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Seven years a "cobbler"

In June 1902, Einstein received the letter he had been impatiently waiting for: a positive answer regarding his application to be a technical expert – class III at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property in Bern, colloquially known as the patent office.

Image Albert Einstein at his lectern at the patent office in 1904.
Albert Einstein at his lectern at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property in 1904.

One month later, he was examining inventions submitted for their 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 very strict. However, Einstein appreciated his superior’s robust but at the same time benevolent, logical and consistent character, which seemed to stimulate Einstein’s natural critical tendencies.


A worldly cloister

The job at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property – 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 (CHF 3500 per year) and was undemanding for his nimble intelligence. He spoke of the Federal Office for Intellectual Property as "that worldly cloister where I hatched my most beautiful ideas". With his courteousness and modesty and his humorous approach to life, Einstein was very well liked. On 1 April 1906, he was promoted to technical expert – class 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 Federal Office for Intellectual Property's regret, he left in the autumn of 1909 to take over the chair in theoretical physics at the University of Zurich.


Living memories

Einstein’s famous quote at Einsteinstrasse 2, where the IPI was located until June 2007.

Commemorative plaque with quote: "The origin of all technical achievements is the divine curiosity and the play instinct of the working and thinking researcher, as well as the constructive fantasy of the technical inventor." Albert Einstein