Albert Einstein

Ideas

– Coordinate space and time are not absolute, and the simultaneity of events is observer-dependent, but the speed of light is invariant (the special theory of relativity).

– Mass is a form of energy, interchangeable with other forms according to the relation E = mc2.

– Gravitational force is locally indistinguishable from acceleration of the frame of reference (the equivalence principle).

– Gravitational fields are manifestations of curvature of spacetime, which originates in the stress-energy of the material contained therein (the general theory of relativity).

– Motion of massive bodies will create gravitational waves.

– Light exhibits quantum properties in the photoelectric effect, with photon energy related to frequency by E = hf.

– Atoms can be stimulated by the passage of light to emit more photons of the same energy.

– Observations of diffusion can be used to determine the dimensions of molecules.

– A monatomic gas such as helium should condense at low temperature into a superfluid state.

– Understanding of gravitation, electromagnetism, and other interactions should be sought in unified-field theories.

Biography

Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany, on March 14, 1879. Six weeks later the family moved to Munich and he began his schooling there at the Luitpold Gymnasium. Later, they moved to Italy and Albert continued his education at Aarau, Switzerland and in 1896 he entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich to be trained as a teacher in physics and mathematics. In 1901, the year he gained his diploma, he acquired Swiss citizenship and, as he was unable to find a teaching post, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. In 1905 he obtained his doctor’s degree.

During his stay at the Patent Office, and in his spare time, he produced much of his remarkable work and in 1908 he was appointed Privatdozent in Berne. In 1909 he became Professor Extraordinary at Zurich, in 1911 Professor of Theoretical Physics at Prague, returning to Zurich in the following year to fill a similar post. In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute and Professor in the University of Berlin. He became a German citizen in 1914 and remained in Berlin until 1933 when he renounced his citizenship for political reasons and emigrated to America to take the position of Professor of Theoretical Physics at Princeton. He became a United States citizen in 1940 and retired from his post in 1945.

After World War II, Einstein was a leading figure in the World Government Movement, he was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel, which he declined, and he collaborated with Dr. Chaim Weizmann in establishing the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance.

At the start of his scientific work, Einstein realized the inadequacies of Newtonian mechanics and his special theory of relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory: this led to an explanation of the Brownian movement of molecules. He investigated the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and his observations laid the foundation of the photon theory of light.

In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics.

In the 1920’s, Einstein embarked on the construction of unified field theories, although he continued to work on the probabilistic interpretation of quantum theory, and he persevered with this work in America. He contributed to statistical mechanics by his development of the quantum theory of a monatomic gas and he has also accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology.

After his retirement he continued to work towards the unification of the basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation, to the majority of physicists.

Albert Einstein received honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy from many European and American universities. During the 1920’s he lectured in Europe, America and the Far East and he was awarded Fellowships or Memberships of all the leading scientific academies throughout the world. He gained numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1925, and the Franklin Medal of the Franklin Institute in 1935.

Einstein’s gifts inevitably resulted in his dwelling much in intellectual solitude and, for relaxation, music played an important part in his life. He married Mileva Maric in 1903 and they had a daughter and two sons; their marriage was dissolved in 1919 and in the same year he married his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, who died in 1936.

He died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.

Major Works of Albert Einstein

– On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light (1905)
– On the Motion of Particles Suspended in a Liquid (1905)
– On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies (1905)
– Planck’s Theory of Radiation and the Theory of Specific Heats (1907)
– On the Relativity Principle and its Consequences (1908)
– On the Present State of the Radiation Problem (1909)
– The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity (1916)
– Cosmological Considerations on the General Theory of Relativity (1917)
– On the Quantum Theory of Radiation (1917)
– Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1920)
– Quantum Theory of Monatomic Ideal Gases (1925)
– Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete? (1935)

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