Einstein at the Patent Office

Einstein at the patent office

Seven Years as a «Cobbler»

Albert Einstein at his lectern at the patent office in 1904.
Albert Einstein at his lectern at the patent office in 1904.

In June 1902, Einstein received the letter he’d been impatiently waiting for: a positive answer regarding his application to be a technical assistant - level III at the federal patent office in Bern. One month later he was examining inventions applications for patentability at his famous lectern in room 86, on the third floor of the building on the corner of the Speichergasse and the Genfergasse. The director at the time, Friedrich Haller, was a strict boss. However, Einstein appreciated his superior’s tough-but-benevolent and logical-but-uncompromising character which seemed to stimulate Einstein’s natural critical tendency.

A Worldly Cloister

The patent office job — Einstein referred to it, tongue-in-cheek, as his «cobbler's trade» — turned out to be stroke of good fortune because it was excellently paid (3,500 Swiss francs per year) and was undemanding for his nimble intelligence. He spoke of the patent office as «a worldly cloister where he hatched his most beautiful ideas». With his courteousness and modesty and his humorous approach to life, Einstein was very well-liked. On April 1, 1906 he was promoted to technical assistant-level II. He managed his time exactly: eight hours of work, eight hours of «allotria» (miscellaneous) and scientific work and eight hours of sleep (which he often used instead for writing his manuscripts). Much to the patent office's regret, he left in the fall of 1909 to accept the post of Professor Extraordinary in theoretical physics at the University of Zurich.

Living Memories

Einstein's famous quote at Einsteinstrasse today: Der Urquell aller technischen Errungenschaften ist die göttliche Neugier und der Spieltrieb des bastelnden und grübelnden Forschers und nicht minder die konstruktive Phantasie des technischen Erfinders
Einstein's famous quote at Einsteinstrasse today: Der Urquell aller technischen Errungenschaften ist die göttliche Neugier und der Spieltrieb des bastelnden und grübelnden Forschers und nicht minder die konstruktive Phantasie des technischen Erfinders

Einstein’s famous statement at number 2 Einsteinstrasse, where the Institute was located until June 2007.

Last modified:21.04.2011 14:29

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