Nov 13, 2009

Science Hero: Albert Einstein

"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it's comprehensible" - Albert Einstein

When he was four and sick in bed, Albert Einstein's father gave him magnetic compass.

Albert practiced turning the compass every which way, soon becoming fascinated by the new toy. No matter which way he turned it, the needle would always point in the same direction, much in the way Einstein's genius and fascination with nature pointed him toward a life of scientific discovery.

Einstein's mother introduced him to music, and he became a fine violinist. He also excelled in mathematics; at 11 he studied Physics at the university level. But he was an independent thinker and hated the regimentation of the German school system.

To Albert, schools were like barracks and teachers like military commanders. When he was sixteen he ronounced his citizenship in order to avoid joining the German army, and moved to Switzerland.

Einstein sought enrollment at the renowned Zurich Polytechnic but did not pass the entrance exam as a result of his poor French. However, after a year of reading on his own, he passed the exam and spent four years studying math and physics at the Polytechnic.

Einstein had trouble finding an assistant professorship, in part because of the pervasive anti-semitism in Europe at the time. Finally, in 1902, he accepted a position with the Swiss Patent Office in Bern reviewing patent applications. While there, he wrote papers that would papers that would revolutionize the study of physics.

One of these papers was developed from an essay he wrote when he was 16. This 1905 publication is known as the 'Special Theory of Relativity.' It introduced an entirely new concept of time and motion.

As a mathematical addition to this theory, Einstein introduced his famous equation, E=mc2 , which he called 'energy-mass equivalence'.

As result of his 1905 papers, Einstein was regarded as the rising star of theoretical physics. Towards the end of 1913, he was invited to Berlin where he was off
ered a job at the University of Berlin free of teaching obligations. He did exactly what he wanted to do: theoretical research.

In 1916, about halfway through the First World War, Einstein published his famous General Theory of Relativity. In this new theory, one of the main predictions was concerned with the deflection of light in a gravitational field. This prediction was tested during the May, 1919 Solar Eclipse by two British Astronomer eclipse expeditions.

The results from these expeditions agreed with Einstein's theory, and laid the foundation for Einstein's world fame; he became an overnight celebrity. In November 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

By Richard V. Duffy,

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