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Person of the Century

Albert Einstein

The year 1905 changed the face of Science in general and Physics in particular. It changed our view of the world and presented before us a genius, whose works inspired further research in many areas of science. 26 year old Albert Einstein wrote his legendary articles which provided the basis for three fundamental fields in physics: the theory of relativity, quantum theory, and the theory of Brownian motion.

Writing about the man himself and his works is indeed a difficult task! Considering that science never ceases to progress and that we may still have much to unravel from Einstein’s life and his work! He truly lives up to the cliché that actions speak louder than words! Introducing this great scientist in our page here is humbling and would be like showing light to the bright sun! However, the more we learn about the stalwart, the more we are gripped by awe and young minds are indeed spurred by scientific temper to pursue their goals!

What would be more better than having a peek into his life and works, which have galvanized development in science and helped disentangle some of the mysteries of nature that have always guided man’s thinking!

The world welcomed Albert Einstein on March 14, 1879 and Germany had the privilege of doing the honours! He was not “born intelligent” as one would think! In fact there were no early signs of his intellectual abilities. He was a slow talker, but showed from childhood the concentration and perseverance of a great man in the making. During his school years he disliked rigid methods of instruction and was termed disruptive by the school officials. Little did they know then, that this disruptive "kid" would metamorphose into a Nobel Laureate and transform scientific thought beyond imagination!

In 1898, young Albert Einstein applied for admission to the Munich Technical Institute and was turned down. The young man, the Institute declared, "showed no promise" as a student. Hold your breath by 1905, in a space of seven years he had formulated his special theory of relativity!

He was however fascinated by mathematics and science and once wrote "I imagine myself becoming a teacher in those branches of the natural sciences, choosing the theoretical part of them”.

From an early age itself Einstein showed independent thinking, which proved to be the strongest aspect of his personality. Einstein announced his decision to drop his German Nationality on grounds of chauvinism and abandon the Jewish community, for he disliked the narrow mindedness of relegion. He believed that a nation like Switzerland, devoid of an over ambitious constitution, would be preferable to settle in.

Einstein graduated in 1900 as a teacher of mathematics and physics. By mid 1901 he had a temporary job as a teacher, teaching mathematics. He later entered the Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, Switzerland, where he earned a doctorate in Physics in 1905. The same year he published three research papers which revolutionised scientific thought.

In the first of these papers, Einstein examined Max Planck’s discovery, according to which electromagnetic energy radiates from objects in discreet quantities. The energy of these quanta was directly proportional to the frequency of the radiation. This seemed to contradict classical electromagnetic theory, based on Maxwell's equations and the laws of thermodynamics, which proposed that electromagnetic energy consisted of waves which could contain only small discretepackets of energy. Einstein used Planck's quantum hypothesis to describe the electromagnetic radiation of light.

His second paper was on what we call today…the Special Theory Of Relativity. He based his new theory on the fact that the laws of physics had to have the same form in any frame of reference. As a second fundamental hypothesis, Einstein assumed that the speed of light remained constant in all frames of reference.

Later in 1905 Einstein showed how mass and energy were equivalent. His equation E = mc2 is considered to be the most famous equation, known to all students of science!

The Third of his papers was concerned with statistical mechanics, a field explored by Ludwig Boltzmann and Josiah Gibbs.

As regarded by many, Einstein did not receive the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his work on relativity, but for the photoelectric effect.

In 1915 Einstein proposed the General Theory of Relativity as an extension of the Special Theory. His work could provide a sound explanation for the vast amounts of energy released from the nucleus. He had reinforced the kinetic theory, and he had created a powerful new tool for studying atoms. "THE ATOMIC BOMB". Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt in this regard. However after the bombings at Nagasaki and Hiroshima he greatly regretted having written the letter. Probably for the first time Einstein realized the detrimental effects that science could have, and that it could “kill” if not used carefully.


His General Theory of Relativity, proposed that matter causes space to curve. Smaller masses travel toward larger masses not because they are "attracted" by a mysterious force, but because the smaller objects travel through space that is warped by the larger object. The basic postulate of the Theory of General Relativity states that a uniform gravitational field (like that near the Earth) is equivalent to a uniform acceleration. What this means, in effect, is that a person cannot tell the difference between (a) standing on the Earth, feeling the effects of gravity as a downward pull and (b) standing in a very smooth elevator that is accelerating upwards at just the right rate of exactly 32 feet per second squared.

In both cases, a person would feel the same downward pull of gravity. Einstein asserted that these effects were actually the same. A far cry from Newton's view of gravity as a force acting at a distance!

Einstein had a way with words! To a layman he described relativity as.”When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours - that's relativity."

His work no doubt helped us in expanding our scientific horizon; however his approach to work teaches us humility. On this note….EINSTEIN came to Princeton University in 1935 and was asked what he would require for his study. He replied: "A desk, some pads and a pencil, and a large wastebasket to hold all of my mistakes." He was modest in his endevour to get to the top and believed that it is only through mistakes that one can accomplish success.


Celebrity so annoyed Albert Einstein that he once listed his occupation as "artist's model" - a hilarious claim, particularly given his penchant for moth-eaten sweaters and his famous flyaway hair!!

The world bid adieu to this “model” and “great Mind” on 18th April 1955. Einstein, however, continues to live through his immortal works. In the words of Lord Tennyson, one could rightly say about Einstein.

“And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.”

Events in Einstein's life
About Einstein
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