Albert Einstein’s biography - Студенческий научный форум

XII Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2020

Albert Einstein’s biography

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Albert Einstein years of life (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955), was a German-born Jewish theoretical physicist of profound genius, who is widely regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20-th century and one of the greatest scientists of all time. He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect in 1905 and "for his services to Theoretical Physics".

After his general theory of relativity was formulated in November 1915, Einstein became world famous, an unusual achievement for a scientist. In his later years, his fame exceeded that of any other scientist in history. In popular culture, his name has become synonymous with great intelligence and even genius.

Einstein himself was deeply concerned with the social impact of scientific discovery. His reverence for all creation, his belief in the grandeur, beauty, and sublimity of the universe (the primary source of inspiration in science), his awe for the scheme that is manifested in the material universe - all of these show through in his work and philosophy.


Youth and college

Einstein was born at Ulm in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, about 100 km east of Stuttgart. His parents were Hermann Einstein, a featherbed salesman who later ran an electrochemical works, and Pauline, whose maiden name was Koch. They were married in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt. The family was Jewish (non-observant); Albert attended a Catholic elementary school and, at the insistence of his mother, was given violin lessons.

At age five, his father showed him a pocket compass, and Einstein realized that something in "empty" space acted upon the needle; he would later describe the experience as one of the most revelatory of his life. Though he built models and mechanical devices for fun, he was considered a slow learner, possibly due to dyslexia, simple shyness, or the significantly rare and unusual structure of his brain (examined after his death). He later credited his development of the theory of relativity to this slowness, saying that by pondering space and time later than most children, he was able to apply a more developed intellect. Another, more recent, theory about his mental development is that he had Asperger's syndrome, a condition related to autism.

Einstein attended the Luitpold Gymnasium where he received a relatively progressive education. He began to learn mathematics around age twelve. There is a recurring rumor that he failed mathematics later in his education, but this is untrue; a change in the way grades were assigned caused confusion years later. Two of his uncles fostered his intellectual interests during his late childhood and early adolescence by suggesting and providing books on science, mathematics and philosophy.

In 1894, following the failure of Hermann's electrochemical business, the Einsteins moved from Munich to Pavia, Italy (near Milan). During this year, Einstein's first scientific work was written (called "The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields"). Albert remained behind in Munich lodgings to finish school, completing only one term before leaving the gymnasium in spring 1895 to rejoin his family in Pavia. He quit without telling his parents and a year and a half prior to final examinations, Einstein convinced the school to let him go with a medical note from a friendly doctor, but this meant he had no secondary-school certificate.

Despite excelling in the mathematics and science portion, his failure of the liberal arts portion of the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Zurich) entrance exam the following year was a setback; his family sent him to Aarau, Switzerland, to finish secondary school, where he received his diploma in September 1896. During this time he lodged with Professor Jost Winteler's family and became enamoured with Marie, their daughter, his first sweetheart. Albert's sister Maja was to later marry their son Paul, and his friend Michele Besso married their other daughter Anna. Einstein subsequently enrolled at the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in October and moved to Zurich, while Marie moved to Olsberg for a teaching post. The same year, he renounced his Wurttemberg citizenship and became stateless.

In the spring of 1896, the Serbian Mileva Maric (an acquaintance of Nikola Tesla) started initially as a medical student at the University of Zurich, but after a term switched to the same section as Einstein as the only woman that year to study for the same diploma. Einstein's relationship with Mileva developed into romance over the next few years.

In 1900, he was granted a teaching diploma by the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH Zurich) and was accepted as a Swiss citizen in 1901. He kept his Swiss passport for his whole life. During this time Einstein discussed his scientific interests with a group of close friends, including Mileva. He and Mileva had an illegitimate daughter Lieserl, born in January 1902.

Work and doctorate

Upon graduation, Einstein could not find a teaching post, mostly because his brashness as a young man had apparently irritated most of his professors. The father of a classmate helped him obtain employment as a technical assistant examiner at the Swiss Patent Office in 1902. There, Einstein judged the worth of inventors' patent applications for devices that required a knowledge of physics to understand. He also learned how to discern the essence of applications despite sometimes poor descriptions, and was taught by the director how "to express myself correctly". He occasionally rectified their design errors while evaluating the practicality of their work.

Einstein married Mileva Maric on January 6, 1903. Einstein's marriage to Maric, who was a mathematician, was both a personal and intellectual partnership: Einstein referred to Mileva as "a creature who is my equal and who is as strong and independent as I am". Ronald W. Clark, a biographer of Einstein, claimed that Einstein depended on the distance that existed in his and Mileva's marriage in order to have the solitude necessary to accomplish his work; he required intellectual isolation. Abram Joffe, a Soviet physicist who knew Einstein, in an obituary of Einstein, wrote, "The author of [the papers of 1905] was.. a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern, Einstein-Maric" and this has recently been taken as evidence of a collaborative relationship. However, according to Alberto A. Martinez of the Center for Einstein Studies at Boston University, Joffe only ascribed authorship to Einstein, as he believed that it was a Swiss custom at the time to append the spouse's last name to the husband's name. Whatever the truth, the extent of her influence on Einstein's work is a highly controversial and debated question.

On May 14, 1904, the couple's first son, Hans Albert Einstein, was born. In 1904, Einstein's position at the Swiss Patent Office was made permanent. He obtained his doctorate after submitting his thesis "A new determination of molecular dimensions" ("Eine neue Bestimmung der Molekuldimensionen") in 1905.

That same year, he wrote four articles that provided the foundation of modern physics, without much scientific literature to which he could refer or many scientific colleagues with whom he could discuss the theories. Most physicists agree that three of those papers (on Brownian motion, the photoelectric effect, and special relativity) deserved Nobel Prizes. Only the paper on the photoelectric effect would win one. This is ironic, not only because Einstein is far better-known for relativity, but also because the photoelectric effect is a quantum phenomenon, and Einstein became somewhat disenchanted with the path quantum theory would take. What makes these papers remarkable is that, in each case, Einstein boldly took an idea from theoretical physics to its logical consequences and managed to explain experimental results that had baffled scientists for decades.

Annus Mirabilis Papers

Einstein submitted the series of papers to the "Annalen der Physik". They are commonly referred to as the "Annus Mirabilis Papers" (from Annus mirabilis, Latin for 'year of wonders'). The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) plans to commemorate the 100th year of the publication of Einstein's extensive work in 1905 as the 'World Year of Physics 2005'.

The first paper, named "On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light", ("Uber einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunkt") proposed the idea of "energy quanta" (which underlies the concept of what are now called photons) and showed how it could be used to explain such phenomena as the photoelectric effect. This paper was specifically cited for his Nobel Prize.

His second article in 1905, named "On the Motion - Required by the Molecular Kinetic Theory of Heat - of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid", ("Uber die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Warme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flussigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen") covered his study of Brownian motion, and provided empirical evidence for the existence of atoms.

Einstein's third paper that year, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" ("Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Korper"), was published on June 30, 1905. While developing this paper, Einstein wrote to Mileva about "our work on relative motion", and this has led some to ask whether Mileva played a part in its development. This paper introduced the special theory of relativity, a theory of time, distance, mass and energy which was consistent with electromagnetism, but omitted the force of gravity.

A fourth paper, "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?", ("Ist die Tragheit eines Korpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhangig?") published late in 1905, showed one further deduction from relativity's axioms, the famous equation that the energy of a body at rest (E) equals its mass (m) times the speed of light (c) squared.

Institute for Advanced Study

His work at the Institute for Advanced Study focused on the unification of the laws of physics, which he referred to as the Unified Field Theory. He attempted to construct a model which would describe all of the fundamental forces as different manifestations of a single force. His attempt was hindered because the strong and weak nuclear forces were not understood independently until around 1970, fifteen years after Einstein's death. Einstein's goal of unifying the laws of physics under a single model survives in the current drive for unification of the forces, embodied most notably by string theory.

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