Life and Times

Part of the Einstein exhibition.

March 14, 1879—Albert Einstein is born in Ulm, Germany.

Life & Times section of exhibition
AMNH; Photo Studio

Albert Einstein's lifelong passion for physics was sparked at the age of four or five when his father showed him a small compass. Young Albert tried to imagine the mysterious force that caused the compass needle to move, and the experience awakened a sense of wonder that stayed with him for life. Understanding the universe became an "eternal riddle" for Einstein, a quest for scientific enlightenment. "The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise," he wrote, "but it has proved itself as trustworthy, and I have never regretted having chosen it."

Einstein deftly navigated scientific problems, but he charted the path through his turbulent personal life with less success. His passionate romance and subsequent marriage to physicist Mileva Mari ended bitterly, alienating him from their two sons. Einstein's life was punctuated by love affairs—one of which, with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal, led to a second marriage.