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
Dr. h. c.
(Doctor honoris causa): honorary doctorate which is awarded by
prizes and awards:
University of Rostock
Dr. h. c. –
awarded on November 12, 1919
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
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."
doctorate which Einstein was awarded in Rostock is the only
one he was given in Germany!
doctorate - certificate Albert Einstein's
„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.
Signature: Prom. med. Nr. 150/ 1919, Albert Einstein
Logo of the
University of Rostock
Courtesy University of Rostock.
Dr. h. c. –
awarded on May 9, 1921
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
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
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."
ten years later, the little town of Princeton, New Jersey,
should become Albert Einstein’s new home.
Academy of Sciences
Nobel Prize –
awarded on December 10, 1922
Albert Einstein was
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.
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.
"Pour le mérite"
admission to the
order – June 7, 1923
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
The order Pour le
mérite is nowadays regarded as one of the highest awards
in Germany, which a scientist or artist can achieved.
Sign of the order:
Pour le mérite for science and arts
Courtesy Order "Pour le mérite".
Genootschap ter Bevordering van
Natuur-, Genees- en Heelkunde
Genootschaps Medal - awarded on Dezember 13,
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).
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.
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.
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. ...“)
presentation date which is mentioned in the letter seems to have been
Royal Society of
Copley Medal –
awarded on November 30, 1925
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
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.
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…"
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
Medal – awarded on February 12, 1926
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.
Royal Astronomical Society.
Physikalische Gesellschaft, DPG)
awarded on June 28, 1929
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
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.
German Physical Society (Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft
e.V.), Bad Honnef.
Dr. h. c. – awarded on November 7, 1930
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."
doctorate of his Alma mater surely meant a lot to
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
ETH, ca. 1905
Dr. h. c. – awarded on May 23, 1931
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
presentation ceremony the "Public Orator" of the university
held his speech, as tradition has it, in Latin. He ended
with the words:
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."
Oxford University Gazette, June 3, 1931
"…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
Blackboard with Einstein's handwriting
Museum of the History of
Science, University of Oxford.
Franklin Medal – awarded on May 15, 1935
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.
Benjamin Franklin Medal
Franklin Institute Online.
Dr. h. c. –
awarded on June 20, 1935
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:
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
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 ..."
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
Campus, Harvard University,
Harvard University Archives.
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