Honours, prizes and awards:

"My scientific work is motivated by an irresistible desire to understand the secrets of nature -
by nothing else."

Albert Einstein, 1949

HONOURS, PRIZES AND AWARDS

The honours, prizes and awards which are listed here shortly and in chronological order represent a great number of further honours, prizes and awards, Albert Einstein was awarded during his lifetime.

The author wants to thank the universities, societies, institutes, etc. named on this site for their friendly support.

Explanation:
Dr. h. c. (Doctor honoris causa): honorary doctorate which is awarded by universities.

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Honours, prizes and awards:
 

1919 University of Rostock Honorary doctorate
1921 Princeton University Honorary doctorate
1922 Nobel Foundation, Stockholm Nobel Prize in Physics for the year 1921
1923 University of Madrid Honorary doctorate
1923 Order "Pour le mérite" Admission to the order
1923 Genootschap ter Bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde Genootschaps Medal
1925 Royal Society of London Copley Medal
1926 Royal Astronomical Society Gold Medal
1929 German Physical Society Max-Planck-Medal
1930 ETH (Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule), Zurich Honorary doctorate
1931 Oxford University Honorary doctorate
1934 Yeshiva College, New York Honorary doctorate
1935 Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin Medal
1935 Harvard University Honorary doctorate

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External Link  University of Rostock

Dr. h. c. – awarded on November 12, 1919
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On the day of the celebration of the 500th anniversary (Wednesday, November 12, 1919) of the University of Rostock, Albert Einstein and Max Planck (German physicist and Nobel laureate, 1858-1947) were awarded the honorary doctorate.

Einstein was awarded a honorary doctorate in medicine "in recognition of the enormous work of his mind". In his letter of thanks to the dean of the medical faculty Einstein wrote: "I thank you very much for sending me the certificate which represents your excellent taste, and for your friendly covering letter. The wonderful celebration of your venerable university and the heartfelt hospitality which I was allowed to experience in Rostock will always be a nice memory for me."

The honorary doctorate which Einstein was awarded in Rostock is the only one he was given in Germany!

Honorary doctorate - certificate Albert Einstein's

Honorary doctorate - certificate Albert Einstein's

Translation:
On the day of the celebration of five hundred years Rostock University, the Medical Faculty awards professor Albert Einstein, Doctor of Philosophy, the honorary Doctor of Medicine in recognition of the enormous work of his mind, through which he has renewed the terms of space and time, gravity and matter from scratch
.

                  Rostock, November 12, 1919.

The Dean“

Illustration Credit:
Courtesy
Universitaetsarchiv Rostock
Signature: Prom. med. Nr. 150/ 1919, Albert Einstein
 

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Logo of the University of Rostock

Logo of the University of Rostock

Courtesy University of Rostock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

External Link  Princeton University

Dr. h. c. – awarded on May 9, 1921
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"We greet the new Columbus of science, who travels lonesome through the foreign seas of thinking." The German speech held by the president and head of the Princeton University John Hibben, began with these words. It was held on the occasion of awarding Albert Einstein the honorary doctorate on Monday, May 9, 1921. The celebration took place in Alexander Hall.

Albert Einstein, who visited the United States for the first time, accompanied Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) to succeed in financing the planned Hebrew University of Jerusalem. They stayed from the beginning of April until the end of May. In Washington, Einstein was welcomed in the White House by President Warren G. Harding (1865-1923). After that he visited, among other cities, Princeton, Chicago and Cleveland. In Princeton he held the first of five lectures on the theory of relativity – Stafford Little Lectures (May 9 to May 13) after being awarded the honorary doctorate. The lecture hall was overcrowded. Not only students and members of the faculty, but also many curious and  sensation-seeking people were present. Einstein spoke German, so only few people could follow his explanations. After he had finished his speech, Einstein’s lecture was summed up in English by a member of staff of the physical faculty. The demand for the second and the three following lectures was no longer that great and all the interested people found a comfortable place.

These lectures have been translated into English and published entitled "The Meaning of Relativity." The German text was published in 1922 entitled: "Four Lectures on the Theory of Relativity."

Approximately ten years later, the little town of Princeton, New Jersey, should become Albert Einstein’s new home.

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External Link  Nobel Foundation, Stockholm

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Nobel Prize – awarded on December 10, 1922
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Albert Einstein was awarded the External Link Nobel Prize in Physics for the year 1921. He was awarded the prize "for his work on theoretical physics, especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect". It is remarkable that Einstein was not awarded the Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity.

During the presentation of awards, the laureate is awarded the Nobel Certificate and the golden Nobel Medal with the picture of the founder Alfred Nobel (Swedish chemist and industrial, 1833-1896) by the Swedish king. The prize money is only payed when the Nobel speech has been held.

Einstein was on a journey through Japan when he was awarded the prize on December 10, 1922. Who should take receipt of the prize for him? Shortly before the presentation of awards there were still differences of opinion about the nationality of Einstein. Was he a German or a Swiss citizen? Finally it was the German legate in Sweden who received the prize in Einstein’s name. Einstein himself was handed over the document and the medal in Berlin by the Swedish ambassador in Germany. As the statutes of the Nobel Foundation stipulate that the Nobel laureate has to hold his Nobel speech before he receives the prize money, Einstein still had to wait for some time until he received the money.

Einstein held his Nobel speech on July 11, 1923 in the Jubilee Hall in Goeteborg in presence of the king and in front of about 2000 listeners. He spoke about "fundamental ideas and problems of the theory of relativity". After the speech King Gustav V had a vivid chat with Einstein.

The total amount of the prize money - about 120.000 Swedish Krones (back then converted about 180.000 Swiss Francs) - Einstein made available to his first wife Mileva and his two sons Hans Albert and Eduard.

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External Link  Order "Pour le mérite"

admission to the order – June 7, 1923
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On Thursday, June 7, 1923 Albert Einstein was admitted to the order "Pour le mérite". He received the medal Pour le mérite for science and arts, with which persons were and still are awarded "who have made themselves a name through widely spread recognition of their work in science and arts".

The poet Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946), the mathematician Felix Klein (1849-1925), the sculptor Hugo Lederer (1871-1940) and the painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935) were also admitted to the order on this day.

Due to the political situation and thus the incidents in nazi Germany, Einstein renounced the membership to the order in 1933. An attempt of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss (1884-1963), at the beginning of the 1950ies to persuade Einstein to renew his membership was in vain.

The order Pour le mérite for science and arts was founded by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia (1795-1861) in May 1842. The first civil Order of Merit of this kind in Europe should complete the military order of Frederick II, King of Prussia (1712-1786, "Frederick the Great") of 1740. In 1924 it was converted into an "independent organisation of excellent scientists and artists" with new statutes. In the 30ies the fate of the order was uncertain and its disbanding was given a serious thought. Only through the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Theodor Heuss, the order was revived and again entered the public consciousness in May 1952.

The order Pour le mérite is nowadays regarded as one of the highest awards in Germany, which a scientist or artist can achieved.

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Sign of the order: Pour le merite for science and arts

Sign of the order: Pour le mérite for science and arts

Illustration Credit:
Courtesy Order "Pour le mérite".

 

 External Link Genootschap ter Bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde

Genootschaps Medal - awarded on Dezember 13, 1923
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The Dutch society Genootschap ter bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde, which was founded in Amsterdam in 1790, promotes and supports activities in the areas of science and medicine. On Thursday, December 13, 1923, the society awarded its highest distinction, the Genootschaps Medal, in the auditorium of the Amsterdam university and thus  honoured Albert Einstein and the Dutch physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853-1928). The list of previous laureates contained names like for example the Dutch physicists and Nobel Prize laureates Johannes Diderik van der Waals (1837-1923) and Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1853-1926).

Albert Einstein took personally part in the celebration taking place on occasion of the annual meeting of the  "Genootschap" on December 13. Despite acceptance of the invitation, H. A. Lorentz did not.

In advance there was a letter from the Board of the society to Albert Einstein, which was dated "October 25, 1923":

„Hochgeehrter Herr Professor Einstein,

     im Namen der "Genootschap ter Bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde in Amsterdam" haben wir das Vergnügen Ihnen mitzuteilen, dass die "Genootschap" in ihrer Sitzung vom 22. Oktober 1923 Ihnen und Herrn Professor H. A. Lorentz ihre goldene Medaille zuerkannt hat. Die Verleihung dieser Medaillen wird am 31. Oktober 1923 in der Jahresversammlung der Gen. in der Aula der Universität nachmittags um 4 Uhr stattfinden.
    Es würde uns eine ganz besondere Ehre sein, wenn Sie der Verleihung dieser Medaillen durch Herrn Prof. J. D. v. d. Waals, Professor der Physik an unserer Universität, persönlich beiwohnen könnten, wie auch Herr Professor Lorentz es uns versprochen hat. ...
Mit einer zustimmenden Antwort würden Sie uns eine besondere Freude machen. ..."

("Highly honoured Professor Einstein,

    in the name of the "Genootschap ter Bevordering van Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde in Amsterdam" we have the pleasure to inform you that the "Genootschap" has awarded you and Professor H. A. Lorentz its golden medal in its meeting dated October 22, 1923. The presentation of these medals will take place in the annual meeting of the Gen. in the auditorium of the university on October 31, 1923 at 4 pm.
    It would be a very special honour for us if you could personally attend to the presentation of these medals by Prof. J. D. v. d. Waals, professor of physics at our university, like also Professor Lorentz has promised to do. ...
You would specially please us if you sent us a positive answer. ...“)

The presentation date which is mentioned in the letter seems to have been postponed.

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External Link  Royal Society of London

Copley Medal – awarded on November 30, 1925
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Albert Einstein was awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in London in a ceremony on Monday, November 30, 1925. As tradition has it, the highest award of the society was handed over during its annual celebration. In 1925 the celebration took place in Burlington House, Piccadilly, in London. At the annual celebration the Royal Society awarded also other medals and prizes.

Einstein was awarded the Copley Medal by the English neurophysiologist Sir Charles Sherrington (1857-1952), the retiring president of the society. The presentation of the medal was one of the last official actions of Sherrington. After the presentation of the medals he handed over the position of the president after one term of office (five years) to the British physicist from New Zealand, Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), from 1931 on Lord Rutherford of Nelson.

Some of the people who were awarded the Copley Medal before and after Einstein were the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1838), the British physicist Sir William Thomson (1883), from 1892 on Lord Kelvin of Largs, the Dutch physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1918), the German physicist Max Planck (1929), the Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1938) and the English physicist Paul A.M. Dirac (1952).

Sir Geoffrey Copley made money available to the Royal Society to promote scientific work (1709). A few years later the Copley Medal was suggested:

"…a medal or other honorary prize should be bestowed on the person whose experiment should be best approved…"

The English physicist Stephen Gray (1666-1736) was awarded the first Copley Medal in 1731. The medal consists of silver and gold. It was and still is awarded for special scientific work.

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External Link  Royal Astronomical Society

Gold Medal – awarded on February 12, 1926
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Some weeks after Einstein had been awarded the Copley Medal of the Royal Society in London, he was awarded another prize in England. This time the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) awarded him, also in London, its highest award, the Gold Medal. The Gold Medal was awarded for special performance in the field of astronomy. It is still awarded by the RAS, which also awards the Eddington and the Herschel Medal.

It was not possible for Einstein to receive the Gold Medal personally. In a letter of thanks which he had written before the award he wrote to the RAS: "…He who finds a thought which lets us look into the secret of nature - even if only a little bit deeper - has won mercy. He who then still experiences the recognition, sympathies and promotion of the greatest persons of his time almost obtains more luck than a human being is able to bear. In this consciousness I thank you in humble attitude for the great award you judged I deserve. I would like to come to you personally to receive the Medal awarded to me; but unfortunately I am not able to…"

Already in 1919 the RAS had, on proposal of the English astronomer and astrophysicist Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944), decided to award Albert Einstein the Gold Medal for the year 1920. But "patriotic" members of the RAS prevented this. The result was that no medal was awarded in 1920. Einstein still had to wait for six years until he received the highest award of the RAS.

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Gold Medal

Gold Medal

Illustration Credit:  Courtesy
Royal Astronomical Society.


 

External Link  German Physical Society

(Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, DPG)

Max-Planck-Medal – awarded on June 28, 1929
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On occasion of the Golden Jubilee honorary degree awards of Max Planck (German physicist and Nobel laureate, 1858-1947) the Max-Planck-Medal was founded by persons, societies and companies due to an appeal of famous scientists.

It was firstly awarded on June 28, 1929. The laureates were Max Planck himself and Albert Einstein. The medal for Einstein was presented by Planck personally. The award which consists of a golden medal with the portrait of Max Planck and a hand-written document was and still is awarded by the German Physical Society for excellent performance in the field of theoretical physics.

In his speech in the overcrowded big Physical Lecture Hall of the TU (Technical University) Berlin, Einstein especially thanked his friend and supporter Max Planck.

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Max-Planck-Medal, head

Max-Planck-Medal, verso

Max-Planck-Medal

Illustrations Credits:  Courtesy
German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft e.V.), Bad Honnef.
 


 

External Link  ETH, Zurich

Dr. h. c. – awarded on November 7, 1930
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On occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule, ETH), Albert Einstein was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Science in a ceremony on Friday, November 7, 1930. The nomination was initiated by the department of mathematics of the ETH.

In the letter of the nomination it said: "To the completer of classical physics in the theory of relativity and the pioneer of quantum physics, its former student and teacher, in recognition of his excellent scientific performance and in thankful remembrance of his work which he performed for Switzerland and the college."

The honorary doctorate of his Alma mater surely meant a lot to Albert Einstein.

From October 1896 to July 1900 Einstein had studied at the ETH and from October 1912 to March 1914 he worked there as full professor for theoretical physics.

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ETH, ca. 1905

ETH, ca. 1905

Illustration Credit:  Courtesy
Bildarchiv ETH-Bibliothek, Zurich
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External Link  Oxford University

Dr. h. c. – awarded on May 23, 1931
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In May 1931 Albert Einstein travelled to England to hold the Rhodes Lectures (Cecil Rhodes, English politician, 1853-1902). This was a honorary task for him. During his stay he received the Honorary Doctorate (Dr. h. c.) of Science on Saturday, May 23, 1931 by the Oxford University which was founded in the 12th century.

At the presentation ceremony the "Public Orator" of the university held his speech, as tradition has it, in Latin. He ended with the words:

"…Hanc qui tandem ad homines detulit, insigne nostri saeculi decus, vobis praesento, Albertum Einstein, Scientiae Physicae in Universitate Berolinensi Professorem, ut admittatur ad gradum Doctoris in scientia honoris causa."

Source: Oxford University Gazette, June 3, 1931

Translation:

"…Now I present the persons to you who have given us this theory: the fine specimen of our century, Albert Einstein, professor for physics at the TU (Technical University) Berlin, who shall receive the degree of a honorary doctorate."

After the award, Einstein held his third and last lecture of the Rhodes Lectures. In the overcrowded Rhodes House he lectured in German about the "Latest development of the theory of relativity". The room was crowded with honorary guests and members of the university, who had presented themselves in full regalia. Some places in the gallery were made available to the public.

Einstein had held his first lecture on "The theory of relativity" on Saturday, May 9 and the second one on the "Cosmologic problem" on Saturday, May 16. The board Einstein used for his second lecture was, provided with Einstein’s handwriting, kept and can be seen today in the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. It shows calculations referring to the expansion of the universe and details about its age.

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Blackboard with Einstein's handwriting

Blackboard with Einstein's handwriting

Illustration Credit:  Courtesy
Museum of the History of Science, University of  Oxford Externer Link


 

External Link  Franklin Institute, Philadelphia

Franklin Medal – awarded on May 15, 1935
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On Wednesday, May 15, 1935 Albert Einstein received the Benjamin Franklin Medal (Benjamin Franklin, American politician, author and scientist, 1706–1790) in a ceremony. It was awarded in recognition of his fundamental contributions to theoretical physics; especially for his theories of relativity and his work on the photoelectric effect.

The Franklin Medal is one of the highest awards of the Franklin Institute. It was and still is awarded for special performance in the field of science and the arts. The Franklin Institute also awards other medals than the Franklin Medal.

In the ceremony, which took place in the evening at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, USA, not only the two Franklin Medals, but also five Longstreth Medals and seven Wetherill Medals were awarded. Einstein did not hold any speech.

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Benjamin Franklin Medal

Benjamin Franklin Medal

Illustration Credit:  Courtesy
Franklin Institute Online.


 

External Link  Harvard University

Dr. h. c. – awarded on June 20, 1935
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In 1935 Albert Einstein received a new honorary doctorate, this time by the most traditional and most important university of the USA, the Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was Thursday, June 20, 1935 when he was awarded in a ceremony the Doctor of Science in a ceremony. The president of the university, J.B. Conant, said in a speech about Einstein: "…Acclaimed by the world as a great revolutionist of theoretical physics, his bold speculations, now become basis doctrine, will be remembered when mankind`s present troubles are long forgotten…"

Source: Harvard Alumni Bulletin, July 5, 1935

At the same time like Einstein, the German author Thomas Mann (1857-1955) was honoured. He was awarded the Doctor of Letters. About Mann, Conant said in his speech: "… Novelist of rare distinction, an interpreter of life to many in the western world, one of the few contemporary guardians of the great tradition of Germany culture ..."

Source: Harvard Alumni Bulletin, July 5, 1935

Like Einstein, Mann and his family had also emigrated to the USA in 1933. Both the emigrants received long lasting applause from the people present at the presentation of awards. Thomas Mann later stated in a letter to his publisher that his and Einstein’s honorary doctorate "had not been possible without any interference of president Roosevelt".

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Campus, Harvard University, ca. 1935

Campus, Harvard University,
ca. 1935

Illustration Credit:  Courtesy
Harvard University Archives
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