Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879. He had a speech problem and often paused to think about what to say next. Einstein wrote about two events he thought were important in his childhood. He remembered how he marveled at the invisible forces that turned the needle of a compass when he was five and a geometry book that he found when he was twelve. He read the book over and over. He enjoyed classical music and played the violin.
Einstein renounced his German citizenship to avoid military service and enrolled at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zürich, Switzerland. Because he liked to study on his own, he cut classes which made some of his professors angry. Heinrich Weber, wrote a letter of “recommendation” that led to Einstein being turned down for every teaching job he applied for after graduation. In 1902, the father of a friend recommended him for a job as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern, Switzerland.
In 1905, Einstein obtained his Doctorate degree and published four papers describing his research, including the Special Theory of Relativity. This theory has his famous equation e = mc2 which means that when matter is converted to energy, the amount of energy is equal to the mass of an object times the square of the speed of light in a vacuum. It also means that the speed of light is fixed and independent of the observer’s motion. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.
Einstein emigrated to Princeton, New Jersey in 1933 to become a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. In 1939 World War II broke out. Einstein was afraid that Germany was working on atomic bombs. He wrote to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of the United States of America, to tell him about this. He did not work on the atomic bomb developed by the United States, but his theories made it possible. After the war, he worked with others who wanted to see nuclear weapons abolished. From 1901 to 1954 Albert Einstein published more than 300 scientific works. In later years, he worked on a new theory, the unified field theory. This summer scientists at CERN discovered a new particle using the Large Hadron Collider which may help prove his theory.
Here are two Einstein quotes:
“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music…. I do know that I get most joy in life out of my violin.”
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Einstein’s intellect was accompanied by a strong passion for social justice and dedication to pacifism. Einstein strongly opposed injustices based on race or religion. He supported the American civil rights movement and efforts to preserve the Jewish faith. Einstein is generally considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century. TIME magazine named him “Person of the Century” in 1999. He died on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey.