Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is considered the most important scientist
of the twentieth century. He was born to a middle-class German Jewish family.
His parents were concerned that he scarcely talked until the age of three, but
he was not so much a backward as a quiet child. He would build tall houses of
cards and hated playing soldier. At the age of twelve he was fascinated by a
geometry book. At the age of fifteen Albert quit high school, and followed his
The year 1905 is considered as his Miraculous Year (Annus Mirabilis). Einstein wrote three fundamental papers, all in a few months. The first paper claimed that light must sometimes behave like a stream of particles with discrete energies, "quanta." The second paper offered an experimental test for the theory of heat. The third paper addressed a central puzzle for physicists of the day – the connection between electromagnetic theory and ordinary motion – and solved it using the "principle of relativity."
Einstein became an assistant professor at the
After a decade of thought, Einstein completed his
general theory of relativity in 1915. Overturning ancient notions of space and
time, he reached a new understanding of gravity. Meanwhile he continued to sign
petitions for peace. As
Aided by his fame, Einstein championed the fledgling
German republican government and other liberal causes. Partly as a result of
this, he and his theory of relativity came under vicious attack from
anti-Semites. He began travelling, attended an International Trade Union
Einstein, together with other famous intellectuals (including Marie Curie, discoverer of radium), was invited to become a member of the League's Committee on Intellectual Co-operation (photo: League of Nations Photo Archive), aiming to mobilise international intelligentsia to work for peace. Believing 'that science is and always will be international,' Einstein was happy to join.
But when the League was
unable to deal with the French re-occupation of the
But he did not renounce the principles of the League.
A year later, he said, with characteristic honesty, 'I've come to feel that I
was influenced more by a mood of disillusionment than by clear thinking,' and
re-joined the Committee. Its members grew very fond of him. 'He was a
delightful colleague. The only points on which we had differences were due to
his special kindliness. He was unwilling to condemn anyone.' Committee members
were invited to give a lecture to the students of
He attended meetings regularly until 1930, but then
withdrew: the committee lacked 'the determination needed to make real progress
towards better international relations', and, essentially a man who worked
alone, he doubted his own suitability for committees. On the
Einstein contributed to the struggling new quantum theory. Meanwhile, he searched for a way to unify the theories of electromagnetism and gravity. In 1929 he announced a unified field theory, but the mathematics could not be compared with experiments; his struggle toward a useful theory had only begun. Meanwhile he argued with his colleagues, challenging their belief that quantum theory can give a complete description of phenomena.
Unwilling to live in
In 1939 Einstein signed a letter that informed President F. D. Roosevelt of the possibility of nuclear bombs, warning that the Germans might try to build them. The next year Einstein became an American citizen.
In 1952 Einstein was asked to become the second President of the State of Israel, but declined. He was supporting many causes, such as the United Nations and world government, nuclear disarmament, and civil liberties.
The search for a true unified field theory for a more
profound understanding of nature continued to fill Einstein's days. While
corresponding about a new anti-war project and writing a speech for
The UNESCO Albert Einstein Gold Medal was created in 1979 to commemorate the centenary of Einstein’s birth. It is awarded by UNESCO’s Director-General to outstanding figures who have made a major contribution to science and international cooperation.
Article on Alert Einstein in Wikipedia.
The UNESCO Albert Einstein Gold Medal, designed by Max Léognany, issued in 1979.
Open letter to the General Assembly of the United Nations, October 1947.
Documents and speeches from the 1921 Nobel Peace Prize presentation.
Stamp catalogue - birth centenary
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Stamp catalogue - 25th death anniversary