Do you sometimes question your own capability? If so, you’ll especially enjoy this story about Albert Einstein, in which a high school teacher convinced him he’d “never amount to anything.”
Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879. His father ran a small business and his mother was a homemaker. Because Einstein didn’t speak until he was nearly three, and only gradually learned to talk, his family was afraid he might be retarded. To protect him, when he was school age, his mother had him home tutored and didn’t enroll him in school until he was seven.
In school, Einstein was unpopular because he was shy and withdrawn. His teachers thought he might be retarded because he hesitated in answering their questions and when he finally did, he spoke slowly. Then he’d silently repeat his answers by moving his lips.
But at home he thrived. The Einsteins, in the European Jewish tradition, hosted a poor student for lunch each week. They began hosting medical student Max Talmud, who avidly discussed with Einstein mathematics and science, and encouraged him to read. Einstein’s uncle joined these luncheons and he’d challenge him with little mysteries that could be solved mathematically. Learning became fun for Einstein.
He was doing so well. Then suddenly, events sent his life spiraling downward. His father’s business failed. His mother’s wealthy family lived in Italy and agreed to finance a new business for his father and his uncle but only if the Einstein family moved to Italy, which they did. To finish high school, Einstein stayed in Germany living alone in a boarding house. Without his family and friends, he became lonely and depressed and his studies suffered.
Einstein hit bottom when he flunked his Greek class. The teacher thought he was stupid and that trying to teach him was a waste of time. This teacher told him to quit school, as he’d “never amount to anything.” Lost and alone, this advice destroyed what little was left of Einstein’s self-confidence and he dropped out of high school.
Ironically, this turned out to be a great decision. Einstein rejoined his family, where he found happiness again and soon his self-confidence was restored. He dreamed of becoming a college professor, which he couldn’t do as a high school dropout.
Now with a sense of purpose, he enrolled in another high school, where he eagerly applied himself and graduated. He then excelled in college and attained his doctorate in 1905. That year he began to publish his scientific papers whose profound ideas would make him world famous.
In 1911, he became a professor at Prague University and later, he was director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, where he won the Nobel Prize. But after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Einstein and his family fled Germany for Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein joined the Institute for Advanced Study and continued his remarkable work.
In the next KazanToday, The desperate refugee who discovered the kindness of strangers.