Einsteinhaus Bern

Bern, Switzerland

On 14 September 2015, the American Physical Society and the European Physical Society (EPS) together recognized Albert Einstein's house in Bern, Switzerland, as the first official Joint EPS-APS Historic Site. Among those in attendance were Christophe Roussel, president of EPS, Sam Aronson, president of APS, H.R. Ott, President of the Albert Einstein Society, Q.M. Tran, President of the Swiss Physical Society (SPS), and A. Tschäppät, the Mayor of Bern.

The citation on the plaque reads: “The apartment on the 2nd floor of this building was the home of the patent clerk Albert Einstein and his family when, between March and June 1905, in his free time, he completed his pioneering articles on the light-quantum hypothesis, the size of atoms, the Brownian motion and the special theory of relativity.”

Einsteinhaus, as it is known in German, is located at Kramgasse No. 49 where the River Aare twists into its famous “Aare loop” around the Old City of Bern. Einstein rented the flat on the second floor from 1903 to 1905, considered his “crucial years”; 1905 especially is known as his "annus mirabilis" (miracle year). In 2005, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his time there, Einsteinhaus was “gently” renovated and an exhibition was installed designed to show how the scholar lived and “in what environment his most important papers were created.”

The papers referred to include those dedicated to his discovery and development of the Special Theory of Relativity, and also his introduction of the concept of light quanta (or photons, as they are known today). During his time in Bern, he also began thinking about the problem of gravitation, which would culminate in his theory of General Relativity in 1915 (by which time Einstein was a professor in Berlin). “Einstein himself called the years from 1902 to 1909 the happiest and most fruitful period in his life. He published no less than 32 scientific publications,” according to Einsteinhaus. Six of them stand out; these are the fundamental papers Einstein published as a 26-year-old in 1905:

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)

Einstein first moved to Bern in 1902 and took a position as a clerk with the Swiss Federal Patent Office, which he held until 1909. After marrying Mileva Maric in 1903, he took up residence at Kramgasse 49. Despite working a 48 hour week at the Patent Office and juggling life with a new wife and baby, Einstein still managed to create and nurture paradigm-shifting developments in our perspective and understanding of the universe. His legacy continues today and he is considered as one of the two greatest physicists ever, rivaled only by Isaac Newton.

Today his former walk-up apartment has been restored in the style of that period, and Einstein’s biography and life’s work are presented in a small exhibit on the third floor. If you listen carefully, you might still hear the physicist busy scribbling into his notebooks by the light of a candle.

Works Cited and Bibliography:


Einsteinhaus Bern:http://www.einstein-bern.ch/index.php?lang=en

Einstein House:https://www.bern.com/en/detail/einstein-house

EPS Historic Sites:http://www.eps.org/?page=distinction_sitesEH