Summary of “Albert Einstein at School” by Patrick Pringle

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About Patrick Pringle:

Patrick Pringle is a famous biographer from whose book, “The Young Einstein”, (published in 1965) Albert Einstein at school by Patrick Pringle story is taken. He has written many other books like, 101 Great lives, Hue and Cry, The Young Dickens, etc.

Summary of Albert Einstein at School by Patrick Pringle

The story starts with a scene of Albert Einstein as a student, studying in a German School, where he was being confronted by the history teacher, Mr. Braun. Albert Einstein, as per the teacher, is an absent-minded student, unwilling to learn. Einstein on the hand said that he did not see a point in mugging up the dates, therefore, he never learned them. The teacher is stupefied at this rebellious attitude of this school student. He asks that whether Einstein believes in education itself or not. Einstein replies that he thinks education is not about learning facts. The teacher, in turn, wants to embarrass him by making him confront the whole class about his take on education. Einstein was flushed but he had the courage to confront the class about his thought, that education should be about ideas and that there in point in learning dates and which army had killed more, he thought it was more useful if we learned why in the first place the armies fought each other. The teacher deemed this impertinence as einstein’s incorrigibility and gave him detention, concluding that he was a disgrace and had no reason whatsoever to continue school. Even Einstein had no wish to do so but the teacher just that he is ungrateful and that he should be ashamed of himself and ask his father to take him away.

On his way back home, Einstein felt miserable. Like all the other days, it was a bad day at school and he knows if he told his father about this, he would no heed and would ask him to suffer through and finish his diploma. The place where he stayed was even worse, the landlady was always beating her kids and the landlord kept beating her, it was not civilized. He hated this atmosphere of slum violence, even more than the dirt and discomfort that he had to go through. His friend Yuri on thee other hand said that at least Einstein had a room of his own. But it didn’t matter to him, Einstein thought it was better living with civilized students. His friend Yuri then informed him that was not the scenario.

The students were a bunch of rowdy of people, out of total control. He goes on to say that one student had even killed another student in a duel. No action was taken against the culprit, that he was just prohibited from doing duel with anyone else further, which apparently made the culprit sad because then he would have no battle scar to flaunt throughout his life. Einstein wondered what kind of students were these people, to which Yuri said that one day Einstein too shall be a student. On this comment, Einstein expressed his doubt, because it as getting more hard every day to stick through school and finish his school diploma.

Einstein would share everything with his cousin Elsa, who lived in Berlin. She tried to encourage him into studying for his exams and that she has seen many stupid boys passing these exams. Einstein was smarter than other people and would always have a book with him, and Elsa thought if he tried enough, he could easily pass the exams. Elsa asked him what was the book he was carrying, to which Einstein said that it was Geology. Although there was little science being taught at school and studying all this would not help in his school diploma, he still wanted to read all these books because he wanted to and that was a good enough reason for him.

The books on science and his violin were the two things that comforted him in this terrible times, but he had to let go of the latter because the landlady couldn’t stand its “wailing”. And Einstein knew it was better to keep quiet than to argue.


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Einstein then decided finally that he had to get away from there, for him it was a lost cause, wasting his father’s money with no positive outcome. But he knew his father would send him back. So to avoid that he asked his friend, Yuri, that whether he knew any doctors, to which Yuri replied that he knew medical students but no doctors as he couldn’t afford to visit them. But nevertheless, Yuri said he will enquire about and let Einstein know. Einstein would then ask that doctor to write him a certificate to take a leave from school for he had a nervous breakdown. Yuri knew it wasn’t possible but still agreed to help.

When Yuri met him met Einstein the next time, he said that he had found a doctor for him, called Dr. Ernst Weil. He had become a doctor recently, but Yuri said that he was a good one and that Einstein should be honest with him.

Next day when Einstein was about to visit the doctor, he was more concerned about what he should tell the doctor, that it actually made him nervous.

When finally he visited the doctor, he told the doctor that he was not sure what he wants to say, to which the doctor replied that he need not say anything as Yuri has already told him everything that how Einstein wanted to fake a nervous breakdown in order to get away from school. This made Einstein anxious because he thought now the doctor won’t give a certificate and declare that nothing is wrong with him and he would have to go back to school. However, the doctor said, on the contrary, saying that he thinks that Einstein is actually on the verge of a breakdown because if he had not been so, he wouldn’t have been so ready to fake it. The doctor then asked that after he gets the certificate and gets to go away from school what he will doo. Einstein said that he will go to Italy, to attend an Italian College or Institute. He told the doctor that he will ask his Mathematics teacher for a reference. The Doctor did not understand how that would help, but he saw that it was not helping him staying here too, so he gave a certificate suggesting a leave of six months. On being offered fees, he refused, saying that he has only recently stopped being a student and he knows the feeling. He requested Einstein to take Yuri out for a meal if he had money to spare, for he was a good friend. Although Einstein had no money to spare, he still took Yuri out for a meal.

After seeing the certificate, Yuri thought it was a good idea to get it, because after six months if he could not do anything he could always come back to school and finish his diploma. But Einstein was determined not to go back there ever again, and he planned on giving the certificate tomorrow itself to the headmaster and take his leave. Yuri reminded him to take his reference in writing from his Mathematics teacher before that.

Einstein next day visited his teacher, Mr. Koch, who readily gave him his reference, stating that soon Einstein will be able to teach him. He gave him a glorious reference. Mr. Koch said that even before Einstein knew, he knew that he would eventually leave the school. This comment puzzled Einstein, but he didn’t stay on it. He proceeded towards the head office where he saw that even before demanding an interview, he had been called by the headmaster. This saved him two hours of waiting time, Einstein thought he must have been called again for his bad work or laziness.

The headmaster then told Einstein that he was expelling him because he thought Einstein was not diligent enough and his work is terrible. Einstein was dazed at this action, and when asked for a reason, the headmaster just said that it was impossible for the teacher to teach in a class with him in it. Einstein replied that he was also not planning on staying. The headmaster replied that they were in agreement then.

While leaving the school, Einstein took a last look at it and thought that there was no one he would like to say goodbye to. He had even started to hate the town itself, and Elsa was also back in Berlin, so he just bid farewell to his good friend Yuri, who wished him good luck for his future.

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