Michele Besso

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Michele Besso
Michele Besso

(1873-05-25)25 May 1873
Died15 March 1955(1955-03-15) (aged 81)

Michele Angelo Besso (Riesbach, 25 May 1873 – Geneva, 15 March 1955) was a Swiss-Italian engineer[1] best known for working closely with Albert Einstein.


Besso was born in Riesbach from a family of Italian Jewish (Sephardi) descent.[2] He was a close friend of Albert Einstein during his years at the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich,[3] (today known as ETH Zurich) and then at the patent office in Bern, where he helped Einstein to get a job.[4] Besso is credited with introducing Einstein to the works of Ernst Mach, the sceptical critic of physics who influenced Einstein's approach to the discipline.[5] Einstein introduced Besso to his future wife, Anna Winteler, the sister of Einstein's then girlfriend Maria Winteler.

Einstein called Besso "the best sounding board in Europe" for scientific ideas.[6] In Einstein's original paper on special relativity, he ended the paper by stating, "In conclusion, let me note that my friend and colleague M. Besso steadfastly stood by me in my work on the problem here discussed, and that I am indebted to him for many a valuable suggestion."[7]

Besso died in Geneva, aged 81. In a letter of condolence to the Besso family, Albert Einstein wrote "Now he has again preceded me a little in parting from this strange world. This has no importance. For people like us who believe in physics, the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion."[8] Einstein died one month and 3 days after his friend, on 18 April 1955.

He was the nephew of Marco Besso, president of Assicurazioni Generali, and of the mathematician Davide Besso.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Einstein and Besso: From Zürich to Milano by Christian BRACCO
  2. ^ Caracciolo, A. (1983). "Una diaspora da Trieste: I Besso nell'Ottocento". Quaderni storici (in Italian). 18, No. 54 (3): 897–912.
  3. ^ Einstein as a Student
  4. ^ An Einstein Encyclopedia, Alice Calaprice, Daniel Kennefick, Robert Schulmann, p.65, Princeton University Press, 2015
  5. ^ Einstein the Early years
  6. ^ Calaprice, Alice; Lipscombe, Trevor (2005). Albert Einstein: A Biography. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 24.
  7. ^ "Volume 2: The Swiss Years: Writings, 1900-1909 (English translation supplement) page 171".
  8. ^ Time’s arrow: Albert Einstein’s letters to Michele Besso https://www.christies.com/features/Einstein-letters-to-Michele-Besso-8422-1.aspx [Accessed on 5 June 2019]