Who Was Albert Einstein?

A photograph of Albert Einstein. Public Domain

Albert Einstein - Basic Information:


Nationality: German

Born: March 14, 1879
Death: April 18, 1955


  • Mileva Maric (1903 - 1919)
  • Elsa Lowenthal (1919 - 1936)

1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect" (from the official Nobel Prize announcement)

Albert Einstein - Early Work:


In 1901, Albert Einstein received his diploma as a teacher of physics and mathematics.

Unable to find a teaching position, he went to work for the Swiss Patent Office. He obtained his doctoral degree in 1905, the same year he published four significant papers, introducing the concepts of special relativity and the photon theory of light.

Albert Einstein & Scientific Revolution:


Albert Einstein's work in 1905 shook the world of physics. In his explanation of the photoelectric effect he introduced the photon theory of light. In his paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," he introduced the concepts of special relativity.

Einstein spent the rest of his life and career dealing with the consequences of these concepts, both by developing general relativity and by questioning the field of quantum physics on the principle that it was "spooky action at a distance."

In addition, another of his 1905 papers focused on an explanation of Brownian motion, observed when particles seem to randomly move when suspended in a liquid or gas.

His use of statistical methods implicitly assumed that the liquid or gas was composed of smaller particles, and thus provided evidence in support of the modern form of atomism. Prior to this, though the concept was sometimes useful, most scientists viewed these atoms as merely hypothetical mathematical constructs rather than actual physical objects.

Albert Einstein Moves to America:


In 1933, Albert Einstein renounced his German citizenship and moved to America, where he took a post at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, as a Professor of Theoretical Physics. He gained American citizenship in 1940.

He was offered the first presidency of Israel, but he declined it, though he did help found the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Misconceptions About Albert Einstein:

The rumor began circulating even while Albert Einstein was alive that he had failed mathematics courses as a child. While it is true that Einstein began to talk late - at about age 4 according to his own accounts - he never failed in mathematics, nor did he do poorly in school in general. He did fairly well in his mathematics courses throughout his education and briefly considered becoming a mathematician. He recognized early on that his gift was not in pure mathematics, a fact he lamented throughout his career as he sought out more accomplished mathematicians to assist in the formal descriptions of his theories.

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