Albert Einstien



Men and Women of Science

Albert Einstein







Early Life

Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on Mar. 14, 1879. Einstein\'s parents, who were non observant Jews, moved from Ulm to Munich, Germany when Einstein was an infant. The family business was the manufacture of electrical parts. When the business failed, in 1894, the family moved to Milan, Italy. At this time Einstein decided officially to end his German citizenship. Within a year, still without having completed secondary school, Einstein failed an examination that would have allowed him to pursue a course of study leading to a diploma as an electrical engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. He spent the next year in nearby Aarau at the cantonal secondary school, where he enjoyed excellent teachers and first-rate facilities in physics. Einstein returned in 1896 to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where he graduated, in 1900 as a secondary school teacher of mathematics and physics.
After two years he obtained a post at the Swiss patent office in Bern. The patent-office work required Einstein\'s careful attention, but while employed (1902-1909) there, he completed an astonishing range of publications in theoretical physics. For the most part these texts were written in his spare time and without the benefit of close contact with either the scientific literature or theoretician colleagues. Einstein submitted one of his scientific papers to the University of Zurich to obtain a Ph.D. degree in 1905. In 1908 he sent a second paper to the University of Bern and became a lecturer there. The next year Einstein received a regular appointment as associate professor of physics at the University of Zurich.
By 1909, Einstein was recognized throughout German-speaking Europe as a leading scientific thinker. In quick succession he held professorships at the German University of Prague and at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. In 1914 he advanced to the most prestigious and best-paying post that a theoretical physicist could hold in central Europe, professor at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft in Berlin.

The 1905 papers

In the first of three papers that were published in 1905, Einstein examined the phenomenon discovered by Max Planck, according to which electromagnetic energy seemed to be emitted from radiating objects in quantities that were ultimately discrete. The energy of these emitted quantities, the so-called light-quanta was directly proportional to the frequency of the radiation. This circumstance was perplexing because classical electromagnetic theory, based on Maxwell\'s equations and the laws of thermodynamics, had assumed that electromagnetic energy consisted of waves propagating in a hypothetical, all-pervasive medium called the luminiferous ether, and that the waves could contain any amount of energy no matter how small. Einstein used Planck\'s quantum hypothesis to describe visible electromagnetic radiation, or light. According to Einstein\'s resourceful viewpoint, light could be imagined to consist of discrete bundles of radiation. Einstein used this interpretation to explain the photoelectric effect, by which certain metals emit electrons when illuminated by light with a given frequency. Einstein\'s theory, and his subsequent elaboration of it, formed the basis for much of quantum mechanics.
The second of Einstein\'s 1905 papers proposed what is today called the special theory of relativity. At the time Einstein knew that, according to Hendrik Antoon Lorentz\'s theory of electrons, the mass of an electron increased as the velocity of the electron approached the velocity of light. Einstein also knew that the electron theory, based on Maxwell\'s equations, carried along with it the assumption of a luminiferous ether, but that attempts to detect the physical properties of the ether had not succeeded. Einstein realized that the equations describing the motion of an electron in fact could describe the nonaccelerated motion of any particle or any suitably defined rigid body. He based his new kinematics on a reinterpretation of the classical principle of relativity, 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, as required by classical Maxwellian theory. Einstein abandoned the hypothesis of the ether, for it played no role in his kinematics or in his reinterpretation of Lorentz\'s theory of electrons. As a consequence of his theory Einstein recovered the phenomenon of time dilatation, wherein time, analogous to length and mass, is a function of the