Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 to April 18, 1955) was a German mathematician and physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for physics for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. In the following decade, he immigrated to the U.S. after being targeted by the Nazis. His work also had a major impact on the development of atomic energy. In his later years, Einstein focused on unified field theory. With his passion for inquiry, Einstein is generally considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century.As a physicist, Einstein had many discoveries, but he is perhaps best known for his theory of relativity and the equation E=MC2, which foreshadowed the development of atomic power and the atomic bomb.
Theory of Relativity
Einstein first proposed a special theory of relativity in 1905 in his paper, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” taking physics in an electrifying new direction. By November 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity. Einstein considered this theory the culmination of his life research. He was convinced of the merits of general relativity because it allowed for a more accurate prediction of planetary orbits around the sun, which fell short in Isaac Newton’s theory, and for a more expansive, nuanced explanation of how gravitational forces worked. Einstein’s assertions were affirmed via observations and measurements by British astronomers Sir Frank Dyson and Sir Arthur Eddington during the 1919 solar eclipse, and thus a global science icon was born.
Einstein’s 1905 paper on the matter/energy relationship proposed the equation E=MC2: energy of a body (E) is equal to the mass (M) of that body times the speed of light squared (C2). This equation suggested that tiny particles of matter could be converted into huge amounts of energy, a discovery that heralded atomic power. Famed quantum theorist Max Planck backed up the assertions of Einstein, who thus became a star of the lecture circuit and academia, taking on various positions before becoming director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1913 to 1933.