After graduating, Albert Einstein spent almost two frustrating years searching for a teaching post. He acquired Swiss citizenship in February 1901, but was not conscripted for medical reasons. With the help of Marcel Grossmann’s father Einstein secured a job in Bern at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property, the patent office, as an assistant examiner. He evaluated patent applications for a variety of devices including a gravel sorter and an electromechanical typewriter. In 1903, Einstein’s position at the Swiss Patent Office became permanent, although he was passed over for promotion until he “fully mastered machine technology”.
Much of his work at the patent office related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time, two technical problems that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time. With a few friends he had met in Bern, Einstein started a small discussion group, self-mockingly named “The Olympia Academy”, which met regularly to discuss science and philosophy. Their readings included the works of Henri Poincaré, Ernst Mach, and David Hume, which influenced his scientific and philosophical outlook.