60 EINSTEIN AS PHYSICS STUDENT EINSTEIN AS A STUDENT OF PHYSICS, AND HIS NOTES ON H. F. WEBER'S COURSE I Physics instruction and research at the ETH took place in the Institut für Physik, which was built in 1890 and housed some of the best-equipped laboratories in Europe for teaching and for research in physics and electrotechnology.[1] The institute had two chairs, one for Mathematical and Technical Physics, held by Heinrich Friedrich Weber, and the other for Experimental Physics, held by Jean Pernet (1845-1902). Poor attendance earned Einstein the lowest possible grade and a reprimand for "Unfleiss" in the only course he ever took with Pernet, an introductory laboratory course in the winter semester of 1898-1899 (see Doc. 28).[2] Einstein's relationship with Weber, on the other hand, was quite good, at least initially. Weber had given en- couragement to Einstein after the failure of his first attempt to enter the ETH in 1895 [3] once he did become a student there, Einstein registered for all of Weber's lecture and laboratory courses that he could take, receiving high marks in those that were graded (see Doc. 28). Weber was considered an outstanding lecturer, whose elegant and precise style impressed his listeners.[4] During his second year at the ETH, Einstein took Weber's two-semester physics course, which consisted of four hours of lectures and one hour of review sessions (Repetitorien) per week.[5] He was evidently impressed in a letter to Maric he wrote: "Weber las über die Wärme ... mit großer Meisterschaft. Ich freue mich bei ihm von einem Kolleg aufs andere" (Doc. 39). Despite his enthusiasm for Weber's lectures, Einstein was disappointed by the neglect of contemporary topics, such as Maxwell's theory, in his ETH courses.[6] As a result, Einstein stopped attending many lectures: "So lernte ich allmählich mit einem einigermaßen schlechten Gewissen in Frieden zu leben und mir das Studium so einzurichten, wie es meinem intellektuellen Magen und meinen Interessen entsprach. [1] Descriptions of the institute and of its laboratories include Oechsli 1905, p. 346, and Ganz et al. 1905, pp. 336-339. McCormmach 1976, p. xvi, cites an enthusiastic contempo- rary account of the laboratories by a visiting American physicist. [2] Several anecdotes attest to Einstein's dif- ficulties with Pernet. See, e.g., Joseph Sauter to Carl Seelig, 28 February 1952 (SzZE Biblio- thek, Hs 304: 965), and Seelig 1960, p. 65. [3] Einstein 1955, pp. 145-146. [4] "Sein gleichzeitig eleganter und präziser Vortrag übte auf alle, die ihn genossen hatten, einen unvergesslichen Eindruck aus. Für einen, der bei Weber gehört hatte, war die Physik Gegenstand einer Offenbarung" (Weiss 1912, p. 50). Einstein himself later remembered: "Ich schätzte Weber sehr als begabten Lehrer, der das Wesentliche gab unter ökonomischer Beschränkung der Mannigfaltigkeit" (Einstein to Walter Leich, 24 April 1950). [5] Einstein received grades of 51/2 for the first semester and 5 for the second, 6 being the highest grade (see Doc. 28). [6] Kollros 1955, p. 170.
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