some physics at work by getting his patent office tasks out of the way quickly. John Grisham also supposedly started out writing in the parking garage over his lunch hour. One of the problems with doing work on the side is the shear exhaustion that one tends to experience after a full day of work, especially if you have a family to come home to. It can also be very discouraging being disconnected from the academic community. Your questions about how he lived tell me that you need to research his life more since the jobs he held at various times and part of the public record.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: What was Einstein's profesion?
  1. What is out there? (Replies: 2)

  2. What to do? (Replies: 4)

  3. What will be better? (Replies: 1)