Albert Einstein, born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, was one of the most influential physicists of the 20th century. Despite a slow start in his education, Einstein’s curiosity and self-directed learning led him to become a pioneer in the field of physics.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity, presented in 1915, extended the special theory to incorporate gravity, proposing that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity. This theory was confirmed during the solar eclipse of 1919. Despite the revolutionary nature of his work on relativity, Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.
Albert Einstein Quotes
“It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age of eighteen.”
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
Famous Quotes Hall of Fame
May was a good month for the Hall of Fame, with three quotes making the cut. Albert Einstein will undoubtedly be on that page quite a bit, as almost all of the quotes I have shared have come with good reactions. This one is no different.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather become a man of value.”
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidty, and I’m not sure about the former.”
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
“I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they can learn.”
Early Life and Education
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in the city of Ulm, located in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. His parents, Hermann and Pauline Einstein, were non-observant Ashkenazi Jews. His father Hermann was a salesman and engineer who, with his brother, ran an electrochemical factory. His mother, Pauline, was a talented musician.
Albert Einstein’s early life did not indicate the genius that was to come. He was a late talker, not speaking until he was three years old. His parents were initially concerned about his intellectual development. However, a family friend assured them that sometimes those who are slow to develop end up being the most thoughtful people.
Einstein’s education began at a Catholic elementary school when he was five years old. Despite his family’s Jewish background, he was sent to this school because it had a reputation for good standards of education and it was close to their home. He stayed there for three years before transferring to the Luitpold Gymnasium.
At the Luitpold Gymnasium, Albert Einstein received advanced primary and secondary school education. However, he was not a fan of the school’s rigid disciplinary style and rote learning. He thrived more in an environment where he could explore his curiosity. His real intellectual awakening happened when he was introduced to a compass at the age of five. The invisible forces that directed the needle sparked Einstein’s lifelong interest in physics.
When Einstein was ten, he was introduced to key texts in science, mathematics, and philosophy by a family friend, Max Talmud. These included works by Immanuel Kant and Euclid, which Einstein referred to as his “holy little geometry book”. This self-directed learning played a crucial role in fostering his inquisitive mind.
In 1895, Albert Einstein was expelled from the Luitpold Gymnasium due to his rebellious attitude. He then decided to apply for the Swiss Federal Polytechnic in Zurich. However, he failed the entrance exam and had to complete his secondary education at Aargau Cantonal School in Switzerland before he could be admitted to the Polytechnic.
In 1896, Einstein renounced his German citizenship to avoid military service and officially enrolled in the Swiss Federal Polytechnic. He graduated in 1900 as a teacher of physics and mathematics. Despite his professors’ negative reviews, who considered him a lazy student, Einstein was able to start his career in physics, which would lead him to become one of the most influential scientists in history.
Career and Achievements
The Patent Office and the Miracle Year
After graduating from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic, Albert Einstein struggled to find a teaching post. He accepted a position as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office in 1902. This job, while not directly related to physics, provided Einstein with a stable income and enough free time to continue his own scientific research.
The year 1905, known as Albert Einstein’s “Annus Mirabilis” or “miracle year”, marked a significant turning point in his career. While still working at the patent office, he published four groundbreaking papers in the scientific journal Annalen der Physik. These papers covered the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy. Each of these papers significantly contributed to the foundation of modern physics and changed views on space, time, and matter.
Special and General Theory of Relativity
Albert Einstein’s paper on the special theory of relativity introduced the famous equation E=mc^2, which states that energy (E) and mass (m) are interchangeable; they are different forms of the same thing. This theory also proposed that the speed of light is constant and that physical laws are the same in all inertial frames, leading to the concept of space-time as a unified entity.
In 1915, Einstein presented his theory of general relativity, extending the special theory to incorporate gravity. This theory proposed that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity. The theory was confirmed during the solar eclipse of 1919, when British astronomer Arthur Eddington observed that light from distant stars was deflected as it passed the sun.
Nobel Prize and Global Recognition
Despite the revolutionary nature of his work on relativity, Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect is the phenomenon where electrons are emitted from atoms when they absorb energy from light. Einstein’s work on this topic was instrumental in the development of quantum theory.
Move to the United States and Work at Princeton
With the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Einstein immigrated to the United States in 1933. He accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, where he would remain until his retirement in 1945. During his time at Princeton, Einstein worked on his unified field theory and participated in the U.S. effort to develop the atomic bomb, motivated by fears of the Nazis developing it first.
Later Life and Legacy
After retiring from the Institute for Advanced Study in 1945, Albert Einstein remained active in the scientific community. He continued to work on his unified field theory, which aimed to combine all the fundamental forces of physics into one single framework. However, he was not successful in this endeavor.
Albert Einstein was also an advocate for civil rights and education. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Princeton and campaigned for the civil rights of African Americans. He also corresponded with civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois and supported his efforts.
Albert Einstein passed away on April 18, 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey. He died in his sleep at the age of 76 due to an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Legacy in Science
Albert Einstein’s contributions to science are immeasurable. His theories of relativity revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe. His work laid the foundation for much of the modern research in physics, including studies in quantum mechanics, cosmology, and particle physics.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been essential in the development of GPS technology. The theory explains how gravity affects time, a principle that is used to synchronize the clocks on GPS satellites with those on Earth. Without Einstein’s theory, GPS technology would not be as accurate as it is today.
Legacy in Culture
Beyond his scientific contributions, Albert Einstein’s cultural impact has been profound. His name is synonymous with genius and his image, particularly his unkempt hair and mustache, is instantly recognizable. He has been the subject of numerous biographies, documentaries, and works of fiction.
Albert Einstein’s philosophical reflections on science and his advocacy for peace and civil rights have also left a lasting legacy. His famous quote, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” continues to inspire creativity and curiosity.