Einstein Dissertation: A Joke or A Fight?

Although I don’t like Einstein too much, there is some view of his life I always be remembered. Just like his thesis. Young Einstein was planned to get a doctoral degree in University of Zurich.  Einstein’s first advisor is Weber but after a major falling out, with a little bit disappoint, Einstein witch to Alfred Kleiner.

Kleiner, just like his doctoral advisor, Muller, is known as a perfectionist professor.  Einstein often spends day with Kleiner and explain his ideas on the electrodynamics moving bodies and Kleiner advice him to ublish his ideas with the experimental method since Einstein is poor in math.

Shortly, Einstein bring that kind of writing style into his thesis that entitled, “On a new determination of molecular dimensions”. Einstein showed his first PhD thesis to Kleiner in November 1901. Kleiner turned it to Einstein with the comment that it was too short.

Einstein disappoint and shared his problem with his friend, Michelle Besso, an Italian engineer. While trying hard to fix the paper just to be longer, Einstein got several gastric disorder.

Finally, young Einstein withdrew his thesis in February 1902. One year after he did not back to Klein, he considered giving up to obtain doctorate. Einstein talk to Besso that “the whole comedy has  become tiresome for me”. Klein feel disappointing to loosing Einstein.

In March 1903, Einstein changed his mind. He meet Klein with his new thesis revision that he has fought for a year. He added a “single sentence”. With a feeling of fear that Einstein will be disappoint and give up, Klein accept the thesis without further comment at 30 April 1903.


17 thoughts on “Einstein Dissertation: A Joke or A Fight?

    • Hahahaha, actually Einstein is not pretty good in writing and math. That is why Minkowski re-write his relativity paper because his math is so poor and because he is not a good writer, a single sentence means a lot. But Kleiner is a good student, he really understand his unique student 🙂 He publish his “world shaken” paper in 1905 when he was 30, when he was grow old he is no longer “brilliant” since he contradict the existence of quantum physics but his comments in his elderly age always be controversial.

    • Ooh, this story also available in Kleiner biography of Einstein that written by Carl Seelig. it was reported that “Einstein later laughingly recounted that his dissertation was first returned by Kleiner with the comment that it was too short and after he had added a single sentence, it was accepted without further comment, Einstein later laughingly also.”

  1. Wonderful what a difference a sentence makes! (and a year, as well!) Thank you for this unique look into Einstein’s pursuit of a doctorate!

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