On a street called Kramgasse, in the Swiss capital city of Bern, sits a small and unassuming house with a fascinating story to tell. If it were not for the sign on the outside wall, you may find yourself walking right past it. This small apartment is where Albert Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, an accomplishment that would change how we perceive the cosmos and which would turn him into the world’s best-known scientist.
After graduating from Zurich’s university, the young Einstein was looking for a teaching post. His search was to be in vain and eventually he landed a job at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. In 1903, he moved into the third-floor apartment at Kramgasse 49, with his wife Mileva and their son.
In truth, Einstein lived in many different locations around Zurich and Bern. He arrived in Switzerland from Germany in the 1890s and went on to study at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology between 1896 and 1900. He would later return there to work as professor at the University of Zurich, before emigrating to America for good.
What sets Kramgasse 49 apart from these other locations is the fact that, during his time here, Einstein produced a series of papers that would propel him towards scientific stardom, at the youthful age of 26. A fantastical book by Alan Lightman, called Einstein’s Dreams, imagines the thoughts the young scientists would have had during his years in this Bern house, and makes for good complimentary reading when visiting it. Bern’s History Museum also houses a section devoted to Einstein, his work and his life.
The house has been redesigned to give an accurate impression of how one of the world’s greatest minds lived. It’s small, at times rather cramped, with understated furniture. The house is now part-living museum and part-exhibition space, and on the top floor you can watch a short movie charting Einstein’s life.
The Swiss have such admiration and adoration for Einstein, they named him the most significant Swiss of all time. Einstein was born German, claimed Swiss citizenship in 1901 and would eventually also gain American citizenship. However, he never renounced his Swiss nationality.