Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), a German physicist of Jewish origin, was one of the greatest scientists of all time. He is especially known for his theory of relativity, which he first expounded in 1905 when he was only 26 years old. His contributions to science were many.
Relativity: Einstein's theory of relativity revolutionized scientific thinking with its new conceptions of time, space, mass, motion, and gravitation. It conceived of matter and energy as equivalent and not distinct. In stating this, it laid the groundwork for controlling the release of the energy contained in the atom.
Thus, Einstein was one of the creators of the atomic age. His famous equation E = mc², where c is the speed of light, has become the cornerstone of the development of atomic energy. In elaborating his theory, he drew on deep philosophical thinking and complex mathematical reasoning.
Albert, son of Hermann Einstein and Paulina Koch Einstein, was born on March 14, 1879, in the city of Ulm, Württemberg, Germany. When he was five years old, his father showed him a pocket compass. The boy was deeply impressed by the mysterious behavior of the magnetic needle that kept facing in the same direction no matter how the compass was turned. Later, they say, he explained that he felt that "behind things, something must necessarily be hidden."
After completing his degree at the Munich (Germany) and Aarau (Switzerland) public schools, Einstein studied mathematics and physics at the Swiss Polytechnic Institute in Zurich. In 1900, he finished his degree, going to work as an expert in the Berne Patent Department, where he remained from 1902 until 1909. Working in this office left him a lot of free time, time spent in scientific experimentation. In 1905, it acquired Swiss citizenship.
During this year, Einstein presented three of his greatest contributions to scientific knowledge. The year 1905 marked an epoch in the history of physical science, for it was then that he wrote three works, published in a German scientific journal entitled Annalen der Physik (Annals of Physics), each of which became the basis of a new branch of physics.
In one of these works, Einstein suggested that light could be conceived as a stream formed of tiny particles, which he named quanta. This idea became an important part of quantum theory. Before Einstein, scientists had discovered that a bright light beam striking a metal caused it to emit electrons, which could turn into an electric current. But the scientists could not explain the phenomenon, which they had called the photeletric effect. Einstein, however, explained this effect based on his quantum theory. He showed that when quanta of light energy hit atoms of a metal, they force it to shed electrons.
Einstein's work helped to prove quantum theory. At the same time, it gave the photoelectric effect an unthinkable explanation as long as scientists continued to claim that light spread exclusively through waves. The photoelectric cell or electronic eye that is a consequence of Einstein's work made sound cinema, television, and many other inventions possible. For his work on quanta, Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics.
In a second paper, entitled The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, Einstein presented the theory of constrained relativity. By virtue of this theory, which shows the relativity of time - an idea never conceived before - the name of Einstein became widely known. In 1944, a copy of Einstein's famous manuscript on electrodynamics formed the basis for a $ 6.5 million investment in war bonuses at an auction held in Kansas City. The work was later sent to the Library of Congress in Washington. In another study, published in 1905, Einstein demonstrated the equivalence between mass and energy, expressed in his famous equation E = mc².
Einstein's third major work in 1905 concerned Brownian motion, a zigzag motion of microscopic particles suspended in a liquid or gas. This movement confirmed the atomic theory of matter.
Einstein presented these papers before assuming an academic post. But in 1909, he was appointed professor of theoretical physics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 1911 and 1912, he held an equivalent post at the German University of Prague in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. A similar function began in 1912 at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 1913, Einstein was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, based in Berlin. A year later, by accepting the post of professor of physics at the University of Berlin, he regained German citizenship. In the same year, he was appointed director of the Kaiser Guilherme Institute of Physics, also in the German capital, posts he held until 1933.
In 1915, Einstein announced that he had developed the theory of generalized relativity, based on his theory of constrained relativity. In his generalized theory, he tried to express all the laws of physics through covariant equations, that is, equations that have the same mathematical form, whatever the reference system to which they are applied. The general theory, announced in 1915, went public in 1916.
The Unitary Field Theory. Einstein was not entirely satisfied with the theory of generalized relativity, since it did not include electromagnetism. Towards the end of the 1920s, he tried to incorporate into one theory both electromagnetic and gravitational phenomena, the theory called the unitary theory of the field. But it failed to form a unitary theory of the field, although it spent 25 years of its life trying to elaborate it. Feeling the end of his life approaching, Einstein pointed to the desirability of making it clear that such a theory did not exist. He was worried that, having neither developed a theory nor shown the impossibility of its existence, perhaps no one would ever do so.
Einstein married twice. He separated from his first wife shortly after his arrival in Berlin. During World War I, he married his cousin Elsa, who died at Princeton in 1936 after faithfully sharing her life with him. From his first marriage, he had two children; with the second, he gained two stepdaughters.
Einstein was, by nature, deeply religious. However, it never linked to any orthodox religion. While finding belief in a personal god a concept too specific to be applicable to Being at work in this world, Einstein never admitted a universe characterized by chance and chaos. In the universe, he thought, absolute law and order should reign. He once said, "God may be very sophisticated, but He is not malicious."
Einstein was elected by Time magazine as the greatest personality of the twentieth century.