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Albert Einstein is widely considered to be the most famous and accomplished scientist of the 20th century. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect, and achieved world fame for his general theory of relativity, which he released in 1915. In 1999, he was named Person of the Century by TIME magazine.
Einstein is known best for his general theory of relativity, an improved model of reality which succeeded the less-precise Newtonian model. He described fundamental connections between space and time, matter and energy. He considered space and time to be manifestations of the same underlying thing, as well as matter and energy. Because his theories were so complicated and controversial, it sometimes took a decade or more until they were accepted by the scientific community. In addition, due to his Jewish descent, his time spent in Germany during the rise of German nationalism made him the target of campaigns to discredit his theories.
The future physicist was born in 1879 in Ulm, now a part of Germany. He attended school in Munich until 1895, when, at the age of 16, he dropped out of secondary school a year early. Albert Einstein applied to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, but failed the liberal arts portion of the entrance exam. This led to him going back to secondary school in Aarau, Switzerland, which he graduated in 1896. After his completion of secondary school, he applied again to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, being accepted. He received his diploma in 1900, and went to work for a Swiss patent office in 1902.
Albert Einstein continued to pursue physics on the side throughout his work at the patent office, receiving his doctorate in 1905. That same year, he published 4 papers that later served as the foundation for much of modern physics. The topics he addressed were Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect, and special relativity. The theory which prompted the most discussion throughout coming decades was his theory of special relativity, which explained why the speed of light appears constant to any observer, despite their velocity.
From 1906 onward, he became increasingly involved in academia, working at universities in Zurich and Berlin, where in 1914 he became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics. In 1915 he described his famous general theory of relativity, which was viewed with skepticism until it was confirmed experimentally in 1919.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler came to power, and Albert Einstein was forced to leave Germany for the United States, where he went to work at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton; and in 1940, became a U.S. citizen. He stayed at Princeton until his death in 1955, working on a theory of physics which unified gravity with the other forces of nature. He never succeeded. Today, physicists' best bet for realizing Einstein's dream, according to many scientists, lies with the theory of superstrings, still largely hypothetical.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who was Albert Einstein and why is he famous?
Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist renowned for his development of the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics alongside quantum mechanics. His famous equation, E=mc¬≤, which articulates the relationship between energy and mass, has become one of the most recognized formulas in the world. Einstein's work had a profound impact on the understanding of space, time, and energy, earning him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect.
What were some of Albert Einstein's most significant contributions to science?
Albert Einstein's contributions to science are vast, but his most significant include the special theory of relativity, which revolutionized the concept of space and time; the general theory of relativity, which introduced the idea of gravity as the warping of spacetime by mass; and his work on the photoelectric effect, which helped establish the quantum theory. His theories have been crucial for the development of various technologies, including GPS systems and aspects of nuclear energy.
How did Albert Einstein's theories impact our understanding of the universe?
Albert Einstein's theories dramatically changed our understanding of the universe. His general theory of relativity predicted phenomena such as the bending of light by gravity and the expansion of the universe, which were later confirmed by observations and experiments. His work laid the foundation for the study of black holes and the Big Bang theory, and it continues to influence contemporary research in cosmology, astrophysics, and quantum mechanics.
What is the significance of the photoelectric effect that Einstein explained?
The photoelectric effect, explained by Einstein, demonstrated that light could be understood as both a wave and a particle, which was a groundbreaking concept at the time. This discovery was pivotal for the development of quantum mechanics and earned Einstein the Nobel Prize. It has practical applications in various fields, including the development of solar panels, digital cameras, and advancements in our understanding of the fundamental nature of light.
Did Albert Einstein have any impact outside of the scientific community?
Yes, Albert Einstein's impact extended far beyond the scientific community. He was a prominent public figure who used his fame to advocate for peace, civil rights, and the establishment of the State of Israel. His outspoken political views, pacifism, and support for the civil rights movement influenced public opinion and made him a symbol of intellectualism and moral integrity. Einstein's cultural legacy endures, with his image and name synonymous with genius.