Einstein Did Not Win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 For His Theory of Relativity

“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”  — Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921.
Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in 1921.

Albert Einstein is widely known as the absent-minded genius who developed two theories of relativity: the theory of special relativity and the  theory of general relativity.

But he wasn’t born a genius. It took a while for him to blossom into the intellectual giant that we know him today. As an infant, his mother thought his head was too big. As a child, he seldom spoke. When he did, he spoke very slowly, or muttered under his breath. He spoke so rarely, that his parents feared that he might be retarded.

In 1895, Albert Einstein applied for early admission into the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule or ETH. He passed the math and science sections of the entrance exams, but he did poorly in the non-science subjects. He had to study in a trade school for a year. After one year, he retook the entrance exam, and finally passed.

In 1921, Dr. Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. The prestigious award he received was not for his famous theories on relativity. 

Along with relativity, Einstein also published more than 300 scientific papers. The Nobel Prize he received was “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. At the time that the Nobel Prize was awarded, his ideas on general relativity was considered still somewhat controversial.


“The Nobel Prize in Physics 1921”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 16 Jun 2017. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1921/index.html>

“Einstein Failed School” ABC Science ABC Online Services  AB 23 jUN 2004. Web. 16 Jun 2017. <http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/06/23/1115185.htm?site=science/greatmomentsinscience>


5 thoughts on “Einstein Did Not Win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 For His Theory of Relativity

  1. I learned a lot from your article. The year 1905 ended up being a fabulous year for Albert Einstein, as he published three ground breaking research papers then. He described Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect and he formulated special relativity. Einstein published a theory to explain Brownian motion describing this as the result of the irregular collisions that the fine particles in suspension experience from molecules (this was atomic movement). The photoelectric effect became Einstein’s legacy awarding him the Nobel Prize for Physics, as he suggested that light is both a wave and a particle and this phenomenon became fundamental to quantum mechanics. The Special Theory of Relativity deals with (frames of reference) objects separating with constant high velocities (close to the speed of light).

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