Today is the day when one of the most famous figures in history came to America from his native Germany: Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
In fact, Time magazine voted him the Person of the Century for the 20th Century. Additionally, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 at the tender young age of 42, the Copley Medal in 1925, and the Max Planck Medal in 1929.
Einstein was almost a man without a country since his citizenship changed often, usually due to wars:
- Kingdom of Württemburg, German Empire, 1879-1896
- Stateless, 1896-1901
- Switzerland, 1901-1955
- Austria, 1911-1912
- Germany, 1914-1933
- United States, 1940-1955
He arrived in the United States on October 17, 1933, and obtained citizenship seven years later. When he died in 1955, he had dual citizenship in Switzerland and the United States.
Einstein probably is most famous for what appears on its surface to be a very simple equation explaining the relationship between mass and energy:
Interestingly, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics not for his most famous equation but for subsequent work explaining the photoelectric effect whereby electrons are cast off by matter in response to absorbing energy, even though the effect was first observed by Heinrich Hertz in 1887.
What does the photoelectric mean to you and me? Solar heating for your swimming pool. Semiconductors for our computers and smart phones. Electric current to make everything work. Vacuum tubes for our older radios and televisions. Image sensors for our digital cameras and plasma televisions. Night vision devices.
So modern technology is all his fault!
Here are some other interesting items about Albert Einstein:
- Considered the Father of Modern Physics.
- Failed his entrance examination to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich -- ETH Zurich -- one of the top universities in the world.
- Renounced his citizenship in the Kingdom of Württemberg to avoid military service. Hmmm. A draft dodger!
- He and his wife, Mileva, also a physicist, had two sons and one daughter. Their daughter, Lieserl, is known only from correspondence between Albert and Mileva, and her date of birth and her fate after 1903 are unknown.
- Albert and Mileva married in 1903 and divorced in February 1919. Just four months later, Albert married Elsa Löwenthal with whom he had been having an affair since 1912. Else was his first cousin maternally and his second cousin paternally. Figure that one out. Doesn't sound romantic to me.
- After graduating from ETH Zurich, Einstein was unemployed for two years before finding employment at the Bern, Germany, patent office.
- Although most of his published work was about physics, he also has published works expressing leftist political leanings about pacificism, socialism, and zionism.
- 1905 is called Einstein's "Miracle Year" because four of his papers were published by the German physics journal Annalen der Physik. Those four papers are now recognized as revolutionary.
- Einstein's work is directly responsible for the knowledge that light waves can be bent, such as during a solar eclipse.
- His work in 1917 was responsible for the development of masers and lasers.
- After World War II, Einstein wrote, "I do not know how the third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth - rocks!"
- Thomas Stoltz Harvey, pathologist of Princeton Hospital where Einstein died, removed Einstein's brain for preservation, without the permission of his family, hoping that future neuroscientists will be able to discover what made him so intelligent.
- Einstein's association with great intelligence has made the name Einstein synonymous with genius, often used in expressions such as "Nice job, Einstein!"
- For many decades it was reported that Einstein gave the Nobel prize money directly to his first wife, Mileva, in compliance with their 1919 divorce settlement. Personal correspondence made public in 2006 shows that he invested most of it in the United States and saw much of it wiped out in the Great Depression.
- Einsteinium, chemical element 99, is named after him.
- "Person of the Century: Albert Einstein," Time magazine
- "Person of the Century: Why We Chose Einstein," Time magazine
- "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History," by Michael Hart
- "The Complete Idiot's Guide To Understanding Einstein," by Gary Moring
- "Einstein's Brainchild," by Barry Parker
- "The Universe in a Nutshell," by Stephen Hawking.
- "Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist," by Paul Schilpp, editor
- "The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late," by Thomas Sowell
- "Albert Einstein: A Biography," by Albrecht Folsing
- "Einstein for Beginners," by J. Schwartz and M. McGuinness
- "Einstein: A Life," by Dennis Brian
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