Einstein and the Physikalische Gesellschaft Zürich (Physical Society Zurich):

"... wie auch in meinem Namen Sie höflichst zu ersuchen Ihren Vortrag nicht allzu schwer zu halten,
damit er auch von nicht theoretischen Physikern verfolgt werden kann."
 

"...and also in my name to most kindly ask you to not hold a too difficult lecture,
so that it will also be understood by non-theoretical physicists."

Alfred Schweitzer, President of the Physical Society Zurich, in a letter to Albert Einstein, Zurich 1909
 

EINSTEIN AND THE PHYSICAL SOCIETY ZURICH

A short story of the society

There were already several associations in Zurich, when the Physical Society of Zurich was founded. Their task was to "maintain natural science in general“, however, there was a gap with respect to the scientific exchange under the great number of physicists living in Zurich. This "gap" was one of the main reasons why the local physicists, theorists and practitioners founded the  Physical Society Zurich. 14 persons took part in the first preparatory meeting on Tuesday, January 11, 1887. In this meeting they founded among other things a three-person commission which should determine the statutes of the society. These statutes were accepted in the constitutive meeting on Friday, January 21, 1887 with few changes.

In the minutes of the first preparatory meeting on Tuesday, January 11, 1887, it says:

„Am 11. Januar 1887 Abends 8 1/2 Uhr versammelten sich im oberen Lokale der "Bollerei" Zürich auf Einladung des Hrn. Dr. C. Culmann, Privatdozent am eidg. Polytechnikum, eine Anzahl Freunde der Physik zu einer Besprechung über die Gründung einer Gesellschaft zur Pflege der physikalischen Wissenschaften. ..."

"On January 11, 1887 at 8:30 pm a number of friends of physics met in the upper premises of the "Bollerei" Zurich, on invitation of Dr. C. Culmann, private lecturer at the Swiss Polytechnic Institute, to discuss the foundation of a society for the maintenance of physical science. ..."

In the meetings of the society, which now were taking place regularly (in the first year there were 16 meetings), lectures were held and afterwards discussed. In addition the members were informed about current scientific notices.

Still today the Physical Society Zurich organises, among other things, regular lectures concerning scientific-technical topics for their currently 550 members.

In 1887, when the society was founded, the 8-year-old Albert Einstein was living in Munich. He became one of the most prominent members of the Physical Society Zurich.

Albert Einstein and the Physical Society Zurich

Though still no member of the society, Albert Einstein held a lecture to members of the Physical Society Zurich on Thursday, February 11, 1909. It had the title: „Elektrodynamik und Relativitätsprinzip"  ("Electrodynamics and the Principle of Relativity"). The invitation to hold this lecture came from  the Swiss physicist and back then President Alfred Schweitzer (1875-1929). In his letter dated January 19, 1909 it says:

„... teile ich Ihnen mit, dass ihr Vortrag im Hörsaal von Prof. Kleiner stattfinden wird. Auch erlaube ich mir im Namen des Herrn Prof. Kleiner, wie auch in meinem Namen sie höflichst zu ersuchen Ihren Vortrag nicht allzu schwer zu halten, damit er auch von nicht theoretischen Physikern verfolgt werden kann.
Ich werde zu Ihrem Vortrage außer an die Mitglieder der phys. Gesellschaft auch noch an alle Zürcher Mathematiker Einladungen versenden, zu Ihrer privaten Benutzung werde ich noch Ihnen 10 Einladungskarten einsenden. ..."
 

"... I inform you that your lecture will take place in the lecture hall of Prof. Kleiner. I also allow myself to most kindly ask you in the name of Prof. Kleiner and in my own name to hold a not too difficult lecture, so that it will also be understood by non-theoretical physicists.
I will invite the members of the Physical Society as well as all other mathematicians from Zurich to listen to your lecture. For your private use I will also send you 10 invitation cards. ..."

Prof. Kleiner, who is mentioned in the letter, is the Swiss physicist Alfred Kleiner (1849-1916), who back then was the Director of the Physical Institute of Zurich University. Einstein held his lecture in the auditorium of the Physical Institute of Zurich University in Rämisstrasse 69.

Albert Einstein became member of the Physical Society Zurich on December 02, 1909. During his time in Zurich he used many opportunities to take part in the meetings  and to hear or hold lectures. So his lecture on Wednesday, November 2, 1910. In the "Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten" he held his lecture to the Physics Society, and the topic was: „Über das Boltzmann'sche Prinzip und einige unmittelbar aus demselben fließenden Folgerungen" ("On Boltzmann’s principle and some of its direct consequences"). 23 members and 14 guests were present. After Einstein‘s lecture there was time for lively discussions.

In August 1916 Einstein published a paper in the "Mitteilungen der Physikalischen Gesellschaft Zürich", No. 18, pages 47-62. It had the title: "Die Quantentheorie der Strahlung" ("On the Quantum Theory of Radiation"). In the "Physikalische Zeitschrift", No. 18, pages 121-128, this paper was published in March 1917.

Einstein cultivated the contacts to the Physical Society Zurich and to single members through a correspondence which still continued a long time after the Zurich years. His membership only ended with his death on April 18, 1955.

Bibliography:

   
W. Wyssling Protokoll der ersten Sitzung der Physikalischen Gesellschaft in Zürich

(Minutes of the first meeting of the Physical Society Zurich)

Zurich 1887
W. Wyssling Erster Jahresbericht der Physikalischen Gesellschaft in Zürich über das Vereinsjahr 1887

(First annual report of the Physical Society Zurich about the societal year 1887)

Zurich 1888
Editors: Martin J. Klein, A. J. Kox, Robert Schulmann The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 5 Princeton 1993
Editors: A. J. Kox, Martin J. Klein, Robert Schulmann The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 6 Princeton 1996
 

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