Infeld was born in Kraków into a family of Jewish merchants. His father, Salomon, was the owner of the tenement house and the leather goods shop on the ground floor.
The future scientist was first educated at a trade school, and then, against his father, he studied physics at the Jagiellonian University, where in 1921 he obtained his doctorate in special relativity. After graduation, he applied for a job at the university, but did not get it. Therefore, he worked as a teacher in Jewish gymnasiums in Konin and Warsaw. He continued his studies at the same time at the University of Berlin, where he met Albert Einstein. As a foreigner, Leopold Infeld found it difficult to enter the lectures and asked Einstein for a recommendation. Common interests prompted them to start correspondence.
In 1930 he became a senior assistant and later an associate professor at the Department of Theoretical Physics at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv. In 1933 he left for England as a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship holder. In Cambridge, he established a cooperation with Max Born, with whom they created a non-linear description of the electromagnetic field, the so-called Born-Infeld electrodynamic theory.
In 1936, after rejecting his candidacy for a professor at the University of Vilnius, he decided to emigrate to America. There, he received a one-year scholarship at Princeton University, where Albert Einstein was already working. Physicists collaborated and together with Banesh Hoffmann developed the Einstein-Infeld-Hoffman theory for the equations of motion in general relativity.
“Science is a building constructed by reason; the greatest pleasure of knowledge is understanding. Without it, science means little. The existence of science and its progress are based on the belief that the universe is neither capricious nor mysterious.”
Due to financial difficulties, Infeld invited Einstein to write a book on physics together, addressed to educated people, but not scientists. This is how Evolution of Physics was born, an extraordinary story about the laws governing the universe. The publication explained physics without the aid of formulas and became a world bestseller, with many editions and translations into various languages. Leopold Infeld became famous. “Time” an article about the authors was published, and the book was named the best published in 1938.
In the same year, Infeld moved to Canada, where he became a professor of physics at the University of Toronto. His works from this period concerned relativistic cosmology and the theory of factorization. He worked there until 1950. He was forced to leave Canada after he was wrongly accused of contacts with communists in Poland and the possibility of selling them secrets about nuclear weapons. In 1995, however, he was rehabilitated and the University of Toronto posthumously awarded him the title of its Professor Emeritus.
In 1950 he returned to Poland. At the University of Warsaw, together with Wojciech Rubinowicz, they founded the Institute of Theoretical Physics, and Infeld took over the chair of theoretical physics. In 1952 he became a full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1962, he organized a scientific conference in Warsaw on the progress in relativistic physics, attended by the most eminent physicists at the time, including Paul Dirac and Richard Feynman.
Along with many scientists, hewas a signatory to the Einstein-Russell Manifesto calling for world leaders to stop arms. In 1964, he signed Letter 34, in which polish intellectuals protested against censorship in Poland. He died on January 16, 1968 in Warsaw. In many publications, he is considered one of the top five physicists of all time.