~ TLW ~ Conversation Questions and Biography ~

Procedures:                                                                                                                Print Questions: .docx / .doc


1) Watch and Listen to the biographical video and read the text overview

2) Clarify meaning as a class. Student/Teacher reads a paragraph. Student summarizes

3) In pairs or in groups, discuss the biographical content and quotations

4) In pairs or in groups, discuss the conversation questions (include your own questions)

5) As a class, take turns using the conversation questions to expand your ideas

Bio 107 ~ Albert Einstein ~ Relativity ~ Courtesy of  Biography.com

Born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany, Albert Einstein grew up in a secular Jewish family. His father  was a salesman and his mother ran the family household. Einstein had one sister, Maja, born two years after him.


Einstein felt alienated in elementary school and struggled with the institution's rigid pedagogical style. He also had what were considered to be speech challenges, though he developed a passion for classical music and playing the violin that would stay with him into his later years. Most significantly, Einstein's youth was marked by deep inquisitiveness and inquiry. 


Faced with military duty when he turned of age, Albert allegedly withdrew from classes, using a doctor¡¯s note to excuse himself and claim nervous exhaustion. His parents understood Einstein's perspective but were concerned about his future prospects as a school dropout and draft dodger. Einstein was eventually able to gain admission into the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, specifically due to his superb mathematics and physics scores on the entrance exam. Einstein developed lasting friendships and alliances there also meeting his future wife, Mileva Maric, a Serbian physics student.


After graduating from Polytechnic, Einstein faced major challenges in terms of finding academic positions, having alienated some professors over not attending class more regularly. Meanwhile, Einstein continued to grow closer to Maric and, in 1902, the couple had a daughter, Lieserl, who most likely they had given up for adoption. Her ultimate fate and whereabouts remain a mystery.


Einstein¡¯s father passed away shortly thereafter, and the young scientist married Milena Maric on Jan. 6, 1903. The couple went on to have two sons, Hans and Eduard. The marriage would not be a happy one, however, with the two divorcing in 1919 and Maric having an emotional breakdown in connection to the split. He had also begun an affair some time earlier with a cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, whom Einstein wed during the same year of his divorce. He would continue to see other women throughout his second marriage, which ended with Löwenthals death in 1936.


In 1905—seen by many as a "miracle year" for the theorist—Einstein had four papers published. In his fourth paper, Einstein came up with the equation E=mc2, suggesting that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy, foreshadowing the development of atomic power. 


In November, 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity, which he considered the culmination of his life research. Einstein's assertions were affirmed via observations and measurements by British astronomers during the 1919 solar eclipse, and thus a global science icon was born. In 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize for Physics.


While Einstein was travelling and speaking internationally, the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, were gaining prominence with violent propaganda and vitriol in an impoverished post-WWI Germany. The party influenced other scientists to label Einstein's work "Jewish physics." Jewish citizens were barred from university work and other official jobs, and Einstein himself was targeted to be killed.


In 1933, Einstein took on a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey and never went back to his native land. Other European scientists also left regions threatened by Germany and immigrated to the states. In 1939, Einstein and fellow physicist Leo Szilard wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to alert him of the possibility of a Nazi bomb and to galvanize the United States to create its own nuclear weapons. The U.S. would eventually initiate the Manhattan Project, though Einstein would not take direct part in its implementation due to his pacifist and socialist affiliations.


On April 17, 1955, while working on a speech to honor Israel's seventh anniversary, Einstein suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was taken to the University Medical Center at Princeton for treatment but refused surgery, believing that he had lived his life and was content to accept his fate. "I want to go when I want," he stated at the time. "It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." Einstein died at the university medical center early the next morning—April 18, 1955—at the age of 76.



~ Selected Quotes by Albert Einstein ~ Adapted from GoodReads.com


1) Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.


2) Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.


3) If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.


4) Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.


5) When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity. 



~ General Conversation Questions ~


Group A


1) Einstein felt aliened in elementary school. How rigid should early education be? Explain.

2) He also learned to play the violin. How do you think music education helps children?

3) Einstein dropped out of school and dodged military service. Why do you think so?

4) He was an excellent student in math and physics. How important are these skills today? Explain.

5) How difficult is it to become a professor in your country? Do you know someone who has?


Group B


1) Einstein¡¯s first child was probably given up for adoption. How often does this happen in your country?

2) His first marriage ended in divorce. What were the circumstances? How do you feel about it? Explain.

3) Einstein was known to have had affairs with women throughout his life. How do you feel about this?

4) 1905 was a ¡°miracle year¡± for Einstein. Have you (or someone you know) ever had such a year?

5) Einstein was targeted to be killed by the Nazis. Why? Discuss anti-Semitism and racism at this time.


Group C


1) Why did Einstein meet with Roosevelt? Could this have changed the course of history? Explain.

2) Einstein refused surgery that may have saved his life. Why? Do you agree with his choice? Explain.

3) How important is it to have a good sense of humor in life? Explain.

4) Do you agree that imagination is more important than knowledge? Explain.

5) What does the third quote above mean to you? Explain.


Challenge: Make your own follow-up questions and discuss them.




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