"As a somewhat precocious young man, I was struck by
the futility of the hopes and the endeavors that most men
chase restlessly throughout life. And I soon realized the
cruelty of that chase, which in those days was more carefully
disguised with hypocrisy and glittering words than it is today."
The patent office in Bern.
After Einstein graduated with an undistinguished
record, he made a number of efforts to get a university job,
and failed. He found only occasional jobs on the periphery of
the academic world. He felt he was a burden on his none too
prosperous family, and wondered if he had been mistaken in trying
to become a physicist. Finally he got a position at the Swiss
Patent Office in Bern. It was "a kind of salvation,"
he said. The regular salary and the stimulating work evaluating
patent claims freed Einstein. He now had time to devote his
thought to the most basic problems of physics of his time, and
began to publish scientific papers.
"Academy" members Konrad Habricht,
Maurice Solovine, and Einstein.
| Einstein's closest friend, with
whom he walked home from the Patent Office every day, was
Michele Besso. Einstein thought him "the best sounding
board in Europe" for scientific ideas. With other friends
in Bern, all unknown to the academic world, Einstein met
regularly to read and discuss books on science and philosophy.
They called themselves the Olympia Academy, mocking the
official bodies that dominated science.
Einstein's began to attract respect with his published
papers (described in the next section),
and in 1909 he was appointed associate professor at the University
of Zurich. He was also invited to present his theories before
the annual convention of German scientists. He met many people
he had known only through their writings, such as the physicist
Max Planck of Berlin. Soon Einstein was invited to the German
University in Prague as full professor. Here he met a visiting
Austrian physicist, Paul Ehrenfest. "Within a few hours
we were true friends," Einstein recalled, "as though
our dreams and aspirations were made for each other."