Albert Einstein (14 March 1879–18 April 1955) was a German-born Swiss-American theoretical physicist, philosopher and author who is widely regarded as one of the most influential and best known scientists and intellectuals of all time. He is often regarded as the father of modern physics. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect."
His many contributions to physics include the special and general theories of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the first post-Newtonian expansion, explaining the perihelion advance of Mercury, prediction of the deflection of light by gravity and gravitational lensing, the first fluctuation dissipation theorem which explained the Brownian movement of molecules, the photon theory and wave-particle duality, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, the semiclassical version of the Schrödinger equation, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation.
Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire on 14 March 1879. His father was Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer. His mother was Pauline Einstein (née Koch). In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where his father and his uncle founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment based on direct current.
The Einsteins were non-observant Jews. Their son attended a Catholic elementary school from the age of five until ten. Although Einstein had early speech difficulties, he was a top student in elementary school. As he grew, Einstein built models and mechanical devices for fun and began to show a talent for mathematics. In 1889 Max Talmud (later changed to Max Talmey) introduced the ten-year old Einstein to key texts in science, mathematics and philosophy, including Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Euclid’s Elements (which Einstein called the "holy little geometry book"). Talmud was a poor Jewish medical student from Poland. The Jewish community arranged for Talmud to take meals with the Einsteins each week on Thursdays for six years. During this time Talmud wholeheartedly guided Einstein through many secular educational interests.
In 1894, his father’s company failed: Direct current (DC) lost the War of Currents to alternating current (AC). In search of business, the Einstein family moved to Italy, first to Milan and then, a few months later, to Pavia. When the family moved to Pavia, Einstein stayed in Munich to finish his studies at the Luitpold Gymnasium. His father intended for him to pursue electrical engineering, but Einstein clashed with authorities and resented the school’s regimen and teaching method. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning. In the spring of 1895, he withdrew to join his family in Pavia, convincing the school to let him go by using a doctor’s note. During this time, Einstein wrote his first scientific work, "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields".
Einstein applied directly to the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (ETH) in Zürich, Switzerland. Lacking the requisite Matura certificate, he took an entrance examination, which he failed, although he got exceptional marks in mathematics and physics. The Einsteins sent Albert to Aarau, in northern Switzerland to finish secondary school. While lodging with the family of Professor Jost Winteler, he fell in love with the family’s daughter, Marie. (His sister Maja later married the Winteler son, Paul.) In Aarau, Einstein studied Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory. At age 17, he graduated, and, with his father’s approval, renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Württemberg to avoid military service, and enrolled in 1896 in the mathematics and physics program at the Polytechnic in Zurich. Marie Winteler moved to Olsberg, Switzerland for a teaching post.
In the same year, Einstein’s future wife, Mileva Maric, also entered the Polytechnic to study mathematics and physics, the only woman in the academic cohort. Over the next few years, Einstein and Maric’s friendship developed into romance. In a letter to her, Einstein called Maric “a creature who is my equal and who is as strong and independent as I am.” Einstein graduated in 1900 from the Polytechnic with a diploma in mathematics and physics; Although historians have debated whether Maric influenced Einstein’s work, the majority of academic historians of science agree that she did not.
In early 1902, Einstein and Mileva Maric had a daughter they named Lieserl in their correspondence, who was born in Novi Sad where Maric's parents lived. Her full name is not known, and her fate is uncertain after 1903.
Einstein and Maric married in January 1903. In May 1904, the couple’s first son, Hans Albert Einstein, was born in Bern, Switzerland. Their second son, Eduard, was born in Zurich in July 1910. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin, while his wife remained in Zurich with their sons. Maric and Einstein divorced on 14 February 1919, having lived apart for five years.
Einstein married Elsa Löwenthal (née Einstein) on 2 June 1919, after having had a relationship with her since 1912. She was his first cousin maternally and his second cousin paternally. In 1933, they emigrated permanently to the United States. In 1935, Elsa Einstein was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems and died in December 1936.
After graduating, Einstein spent almost two frustrating years searching for a teaching post, but a former classmate’s father helped him secure a job in Bern, at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property, the patent office, as an assistant examiner. He evaluated patent applications for electromagnetic devices. In 1903, Einstein’s position at the Swiss Patent Office became permanent, although he was passed over for promotion until he "fully mastered machine technology".
Much of his work at the patent office related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time, two technical problems that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time.
With friends he met in Bern, Einstein formed a weekly discussion club on science and philosophy, which he jokingly named "The Olympia Academy." Their readings included the works of Henri Poincaré, Ernst Mach, and David Hume, which influenced his scientific and philosophical outlook.
In 1901, Einstein had a paper on the capillary forces of a straw published in the prestigious Annalen der Physik. In 1905, he received his doctorate from the University of Zurich. His thesis was titled "On a new determination of molecular dimensions". That same year, which has been called Einstein's annus mirabilis or "miracle year", he published four groundbreaking papers, on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of matter and energy, which were to bring him to the notice of the academic world.
By 1908, he was recognized as a leading scientist, and he was appointed lecturer at the University of Berne. The following year, he quit the patent office and the lectureship to take the position of physics professor at the University of Zurich. He became a full professor at Karl-Ferdinand University in Prague in 1911. In 1914, he returned to Germany after being appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics and professor at the University of Berlin.
In 1911, he had calculated that, based on his new theory of general relativity, light from another star would be bent by the Sun's gravity. That prediction was claimed confirmed by observations made by a British expedition led by Sir Arthur Eddington during the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. International media reports of this made Einstein world famous. (Much later, questions were raised whether the measurements were accurate enough to support such a claim.)
In 1921, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Because relativity was still considered somewhat controversial, it was officially bestowed for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. He also received the Copley Medal from the Royal Society in 1925.
In 1933, Einstein was compelled to emigrate to the United States due to the rise to power of the Nazis under Germany's new chancellor, Adolf Hitler. While visiting American universities in April, 1933, he learned that the new German government passed a law barring Jews from holding any official positions, including teaching at universities. A month later, notes Einstien biographer, Walter Isaacson, "a parade of swastica-wearing students and beer-hall thugs carrying torches tossed books into a huge bonfire. Ordinary citizens poured forth carrying volumes looted from libraries and private homes. 'Jewish intellectualism is dead,' propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, his face fiery, yelled from the podium." Einstein also learned that his name was on a list of assassination targets, with a "$5,000 bounty on his head." One German magazine included him in a list of enemies of the German regime with the phrase, "not yet hanged."
Among other German scientists also forced to flee were fourteen Nobel laureates and twenty-six of the sixty professors of theoretical physics in the country. Among the other scientists who left were Edward Teller, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Otto Stern, Victor Weisskopf, Hans Bethe, and Lise Meitner, many of whom made certain that the Allies would develop nuclear weapons first, before the Nazis. With so many other Jewish scientists now forced by circumstances to live in America, often working side by side, Einstein wrote to a friend, "For me the most beautiful thing is to be in contact with a few fine Jews—a few millennia of a civilized past do mean something after all." In another letter he writes, "In my whole life I have never felt so Jewish as now."
He took up a position at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, an affiliation that lasted until his death in 1955. There, he tried unsuccessfully to develop a unified field theory and to refute the accepted interpretation of quantum physics. He and Kurt Gödel, another Institute member, became close friends. They would take long walks together discussing their work.
Just prior to the beginning of World War II in Europe, Einstein was persuaded to lend his enormous prestige to a letter sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939, alerting him to the possibility that Nazi Germany might be developing an atomic bomb.
In 1952, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion offered him the position of President of Israel after the death of the first president, Chaim Weizman. He declined, writing, "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it. He explained, "I have neither the natural ability nor the experience to deal with human beings."
On 17 April 1955, Albert Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had previously been reinforced surgically by Dr. Rudolph Nissen in 1948. He took the draft of a speech he was preparing for a television appearance commemorating the State of Israel’s seventh anniversary with him to the hospital, but he did not live long enough to complete it. Einstein refused surgery, saying: "I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the end. Einstein’s remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered around the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey. During the autopsy, the pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey removed Einstein’s brain for preservation, without the permission of his family, in hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent
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