This Day in History

Ferdinand Schmutzer (1870 – 1928), Albert Einstein pausing forevermore during a lecture in Vienna in 1921. (National Library of Austria / Wikipedia Commons)

October 17, 2017 | 1933: Albert Einstein Emigrates to America

While Albert Einstein was visiting the United States in 1933, the appointment of Adolf Hitler as chancellor took effect and the Jewish theoretical physicist decided he would not return to his home in Germany where he had been a professor at the Berlin Academy of Sciences.

Einstein had been in the U.S for a visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena at the time.

He and his wife Elsa returned by ship to Belgium in March 1933 to find that that their cottage had been raided. Einstein turned in his passport to the German consulate and formally renounced his German citizenship. By the summer, Einstein learned that his name was on a list of assassination targets.

He resided in Belgium for some months and then moved to England for a short period.

On October 17, 1933, he returned to the US and took up a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey. The Princeton agreement required he stay for six months. With offers from numerous universities, including Oxford, Einstein was undecided on his future.

In 1935 Einstein decided to stay in the US and became a citizen in 1940. His affiliation with the Institute for Advanced Study would last until his death in 1955.

In the 20-plus years he lived in the U.S., Einstein made many contributions, perhaps most notably the atomic bomb. On the eve of World War II, Einstein helped alert President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Germany might be developing an atomic weapon. Upon Einstein’s recommendation, the US began similar research, which would eventually lead to the Manhattan Project.

To be true, Einstein was in support of defending the Allied forces, but largely denounced using the new discovery of nuclear fission as a weapon.

Also during his time in the U.S., Einstein tried to develop a unified field theory and to refute the accepted interpretation of quantum physics, both unsuccessfully.

Adapted from Suzanne Deffree, “Einstein moves to US, October 17, 1933,” EDN Network, October 17, 2012.