Albert Einstein

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Albert Einstein

Of all the scientists to emerge from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there is one whose
name is known by almost all living people. While most of these do not understand this man’s
work, everyone knows that its impact on the world of science is astonishing. Yes, many have
heard of Albert Einstein’s General Theory of relativity, but few know about the intriguing life that
led this scientist to discover what some have called, “The greatest single achievement of human
thought.” Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1874. Before his first birthday, his
family had moved to Munich where young Albert’s father, Hermann Einstein, and uncle set up a
small electro-chemical business. He was fortunate to have an excellent family with which he held
a strong relationship. Albert’s mother, Pauline Einstein, had an intense passion for music and
literature, and it was she that first introduced her son to the violin in which he found much joy
and relaxation. Also, he was very close with his younger sister, Maja, and hey could often be
found in the lakes that were scattered about the countryside near Munich. As a child, Einstein’s
sense of curiosity had already begun to stir. A favorite toy of his was his father’s compass, and
he often marvelled at his uncle’s explanations of algebra. Although young Albert was intrigued
by certain mysteries of science, he was considered a slow learner. His failure to become fluent
in German until the age of nine even led some teachersto believe he was disabled. Einstein’s
post-basic education began at the Luitpold Gymnasium when he was ten. It was here that he
first encountered the German spirit through the school’s strict disciplinary policy. His
disapproval of this method of teaching led to his reputation as a rebel. It was probably these
differences that caused Einstein to search for knowledge at home. He began not with science,
but with religion. He avidly studied the Bible seeking truth, but this religious fervor soon died
down when he discovered the intrigue of science and math. To him, these seemed much more
realistic than ancient stories. With this new knowledge he disliked class even more, and was
eventually expelled from Luitpold Gymnasium being considered a disruptive influence. Feeling
that he could no longer deal with the German mentality, Einstein moved to Switzerland where he
continued his education. At sixteen he attempted to enroll at the Federal Institute of Technology
but failed the entrance exam. This forced him to study locally for one year until he finally passed
the school’s evaluation. The Institute allowed Einstein to meet many other students that shared
his curiosity, and It was here that his studies turned mainly to Physics. He quickly learned that
while physicists had generally agreed on major principals in the past, there were modern
scientists who were attempting to disprove outdated theories. Since most of Einstein’s teachers
ignored these new ideas, he was again forced to explore on his own. In 1900 he graduated
from the Institute and then achieved citizenship to Switzerland. Einstein became a clerk at the
Swiss Patent Office in 1902. This job had little to do with physics, but he was able to satiate his
curiosity by figuring out how new inventions worked. The most important part of Einstein’s
occupation was that it allowed him enough time to pursue his own line of research. As his ideas
began to develop, he published them in specialist journals. Though he was still unknown to the
scientific world, he began to attract a large circle of friends and admirers. A group of students
that he tutored quickly transformed into a social club that shared a love of nature, music, and of
course, science. In 1903 he married Mileva Meric, a mathematician friend. In 1905, Einstein
published five separate papers in a journal, the Annals of Physics. The first was immediately
acknowledged, and the University of Zurich awarded Einstein an additional degree. The other
papers helped to develop modern physics and earned him the reputation of an artist. Many
scientists have said that Einstein’s work contained an imaginative spirit that was seen in most
poetry. His work at this time dealt with molecules, and how their motion affected temperature,
but he is most well known for his Special Theory of Relativity which tackled motion and the
speed of light. Perhaps the most important part of his discoveries was the equation: E=mc2.
After publishing these theories Einstein was promoted at his office. He remained at the Patents
Office for another two years, but his name was becoming too big among the scientific
community. In 1908, Einstein began teaching party time at the University of Berne, and the
following year, at the age of thirty, he became employed full time by Zurich University. Einstein
was now able to move to Prague with his wife and two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard. Finally,
after being promoted to a professor, Einstein and his family were able to enjoy a good standard
of living, but the job’s main advantage was that it allowed Einstein to access an enormous
library. It was here that he extended his theory and discussed it with the leading scientists of
Europe. In 1912 he chose to accept a job placing him in high authority at the Federal Institute of
Technology, where he had originally studied. It was not until 1914 that Einstein was tempted to
return to Germany to become research director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics.
World War I had a strong effect on Einstein. While the rest of Germany supported the army, he
felt the war was unnecessary, and disgusting. The new weapons of war which attempted to
mass slaughter people caused him to devote much of his life toward creating peace. Toward the
end of the war Einstein joined a political party that worked to end the war, and return peace to
Europe. In 1916 this party was outlawed by the government, and Einstein was seen as a traitor.
In that same year, Einstein published his General Theory of relativity, This result of ten years
work revolutionized physics. It basically stated that the universe had to be thought of as curved,
and told how light was affected by this. The next year, Einstein published another paper that
added that the universe had no boundary, but actually twisted back on its self. After the war,
many aspects of Einstein’s life changed. He divorced his wife, who had been living in Zurich with
the children throughout the war, and married his cousin Elsa Lowenthal. This led to a renewed
interest in his Jewish roots, and he became an active supporter of Zionism. Since anti-Semitism
was growing in Germany, he quickly became the target of prejudice. There were many rumors
about groups who were trying to kill Einstein, and he began to travel extensively. The biggest
change, though, was in 1919 when scientist who studied an eclipse confirmed that his theories
were correct. In 1921, he traveled through Britain and the United States raising funds for
Zionism and lecturing about his theories. He also visited the battle sites of the war, and urged
that Europe renew scientific and cultural links. He promoted non-patriotic, non-competitive
education, believing that it would prevent war from happening in the future. He also believed
that socialism would help the world achieve peace. Einstein received the Nobel Prize for
Physics in 1922. He gave all the money to his ex-wife and children to help with their lives and
education. After another lecture tour, he visited Palestine for the opening the Hebrew University
in Jerusalem. He also talked about the possibilities that Palestine held for the Jewish people.
Upon his return he began to enjoy a calmer life in which he returned to his original curiosity,
religion. While Einstein was visiting America in 1933 the Nazi party came to power in Germany.
Again he was subject to anti-Semitic attacks, but this time his house was broken into, and he
was publicly considered an enemy of the nation. It was obvious that he could not return to
Germany, and for the second time he renounced his German citizenship. During these early
years in America he did some research at Princeton, but did not accomplish much of
significance. In 1939 the second World War began to take form. There was heated argument
during this time over whether the United States should explore the idea of an atomic bomb.
Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt warning him of the disaster that could occur if the Nazi’s
developed it first. Einstein did not participate in the development of the bomb, but the idea did
stem from his equation E=mc2. Just as he knew that the bomb was under development, he also
knew when it was going to be used. Just before the bomb was dropped on Japan. Einstein
wrote a letter to the President begging him not to use this terrible weapon. The rest of Einstein’s
life was dedicated to promoting peace. After the war ended, he declared, “The war is won, but
the peace is not.” He wrote many articles and made many speeches calling for a world
government. His fame, at this point, was legendary. People from all over would write to him for
advice, and he would often answer them. He also continued his scientific research until the day
he died. This was on April 18, 1955. There is no doubt that he was dissatisfied that he never
was able to find the true meaning of existence that he strove for all his life.