Albert Einstein: The German-American Scientist Behind Modern Physics

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Albert Einstein: The German-American Scientist Behind Modern Physics

To this day, the word “Einstein” is synonymous to “genius”. Albert Einstein, the extraordinary German-American physicist, is still shaping our world today with his groundbreaking scientific work. His work on the special theory of relativity vaulted him to fame, and society now considers him one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Einstein: Path to Genius

Einstein was born to a middle-class couple in Ulm, Germany in 1879. His mother, Pauline, was an extremely strong woman and history credits her with influencing his drive and focus. Even though Einstein started to speak later than the average child, his childhood hinted heavily at the sort of genius that his later life saw from him. He performed quite well in topics such as algebra, trigonometry and physics—showing his aptitude for science and math, and foreshadowing his later career. Einstein said in 1935, “Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.” His sister even recalled their parents buying him books for the following term far in advance so that he could study them over summer break.

Einstein YoungAfter attending the Swiss Polytechnic Institute and graduating, Einstein faced a struggle landing a job. As is typical for highly gifted students, Einstein had been an unruly student, and often skipped class. Due to his poor performance in his classes, he had trouble finding a job in academia.

Finally, he was hired as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern. He had much free time in which he dedicated himself to scientific theory and experimentation. Einstein was a complete stranger to the scientific community and yet, he published four important papers during his “miracle year” of 1905. The most important of his work was the one on his special theory of relativity, the first major theory about gravity since Isaac Newton’s theories, over 250 years earlier. This theory makes use of the famous equation E = mc2.

Gaining Acceptance Within the Scientific Community

With the publication of his special theory of relativity and the fame he received afterwards, Einstein finally broke into the mainstream world of academia. He was appointed director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in 1913, and began to receive invites to speak to crowds all over the world—in Britain, France, the U.S. and Japan.

A few years later, in 1921, Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. History.com notes,

“Einstein soon began building on his theories to form a new science of cosmology, which held that the universe was dynamic instead of static, and was capable of expanding and contracting.”

World War II and Its Effect on Einstein’s Life

Even through all his fame, the rising Nazi regime in Germany posed a threat to Einstein, due to his Jewish heritage. As World War II approached, he felt great pressure to flee. He decided to flee for his life to the United States, taking up a position at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study. He attained his United States citizenship in 1940 and resided in Princeton until his death.

Einstein InteractingPrior to the start of the war, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, warning him that the Germans were trying to develop “extremely powerful bombs of a new type.” This warning provided the impetus for the U.S. to begin the Manhattan Project, eventually developing nuclear technology to counteract the German weapons threat. Some of the work that Einstein did contributed to the knowledge base required to develop nuclear technology.

In 1955, after the U.S. had dropped the atomic bombs and the world had seen the devastation they caused, Einstein and prominent British philosopher Bertrand Russell composed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, highlighting the dangers of nuclear weapons. Einstein openly spoke of the necessity for world leaders to find peaceful ways of settling world conflicts.

Einstein’s Legacy

Einstein Tongue Out

Time magazine named Einstein the Person of the Century in December of 1999 and said of him,

“He was the pre-eminent scientist in a century dominated by science. The touchstones of the era—the Bomb, the Big Bang, quantum physics and electronics—all bear his imprint.”

We not only know Albert Einstein as the most prominent genius in world history, but also for his dry and witty sense of humor.
Hounded by paparazzi one day, he stuck his tongue out at them. Photographers captured this moment and it is now one of the quintessential images of the physicist. His bemused expression and unruly hair still delight audiences.

His work affects us today, providing the technology behind not only televisions and lasers and nuclear weapons, but also behind quantum mechanics, cellphones and satellite images. Most recently, in February 2016, scientists proved Einstein’s 1916 prediction on gravitational waves, exactly a century after he predicted their existence originally. This discovery was an absolutely groundbreaking one in the world of science, redefining the way that we look at modern physics and the electromagnetic spectrum.

It seems that we will forever be indebted to this incredible genius and German immigrant, Albert Einstein. We salute him for his contributions to scientific discovery and society.

Nisha Katti

About Nisha Katti

Nisha Katti is BlueTone's Marketing Coordinator. She specializes in content writing and social media management, among other activities. Nisha is a native of Atlanta, yet her heart will always lie with the magnificent magnolias of Athens, Georgia, where she attended the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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