A Genius…A Refugee…An American

It was on 15 January, that Albert Einstein declared his intention to become an American Citizen.

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire on 14 March 1879. The Einstein family were non-observant Ashkenazi Jews.

By 1908, he was recognized as a leading scientist and was appointed lecturer at the University of Bern. The following year, after giving a lecture on electrodynamics and the relativity principle at the University of Zurich, Alfred Kleiner recommended him to the faculty for a newly created professorship in theoretical physics. Einstein was appointed associate professor in 1909. In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.

Einstein first visited the United States in 1921, in Washington he accompanied representatives of the National Academy of Science on a visit to the White House.

In December 1930, Einstein visited America for the second time. After arriving in New York City, Einstein was given the keys to the city by Mayor Jimmy Walker. During his stay in New York, he joined a crowd of 15,000 people at Madison Square Garden during a Hanukkah celebration.

In February 1933 while on a visit to the United States, Einstein knew he could not return to Germany with Hitler’s rise to power. One Nazi publication included him in a list of enemies of the regime under the phrase, “not yet hanged”, and offered a $5,000 bounty on his head.

Einstein would become an American citizen in 1940. In 1946 Einstein visited Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he was awarded an honorary degree. Lincoln was the first university in the United States to grant college degrees to African-Americans, including Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall. To its students, Einstein gave a speech about racism in America, which he called America’s “worst disease” and added, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.” Einstein would hold a position at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University until his death in 1955.