Most scientists aren’t household names, but Albert Einstein was one-of-a-kind. He became a worldwide celebrity not just for his work in physics, but also for his personality. People’s image of the friendly, absent-minded science professor with sloppy hair that’s all based on Einstein! Today his name is practically a synonym for genius!
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879. He was a pretty slow starter he didn’t speak until he was three! It just goes to show you that people develop at different speeds. Albert taught himself geometry at the age of 12! Albert began to grow into a great student, especially in maths.
Unfortunately, when Einstein entered high school he began to lose interest. The teachers were very strict and Einstein felt that there was no room for creative thought. So when his family moved to Italy, he dropped out! Einstein eventually finished high school in Switzerland and enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
He realized quickly that physics was his calling but he wasn’t a very conscientious student. He often cut class to go and study physics on his own or to practice the violin. He managed to graduate in 1900, but he couldn’t get a teaching job, mainly because his professors wouldn’t give him any good recommendations.
So he took up any kind of work he could find a tutor, a substitute teacher, and finally a patent office clerk. In his spare time, Einstein studied physics, and eventually compiled his own theories. Finally, in 1905, all that hard work began to payoff.
At age 26, Einstein published four papers that would forever change the course of physics! They later became known as the “Annus Mirabilis Papers”. “Annus Mirabilis” is Latin for “wonderful year”
This first paper, on the photoelectric effect, describe how light acted both as a wave and a particle at the same time. Einstein won the Nobel Prize for that one, in 1921.
The second paper confirmed the existence of molecules and atoms by explaining why tiny particles in a fluid move in random, herky-jerky ways. This phenomenon is known in the scientific community as “Brownian Motion”.
The third paper detailed Einstein’s theory of special relativity. In it, he concluded that in empty space, the speed of light never changes. He also described that space and time aren’t absolute- they can change depending on the vantage point of an observer!
It was in his fourth paper that Einstein formulated his famous “E=mc2” equation, which basically says that energy and matter are two forms of the same thing. Some of the scientific community denounced Einstein; they disagreed with his approach between the relationship of theory and experimentation.
But Einstein wasn’t fazed. While he continued his job at the patent office, he worked towards becoming a physics professor. In 1911, he finally reached his goal! After that, he moved quickly up the academic ranks.
Then in 1916, Einstein published his theory of general relativity, which is a grand description of how the force of gravity works in our universe. It’s a pretty complex topic. In other words: I don’t understand enough about it to tell you about it in great detail!
Unfortunately, not everyone bought into his ideas so quickly. But over time his theories have been largely proven through experimentation. Eventually Einstein became a world-wide celebrity. He used his fame to carry his message of world peace.
As a German-born Jew, Einstein was uncomfortable with Hitler’s rise to power. So in 1933, Einstein moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where he continued his research at the Institute of Advanced Study.
He died in 1955 at the age of 76, but his contributions to physics and humanity live on to this very day.