Einstein's Studies at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich (1896–1900)

After Einstein had received the university entrance diploma in Aarau , he joined the sixth department of the Polytechnic Institute, the school for subject teachers in the mathematical and scientific fields. His future wife, Mileva Maric (pdf, 1,2 MB), was the only woman registered. Einstein was disappointed that various newer physics theories were not dealt with at the "Poly", for example, James Clerk Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic fields. He attended only few lectures, preferring to study at home. He was particularly absorbed by the article „Über die Grundgleichungen der Elektrodynamik für bewegte Körper“ by Heinrich Hertz, which dealt with Maxwell’s theory.

During preparations for the exams he sometimes relied on the lecture notes of his fellow students. The exemplary books of Marcel Grossmann (external link), that Einstein used, have been preserved. In the third academic year Einstein had difficulties with Jean Pernet’s "Physics practical course for beginners". Whether the professor or the experiments displeased him, is not clear; he played truant so often, that he was reprimanded (pdf, 1,2 MB) by management and obtained the lowest possible mark (1).

In July 1900 he completed his studies at the Polytechnic Institute with a diploma (pdf 421 kB). Apart from him, all four graduates obtained assistant posts at the Polytechnic Institute.

In his "Erinnerungen" (pdf, 1,2 MB), written on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the ETH (1955), Einstein describes his time as a student at the Polytechnic Institute.