Olympia Academy

Olympia Academy

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The Olympia Academy was a group of friends in Bern, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

, who met – usually at 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 flat – in order to discuss philosophy and physics.

The group was founded in 1902 by Einstein, Conrad Habicht, and Maurice Solovine
Maurice Solovine
Maurice Solovine was a Romanian philosopher and mathematician.As a young student of philosophy in Bern Solovine applied to study physics with Albert Einstein in response to an advert...

, and played a significant role in Einstein's intellectual development. Before his "miracle year
Annus Mirabilis Papers
The Annus Mirabilis papers are the papers of Albert Einstein published in the Annalen der Physik scientific journal in 1905. These four articles contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed views on space, time, and matter...

" (1905), when Einstein was a patent clerk in Bern, the group of friends met to debate books in the fields of physics and philosophy.

The group's origin lay in Einstein's need to offer private lessons in mathematics and physics in order to make a living (in 1901, before he took up his post at the patent office in Bern). Solovine, a Romanian philosophy student, answered Einstein's newspaper advertisement, though in fact neither the tutorials nor any payment materialised; instead, the two began to meet regularly to discuss their shared interest in physics and philosophy. They were soon joined by the mathematician Habicht, who was Einstein's neighbour at Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

; in 1902 they named themselves the Akademie Olympia, and though a friend would occasionally join them in one of their meetings, the Academy remained essentially just the trio of Einstein, Solovine, and Habicht until the latter pair left Bern in 1905 and 1904 respectively.

The first book that 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...

 suggested for reading was Karl Pearson
Karl Pearson
Karl Pearson FRS was an influential English mathematician who has been credited for establishing the disciplineof mathematical statistics....

's The Grammar of Science
The Grammar of Science
The Grammar of Science is a book by Karl Pearson first published in hardback in 1892. In 1900, the second edition, published by Adam & Charles Black, appeared. The third, revised, edition was also published by Adam & Charles Black in 1911. It was recommended by Einstein to his friends of the...

. The three discussed their own work, but also books such as Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach
Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist and philosopher, noted for his contributions to physics such as the Mach number and the study of shock waves...

’s Analyse der Empfindungen, Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science...

's Wissenschaft und Hypothese, John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

’s A System of Logic, David Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

’s Treatise of Human Nature, and Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

’s Ethics, and sometimes literary works such as Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written...

' Don Quixote.

Despite the brief existence of the Academy, it had a lasting effect on the three friends; they remained in touch throughout their lives, and Einstein was to say that it had had an effect on his later scientific career.

Core members

  • 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...

     (1879–1955), core member, host and chairman. Graduate of the ETH Zurich
    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....

  • Maurice Solovine
    Maurice Solovine
    Maurice Solovine was a Romanian philosopher and mathematician.As a young student of philosophy in Bern Solovine applied to study physics with Albert Einstein in response to an advert...

     (1875–1948), core member, philosophy student
  • Conrad Habicht (1876–1958), core member, mathematician

Others

  • Paul Habicht (1884–1948), brother of Conrad Habicht.
  • 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...

     (1873–1955), mechanical engineer
  • Marcel Grossmann
    Marcel Grossmann
    Marcel Grossmann was a mathematician of Jewish ancestry, and a friend and classmate of Albert Einstein. He became a Professor of Mathematics at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, today the ETH Zurich, specializing in descriptive geometry....

     (1878–1936), mathematician, Einstein's friend and classmate
  • Lucien Chavan (1868–1942), electrical engineer
  • Mileva Maric
    Mileva Maric
    Mileva Marić was one of the first women to study mathematics and physics in Europe...

    , Einstein's first wife (married January 6, 1903) and fellow student at ETH Zurich
    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....

    . Solovine reported that she observed the discussions without participating.