Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on Mar. 14, 1879. Einstein's parents, who were non observant Jews, moved from Ulm to Munich when Einstein was an infant. The family business was the manufacture of electrical parts. When the business failed, in 1894, the family moved to Milan, Italy. At this time Einstein decided officially to relinquish his German citizenship. Within a year, still without having completed secondary school, Einstein failed an examination that would have allowed him to pursue a course of study leading to a diploma as an electrical engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He spent the next year in nearby Aarau at the continual secondary school, where he enjoyed excellent teachers and first-rate facilities in physics. Einstein returned in 1896 to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where he graduated, in 1900 as a secondary school teacher of mathematics and physics.
When British eclipse expeditions in 1919 confirmed his predictions about the general theory of relativity, the popular press bombarded Einstein. Einstein's personal ethics also fired public imagination. Einstein, who after returning to Germany in 1914 did not reapply for German citizenship. He was one of only a handful of German professors who remained a pacifist and did not support Germany's war aims. After the war, when the victorious allies sought to exclude German scientists from international meetings, Einstein--a Jew traveling with a Swiss passport--remained an acceptable German envoy. Einstein's political views as a pacifist and a Zionist pitted him against conservatives in Germany, who branded him a traitor and a defeatist. The public success accorded his theories of relativity evoked savage attacks in the 1920s by the anti-Semitic physicists Johannes Stark and Philipp Leonard, men who after 1932 tried to create a so-called Aryan physics in Germany. Just how controversial the theories of relativity remained for less flexibly minded physicists is revealed in the circumstances surrounding Einstein's reception of a Nobel Prize in 1921--awarded not for relativity but for his 1905 work on the photoelectric effect.
Until the end of his life Einstein sought a unified field theory, whereby the phenomena of gravitation and electromagnetism could be derived from one set of equations. After 1920, however, while retaining relativity as a fundamental concept, theoretical physicists focused more attention on the theory of quantum mechanics, as elaborated by Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and others, and Einstein's later thoughts went somewhat neglected for decades. This picture has changed in more recent years. Physicists are now striving to combine Einstein's relativity theory with quantum theory in a "theory of everything," by means of such highly advanced mathematical models as superstring theories.