Water Resource Collections and Archives


Hans Albert Einstein, 1904-1973

Hans Albert Einstein, 1904-1973

Hans Albert Einstein
Professor of Hydraulic Engineering, Emeritus

Professor Hans Albert Einstein, an accomplished scholar, engineer, and teacher, was born on May 14, 1904 in Bern, Switzerland, a year before his father, Albert H. Einstein, published the Special Theory of Relativity. His mother, Mileva Maric, was from Serbia and was a physics student before her marriage. Professor Einstein received his elementary school education in Zurich. In 1926 he received the Diploma in Civil Engineering, and in 1936 the Doctor of Technical Sciences, both from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

For four years following the receipt of his Diploma degree, he worked in Dortmund, Germany as a steel designer. During Professor Einstein's graduate study he became deeply interested in the fundamental mechanics of the transportation of sediment by flowing water. His doctoral thesis, Bed Load Transport as a Probability Problem (1936), is the definitive work on sediment transportation as accepted by engineers and scientists throughout the world.

In 1927 he married Frieda Knecht of the University of Zurich, a teacher of German language and literature. One of their three children, Bernard, is a physicist, and the second, Evelyn, took her degree in anthropology. A third child, Klaus, died as a young boy shortly after the family came to the United States.

In 1938 Professor Einstein immigrated to the United States where he continued his research on the transport of sediment, first at the U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station at Clemson, South Carolina (1938-1943), and later (1943-1947) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. These years of research culminated in the classic Department of Agriculture Technical Publication No. 1026, The Bed-Load Function for Sediment Transportation in Open Channel Flows.

Professor Einstein joined the faculty of the University of California in 1947 as Associate Professor, and later became Professor of Hydraulic Engineering. He possessed the rare combination of a highly competent research scientist, a fine practicing engineer, and an excellent teacher in both the graduate and undergraduate areas of instruction. To recognize the many valuable contributions of Professor Einstein in research and teaching, his many former students organized in his honor a symposium on sedimentation on the Berkeley campus upon his retirement in 1970. The proceedings of this symposium resulted in the book, Sedimentation, in 1971.

Professor Einstein's extracurricular activities were diverse and numerous. He loved sailing and music. No day was too rough on San Francisco Bay to prevent him from heading out through the entrance of the Berkeley Yacht Harbor for a period of excitement and relaxation on the Bay.

Professor Einstein was extremely generous with his time-whether in conferences with his many graduate students, teaching for brief periods at foreign universities, or advising countries around the world on solutions to critical sedimentation problems. On one such occasion in late June 1973, he was at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, giving lectures and participating in research when at lunch he suffered a heart attack from which he did not recover and died July 26, 1973. Early after his arrival at Woods Hole he expressed his admiration of the beauty and serenity of this small seaside town-his family therefore chose the small cemetery overlooking the harbor as his final resting place.

Widowed in 1958 by the death of his first wife, Professor Einstein married Elizabeth Roboz, then a biochemist at Stanford Medical School, and later Clinical Professor of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center.

By students, friends, and colleagues, Hans Albert Einstein's name will be recalled with warmth throughout the world. He offered encouragement and patient assistance to his students, and through his contacts with students, teachers, and engineers, he had great influence on the scientific development of the hydraulics of sedimentation in foreign countries as well as in the United States. As an example of the many letters received by the Department from former graduate students, one student observed, The picture of his well built and smiling figure striding across the Hydraulic Laboratory still hovers in my mind and before my eyes. We will always cherish those sweet memories.

J. W. Johnson
D. K. Todd
R. L. Wiegel

Portrait CollectionBack to Portrait Collections..


Hans Albert Einstein Papers, 1937-1972 ca. 7 linear ft. (6 cartons)

Professional and working papers by Einstein and others.

Online collection guide available via the Online Archive of California.

Call number: MS 80/8

Last modified: 4/29/2011 2:48 PM by S. Haren

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