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March 2019

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U.S. Census Bureau History: Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was born 140 years ago this month on March 14. After the Nazis confiscated his home
in 1933, Einstein renounced his German citizenship. He moved to Princeton, NJ, later that year. In
1935, he became a permanent resident of the United States and a citizen in 1940.

Photo courtesy of the Laurence Livermore National Laboratory.

Albert Einstein—one of history's most influential physicists—was born on March 14, 1879. Over the course of his lifetime, the hundreds of scientific papers, articles, and books Einstein published have become the cornerstone of modern physics and scientific thought and theory. Einstein's genius was so ahead of his time that scientists are still affirming his theories relativity, space-time, and heat transfer more than 6 decades after his death in 1955.

Einstein was born in Ulm, Baden-Wurttemberg Link to a non-federal Web site, Germany, and moved to Munich, Germany, Link to a non-federal Web site soon after his birth. After completing high school, he attended the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, Switzerland Link to a non-federal Web site, earning teaching credentials in mathematics and physics. Unable to secure a teaching position, Einstein worked for the Swiss patent office before completing his Ph.D. studies at the University of Zurich in 1905. In that same year, the young physicist published his research on the photoelectric effect for which the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded him the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. Einstein's research and lectures quickly earned him a reputation as a leading mind in the fields of physics and math while teaching in Berne and Zurich, Switzerland. He returned to Germany in 1914 serving as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute Link to a non-federal Web site and professor at the University of Berlin until 1933.

By the 1930s, Albert Einstein was an internationally known author, lecturer, and science ambassador. He traveled the world lecturing and attending black-tie events with university and research elite, celebrities, and heads of state. However, his fame could not shield him from Adolf Hitler and Germany's Nazi Party. In early 1933, the Nazis confiscated Einstein's assets because of his vocal pacifism, outspoken opposition to Hitler, and Jewish heritage. Learning of the siezure, Einstein—who had been teaching at the California Institute of Technology Link to a non-federal Web site in Pasadena, CA—returned to Europe in March 1933, and renounced his German citizenship at the German Consulate in Antwerp, Belgium. In the months that followed, the Nazis' prohibition against Jews holding civil service positions led to not only Einstein's exile, but also that of many of the nation's leading physicists, mathematicians, scientists, and academics.

The Einsteins immigrated to the United States in October 1933. They settled in Princeton, NJ, where Albert Einstein accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study Link to a non-federal Web site. He became a permanent resident in 1935 and a U.S. citizen in 1940. During World War II, the United States specifically excluded Einstein from the list of leading scientists engaged in the effort to harness and weaponize atomic energy known as the "Manhattan Project." His history of pacifism and socialist sympathies prevented the necessary security clearance to work on the project, though he did assist the U.S. Navy with evaluating weapons systems and helped raise money for the war effort.

Einstein retired from teaching after the war. During the "Atomic Age," physicists were increasingly focused on quantum theory while Einstein continued to research and publish on topics related to the "less glamorous" theory of general relativity, including wormholes, time travel, black holes, and the origins of the universe. More than 60 years after his death, scientists continue to research and make new discoveries related to Einstein's work. The black holes he theorized in 1915 have since been identified by the thousands. His Nobel Prize-winning research on the photoelectric effect led to the development of clean, renewable solar energy. Computer chips, digital cameras, nuclear medicine, global positioning systems, supermarket checkout scanners, and Blu-ray players are all legacies of Albert Einstein's genius Link to a non-federal Web site.

You can learn more about physics, Albert Einstein, and his legacy using census data and records. For example:

  • Albert Einstein immigrated to the United States in October 1933, after accepting a position at the Institute for Advanced Study Link to a non-federal Web site in Princeton, NJ. At the time, Princeton Township, NJ, had a population of approximately 2,738. When Einstein died in the 1955, Princeton (a combination of Princeton borough and township) was home to approximately 12,230. In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Princeton's population was 31,822.
  • The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Albert Einstein the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics Link to a non-federal Web site for his research on the law of the photoelectric effect. Without this research, solar energy and the $428 million solar electric power generation industry (NAICS 221114) would not be possible. Other devices, like automatic streetlights, motion detectors, automatic washroom faucets, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, and the digital camera contained in smartphones depend on the photoelectric and photoconductive cells made possible by Albert Einstein's research.
  • The Nazis confiscated Albert Einstein's property in 1933 because he was Jewish. Einstein and his wife fled Germany and sought asylum in Europe before immigrating to the United States in October 1933. Seven years later, Einstein and many other Jews fleeing Europe helped America's Jewish population grow from approximately 4.2 million Link to a non-federal Web site in 1927 to nearly 5 million Link to a non-federal Web site in 1940. In 2010, the Jewish population in the United States numbered more than 6.5 million. States with the largest Jewish populations were New York (1,625,000), California (1,220,000), and Florida (613,000).
  • In August 1939, physicists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, and Eugene Wigner drafted a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt—which Einstein agreed to sign—warning the president of Nazi Germany's atomic research and urged him to fund an American research program. Roosevelt authorized the creation of the Advisory Committee on Uranium, which funded the purchase of uranium and graphite for experimentation in late 1939. On December 2, 1942, a team of scientists led by Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and Einstein's friend and collaborator, Enrico Fermi, succeeded in producing the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction Link to a non-federal Web site in a reactor at the University of Chicago.
  • Although Albert Einstein was one of the world's leading physicists and his theories about atoms and energy were the foundation of atomic weapons research, the scientists at the Los Alamos Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM, led by Major General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer, produced the world's first atomic bombs in 1945 without his help. Einstein was not invited to assist with the atomic weapons research and was not aware of the "Manhattan Project's" existence because the U.S. Army Intelligence Office denied the pacifist-leaning physicist's security clearance in 1940. In a 1947, Einstein expressed regret that his research and 1939 letter to President Roosevelt encouraged the development of atomic weapons.
  • In 2017, the American Community Survey estimated that there were 5,930 nuclear engineers and 3,361 nuclear technicians in the United States. Many of these professionals worked at nuclear electric power generation establishments (NAICS 221113); naval ship building and repairing (NAICS 336611); pharmaceutical manufacturers (NAICS 325412) specializing in radiology and nuclear medicine; and universities offering nuclear engineering and physics programs.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 16,710 physicists employed in the United States earning a mean annual wage of $123,080 in 2017. California (2,920), New Mexico (1,720), and Maryland (1,260) led the nation for the number of physicists employed.
  • The federal government is one of the nation's largest employers of physicists. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration employs astrophysicists. Nuclear physicists help regulate the civilian use of nuclear power and materials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The U.S. Department of Energy employs and provides grants to physicists to perform groundbreaking research at facilities, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN; Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, IL; ; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA; Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, NM; and Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, and Livermore, CA.

Einstein participates in the 1940 census

U.S. Census Bureau enumerator Erna Bovie Cromwell enumerates Albert Einstein near his home in Princeton, NJ, during the 1950 Census.
Ten years earlier, Einstein participated in his first U.S. census as a permanent resident of the United States. When the enumerator
interviewed the physics professor at his Mercer Street home in Princeton, NJ, he was living with his daughter Margaret, sister
Maja Einstein Winteler, and a lodger.

1790 Census Act

On March 1, 1790, U.S. President George Washington signed the 1790 Census Act authorizing the nation's first census.

Five months later, U.S. marshals began visiting each of the nation's households to collect data about the number of free white males 16 years and older, free white males under 16 years, free white females, all other free persons, and slaves.

Following tabulation of the census' data, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson reported that the nation's population was 3,929,214.

Three Mile Island
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Three Mile Island

On March 28, 1979, a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, PA (south of the state capital Harrisburg), suffered a partial meltdown due to human error and equipment malfunctions.

Studies have found no adverse impact to the county's population—about 232,317 in 1980—as a result of the small amount of radioactive material released during the accident.

Slated to be retired in 2019, Three Mile Island was among 153 nuclear power plants nationwide that supplied 805 billion kWh of electricity to American homes and businesses in 2017.

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Maria Goeppert Mayer
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Nobel Prize

The Royal Swedish Academy of Arts and Sciences awards the Nobel Prize Link to a non-federal Web site in physics to scientists making outstanding contributions in the field.

Recipients living in the United States include Albert Einstein "for his services to Theoretical Physics" and "discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect" (1921); particle accelerating cyclotron inventor Ernest Lawrence (1939); John Bardeen, the only person awarded the Nobel Prize in physics twice, in 1956 and 1972; and Maria Goeppert Mayer (pictured above)—the second woman awarded a Nobel Prize in physics—in 1963.

Visit https://www.census.gov/history every month for the latest Census History Home Page!

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 14, 2023