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 they 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
teachers to 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.

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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.

Bibliography Clark, Ronald W., Einstein – The
Life and Times, New York: World Publishing,
1971. Dank, Milton, Albert Einstein, New York:
An Impact Biography, 1920. Dukas, Helen and
Banesh Hoffman, eds., Albert Einstein: The
Human Side, Princeton: University Press, 1979.

Einstein, Albert, Carl Seelig, ed., Ideas and
Opinions, New York: Bonanza Books, 1954.

“Einstein, Albert.” Random House Encyclopedia,
Random House Press, 1990 edition. Hunter,
Nigel, Einstein, New York: Bookwright Press,
1987. Nourse, Dr. Alan E., Universe, Earth, and
Atom: The Story of Physics, New York and
Evanston: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969.

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