Alfred Kleiner

Alfred Kleiner

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Alfred Kleiner was a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of Experimental Physics
Experimental physics
Within the field of physics, experimental physics is the category of disciplines and sub-disciplines concerned with the observation of physical phenomena in order to gather data about the universe...

 at the University of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

, and was Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's doctoral advisor or Doktorvater. Initially Einstein's advisor was H. F. Weber
Heinrich Friedrich Weber
Heinrich Friedrich Weber was a physicist born in the town of Magdala, near Weimar. Around 1861 he entered the University of Jena, where Ernst Abbe became the first of two physicists who decisively influenced his career...

. However, they had a major falling out, and Einstein chose to switch to Kleiner.

Education


He received his PhD in 1874 from the University of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

, for a thesis entitled Zur Theorie der intermittirenden Netzhautreizung, under Johann Jakob Müller
Johann Jakob Müller
-Education:In 1868, he obtained his "Dr. med." degree from the University of Zurich, under Adolf Fick with a thesis entitled: Untersuchungen über den Drehpunkt des menschlichen Auges. As part of these studies he variously studied in the University of Zurich, University of Leipzig, and University of...

.

Career


Alfred Kleiner was professor of physics at the University of Zürich. He also held several other positions and titles throughout his career, including: Privatdozent
Privatdozent
Privatdozent or Private lecturer is a title conferred in some European university systems, especially in German-speaking countries, for someone who pursues an academic career and holds all formal qualifications to become a tenured university professor...

(private lecturer) in 1870, Ausserordentlicher Professor (Associate Professor) in 1880, Ordentlicher Professor (Full Professor) in 1885, Rektor (Chancellor) from 1908 to 1910, Honorarprofessor (Emeritus Professor) in 1915, and Privatdozent from 1875 to 1885 at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
ETH Zurich
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich or ETH Zürich is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the City of Zurich, Switzerland....

 also called Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich or ETH (the "Polytechnikum", also at Zurich).

In the early 1890s, with his students Fritz Laager and Theordor Erismann Kleiner conducted experiments to determine if changes in gravitational attraction could be caused by shielding. No effect greater than the experimental error was observed. Kleiner published his results on this in 1905, Laager in 1904, and Erismann in 1908 and 1911. Their work on this was motivated by the papers by Austin and Thwing.

Einstein and Kleiner


Einstein’s controversy with Paul Drude
Paul Karl Ludwig Drude
Paul Karl Ludwig Drude was a German physicist specializing in optics. He wrote a fundamental textbook integrating optics with Maxwell's theories of electromagnetism.- Education :...

 took place in the middle of 1901. It was at this time that Einstein transitioned from Weber to Kleiner and changed his dissertation topic from thermoelectricity to molecular kinetics.

Until 1909 the ETH
ETH Zurich
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich or ETH Zürich is an engineering, science, technology, mathematics and management university in the City of Zurich, Switzerland....

 was not authorized to grant doctoral degrees, so a special arrangement enabled ETH students to obtain doctorates from the University of Zurich. At that time, most dissertations in physics by ETH students were carried out under the supervision of H.F. Weber, Einstein’s former teacher at the Polytechnikum, as it was then called. The University of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

 had only one physics chair, held by Alfred Kleiner. His main research was focused on measuring instruments, but he also had an interest in the foundations of physics.

In letters to Mileva Maric
Mileva Maric
Mileva Marić was one of the first women to study mathematics and physics in Europe...

, Einstein noted the frequent discussions that he had with Kleiner on a wide range of topics. On 19 December 1901, Einstein writes to Marić that he had:

"spent the whole afternoon with Kleiner in Zurich and explained my ideas on the electrodynamics of moving bodies to him. ...He advised me to publish my ideas about the electromagnetic theory of light for moving bodies together with the experimental method. He found the experimental method proposed by me to be the simplest and most appropriate one conceivable. ... I shall most certainly write the paper in the coming weeks."

Einstein also showed Kleiner his first PhD thesis dissertation in November 1901. However, Einstein withdrew his dissertation in February 1902. One year later he considered giving up his plan to obtain a doctorate and noted to his friend Michele Besso
Michele Besso
Michele Angelo Besso was a Swiss/Italian engineer of Jewish Italian descent. He was a close friend of Albert Einstein during his years at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, today the ETH Zurich, and then at the patent office in Bern...

 that "the whole comedy has become tiresome for me."

By March 1903 Einstein had changed his mind. Indeed, a letter to Besso contains some of the central ideas of the 1905 dissertation. Kleiner was, of course, one of the two faculty reviewers of the dissertation, submitted by Einstein to the University on 20 July, 1905. Kleiner's judgement of the dissertation was very positive: "the arguments and calculations to be carried out are among the most difficult in hydrodynamics." The other reviewer, Heinrich Burkhardt
Heinrich Burkhardt
Heinrich Friedrich Karl Ludwig Burkhardt was a German mathematician. He famously was one of the examiners of Albert Einstein's PhD thesis...

, Professor for Mathematics at the University, added: "the mode of treatment demonstrates fundamental mastery of the relevant mathematical methods."

In his biography of Einstein, Carl Seelig reports: "Einstein later laughingly recounted that his dissertation was first returned by Kleiner with the comment that it was too short. After he had added a single sentence, it was accepted without further comment."

Einstein's earlier statistical papers (from 1902 to 1904) developed the foundations of a theoretical approach that he applied to concrete problems in 1905 and in subsequent years. His approach combined skepticism about classical mechanics with a firm belief in molecules and a confidence in statistical principles. However, Einstein's PhD thesis does not follow this statistical approach. It has been argued that Einstein avoided his own theoretical ideas to win the approval of his PhD advisor, Alfred Kleiner.

In 1905 Einstein obtained his doctorate from the University of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

 under Alfred Kleiner, with the thesis entitled Eine neue Bestimmung der Moleküldimensionen (A New Determination of the Molecular Dimensions). After Einstein concluded a 1909 lecture at the University of Zurich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

 on electrodynamics and relativity, Alfred Kleiner suggested the possibility of a position at the University to Einstein and recommended him for a newly-created professorship in theoretical physics. On May 7 1909, the Regierungsrat des Kantons Zürich appointed Einstein as an associate professor, effective from the 15th October 1909 with a salary of 4500 Swiss Francs per annum.

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