1879 - 1955
Genius of E=mc²by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.”
Albert Einstein was born on March 14th, 1879, in Ulm, Wurttemberg, Germany. Shortly afterwards they moved to Munich. He lived there until he was 15. His parents were Hermann and Pauline, middle class German Jews. Einstein didn’t talk much until he was 3. He didn’t have any kind of learning disabilities, but was just shy and thoughtful. When he was 4 or 5 he received a magnetic compass. It impressed him very much. He was convinced that there had to be “something behind things, something deeply hidden.” He was influenced by his uncle, an engineer, and a medical student who ate dinner with the Einstein’s once a week.
He got good grades all through school (outstanding in mathematics), but he hated the school he was going to, because his classes were based on memorization and obedience. He wanted to study mathematics, and physics at home. A teacher requested he leave school. The 15 year old Einstein quit school in midterm to go to Italy where his parents were. There he worked with his parents for a half a year.
In 1895 he took an entrance exam to Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and
failed. He was advised to go to a Swiss school in Aarau. Here, he was free to
talk about his ideas. His thoughts turned to the theory of electromagnetism
which was seldom taught in schools at that time. He graduated from the Swiss
school and entered the Swiss Institute of Technology. Around that time he realized
that physics was his true subject. Einstein graduated from Zurich with an amazing
record. He tried for many jobs as a professor but failed. Finally he got a job
at the Patent Office in Bern. He then devoted his time to physics. Einstein’s
closest friend was Michele Besso who helped him a lot during his college days
and understood his genius.
A romance blossomed between Einstein and Mileva Maric, the only woman in his physics class. They got married in 1903. Mileva gave birth to 2 sons. One in 1904, and a second in 1910. In 1912 Max Born took time out from his honeymoon to meet with Einstein. Einstein got caught up in his work and left no time for his wife. Milara and Einstein divorced in 1919. That same year he married his cousin Elsa. She had 2 daughters from her previous marriage.
Einstein started to write scientific papers for a leading German physics journal, about his ideas on science. He wrote about a new understanding of the structure of light. He argued that light can act like particles of gas. He also wrote papers on kinetic energy theory and electromagnetism and motion. Also during that time Einstein had been convinced that the principle of relativity must apply to all phenomena, mechanical or not. With that, he made a new theory, a special theory of relativity, which was based on a new analysis of space and time. This analysis was so clear that it can even be understood by beginning science students.
Einstein discovered a deep connection between energy and mass. He expressed this in E=mc². "E" represents energy, "m" represents mass, and "c²", is a very large number, the square of the speed of light. So in a planer sense Energy equals mass times the speed of light to the second power. Einstein started to search for equations solving this. The search led to nowhere. He had to master harder mathematical techniques then he ever expected to need. His friend helped in everyway he could. During that time in life, his life was unsettled (this is the time in his life where he divorced his wife).
Einstein’s new general theory of relativity predicted a remarkable effect; when a ray of light passes near a massive body, the ray should bend. He spurred British astronomers to try to observe a total eclipse. The astronomers succeeded in taking pictures of stars near the eclipse.
Announcement of this eclipse brought a sensation to people, not just to scientists. Einstein became the world symbol of physics. Some journalists exaggerated and said that only a genius could understand this idea. More and more people studied his new concept and those people chose Einstein as a symbol for thoughts at its highest. In the 1930’s scientist confirmed Einstein’s E=mc².
As WWI started, Einstein voted with three other scientists against war, the rest said they approved of war. Einstein hated wars and fought for peace. He spoke in public, made press statements, and signed lots of petitions.
Einstein traveled widely in the 1920’s, both as spokesperson for liberal causes and member of the physics community. He visited England, France, Austria, Czechoslovakia, South America, and as far east as Japan. In 1922 he went to Sweden to accept a Nobel Peace prize in physics.
As the Nazi movement grew stronger, Einstein helped organize a non-partisan group in the Jewish community, even though he was not a practicing Jew. After scientists feared for Einstein’s safety, Einstein left Germany for good in 1932. His property was confiscated and his name was on the first list of people being stripped of their citizenship.
Many Universities abroad were eager to have Einstein as a professor but he had already accepted on offer to join the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He arrived in the US in October 1933. In 1936 his second wife Elsa died. One of her daughters stayed as his secretary and housekeeper.
In August 1939 nuclear physicists came to Einstein, not for scientific but for political help. The fission of the uranium nucleus had recently been discovered; they realized that this could be used for deadly bombs. They feared that the Nazi Germany would construct such weapons. He signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning him to take action.
Although all his activities were limited by ill heath and old age, Einstien kept on in what he believed in. He attacked racial prejudice and supported the black civil right movement. He called for a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people, in which the Arabs should respect. In 1952 he was offered the position of President of Israel. He was old and sick, but at peace in his home in Princeton, and turned down the position. He died of heart failure on April 18th 1955. He lived 76 years.
“I am happy because I want nothing from anyone. I do not care for money. Decorations, titles, or distinctions mean nothing to me. I do not crave praise. The only thing that gives me pleasure, apart from my work, my violin, and my sailboat, is the appreciation of my fellow workers.”
In a letter to Eric Gutkind from Princeton in January 1954, Albert wrote, "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people."
Albert Einstein Image and Impact. American Institute of Physics. <http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/>
Ralston, Jesse. Albert Einstein Homepage. <http://www.humboldt1.com/~gralsto/einstein/einstein.html>
Einstein, Albert. MSN Encarta. <http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpages/refarticle.aspx?refid=761562147>
The letter is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/may/13/peopleinscience.religion