Albert Einstein: The most influential physicist of the 20th century



Mon, 18 Apr 2022 - 01:43 GMT


Mon, 18 Apr 2022 - 01:43 GMT

Albert Einstein is seen during a visit to Washington, D.C., in the 1920s-PHOTOGRAPH BY HARRIS&EWING, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Albert Einstein is seen during a visit to Washington, D.C., in the 1920s-PHOTOGRAPH BY HARRIS&EWING, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

CAIRO – 18 April 2022: According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm in Württemberg, Germany and died on April 18, 1955 in Princeton, New Jersey, in the United States


He was a German-born physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Einstein is generally considered the most influential physicist of the twentieth century.




Einstein and his sister Maja during childhood
Einstein and his sister Maja during childhood.




Einstein's parents were secular, middle-class Jews. His father, Hermann Einstein, was originally a household salesman and later ran a factory. His mother, Pauline Koch, was a homemaker. He had one sister, Maja, who was born two years after himself.


In his early years, he was affected by two things. The first was that when he obtained a compass at the age of five, he was puzzled by those invisible forces that led to the deflection of the needle. The second thing happened at the age of twelve when he discovered a book of geometry that he devoured, and described it as "the little geometry bible."


Einstein became so religious at the age of 12 that he composed several songs in praise of God and chanted religious songs on the way to school. However, that began to change after he read scientific books that contradicted his religious beliefs.


Another important influence on Einstein was that of the young medical student Max Talmud (later Max Talmey), who often dined at Einstein's house. Talmud became his teacher and led Einstein to learn about mathematics and philosophy.


A pivotal turning point in Einstein's life occurred when he was 16 years old, when Talmud introduced him to Aaron Bernstein's series of science books, which are simple books on physics.


Here, Einstein asked himself the question that will dominate his thinking for the next ten years, which is: What would a beam of light look like if you could run alongside it? If the light is a wave, then the light ray must appear stationary, like a frozen wave.


Einstein's education was disrupted by his father's repeated failures at work. In 1894, after his father's company failed to obtain an important contract to supply Munich with electricity, Hermann Einstein moved to Milan to work with a relative and left his son at a boarding school in Munich to complete his education.


Six months later, Einstein fled to his parents because of loneliness and the prospect of being drafted into the military, something that began to loom large when he was 16.


Realizing the enormous problems their son faced as a school dropout and military deserter with no job skills, his parents had no promising prospects.


His parents enrolled him in a private secondary school run by Jost Winteler in Aarau, Switzerland, and he graduated in 1896 at the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology, renouncing his German citizenship at that time.


He remained stateless until 1901, when he obtained Swiss citizenship. He became a lifelong friend to the Winteler family, with whom he resided.


Perhaps Einstein reached the lowest point in his life in 1902, when he could not marry his lover and classmate, Mileva Maric, who left Switzerland for her country, Serbia, after her pregnancy due to Einstein's inability to support a family without a job, as his father went bankrupt.


Einstein worked at that time in a modest job educating children, but he was eventually fired. The turning point came later that year, when the father of his friend Marcel Grossmann was able to nominate him for a position as a clerk at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern.


Moreover, Einstein's job at the patent office was a blessing, as he quickly finished analyzing patent applications to allow him time to study and unleash his scientific dreams and aspirations.




Mileva Maric, a Serbian physicist, and her husband Albert Einstein in 1905
Mileva Maric, a Serbian physicist, and her husband Albert Einstein in 1905.




With a small but steady income for the first time, Einstein felt confident enough to marry Mileva Maric, which he did on January 6, 1903.


At that time, Einstein's father fell seriously ill, and shortly before his death he blessed his son's marriage to Mileva Maric.


But were there any problems with their marriage?


“His mother vehemently opposed their marriage,” is the explanation offered by Hanoch Gutfreund, one of the authors of “Einstein on Einstein: Reflections on His Biography and Science.”


Gutfreund told BBC that Einstein's mother felt the marriage would spoil his future: "She even warned him that her pregnancy (Mileva) would be a disaster. An extramarital pregnancy was a major scandal at the time."


Also, Gutfreund reveals that the two were in love with each other. Their relationship likely began when Einstein was twenty-three, and Mileva was nineteen.


Both were studying physics at the Zurich Federal Institute of Technology, with Mileva being the only student in the class, and the second woman to graduate from the mathematics and physics department.


Walter Isaacson, author of “Einstein: His Life and the Universe”, says Einstein's letters reveal as much the strength of his feelings for Mileva as they reveal his mother's rejection of her.


In one of his letters he wrote: "My parents weep as if I am dead. They keep complaining that I have shamed myself by being faithful to you. They think you are not in good health."


However, Einstein followed his heart. He wrote to Mileva while she was pregnant, promising her that he would be a good husband. "The only problem left is to find a way for Lieserl (their newborn daughter) to stay with us. I don't want to give her up."


Lieserl, the first daughter of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric, was born in 1902, not yet married.


Rosenkranz says that the fate of this daughter is unknown. "We don't know what exactly happened to her two years after her birth. Her memory is lost in her father's history."


Einstein knew very well how difficult it was to have an "illegitimate child" in society, especially for someone who wanted to become a public official of great importance.


It seems that Einstein never saw his daughter. When the time came for Mileva to return to Switzerland, she left Lieserl with her relatives in Serbia.


Rosenkranz also says that some journalists and historians "went to Serbia and tried to trace Lieserl and search for any documents, records or official papers, but their attempts were unsuccessful."


He added, "The last mention of her was when she was two years old, as she had a high fever, and we do not know if she lived after that."


The disappearance of any mention of Lieserl after that sparked a lot of speculation. "Maybe they put her up for adoption, maybe she died. We don't know," Rosenkranz said.


It is most likely that Einstein, who died in 1955, did not tell anyone about his daughter.


Even the "Einstein Documents" team did not know of the existence of the daughter before 1986, when they discovered part of his correspondence with Mileva.


By 1903, Mileva had returned from Serbia, they were married, and the following year, they had a son, Hans Albert. Their son, Edward, was born in 1910, after the family moved to Zurich.


Einstein kept feeling very sad, when he remembered that his father had died thinking he was a failure.



There was also another sad story in his life related to his younger son.



Edward (left) and Hans Albert (right) in their childhood
Edward (left) and Hans Albert (right) in their childhood.




"I think Einstein had a hard time coming to terms with his son's mental illness," says Ze’ev Rosenkranz, editor-in-chief of the “Einstein Documents” project.


Edward, was Einstein's youngest child. The family had been concerned about his physical health from a young age, as his mental health problems did not appear until he was an adult.


"His life was very tragic," Rosenkranz told the BBC. When he contracted pneumonia in 1917, Einstein wrote to a friend: "The state of my youngest son's health makes me very disappointed."


Despite that, "Edward excelled in his studies, and was interested in arts, composing poetry and playing the piano," as stated in the book "Einstein's Encyclopedia."


Edward engaged in discussions with his father about music and philosophy, which Einstein said it revealed to him that his son was "straining his mind about the important things in life".




Albert Einstein became romantically involved with his cousin Elsa while he was married to Mileva.
Albert Einstein became romantically involved with his cousin Elsa while he was married to Mileva.




With Einstein immersed in his work, his relationship with Mileva deteriorated sharply. What made matters worse was his romantic relationship with his cousin Elsa.


By 1914, the family was living in Berlin, but their marriage was deteriorating, mostly due to Einstein's hateful manner in dealing with Mileva, which led her to return to Switzerland.


They divorced in 1919, but Gutfreund says it was difficult for Einstein to be separated from his children, and he tried to preserve his relationship with his two sons.


As Rosenkranz noted, "he was a very loving father." Eduard Einstein dreamed of becoming a psychiatrist, and was interested in the theories of Sigmund Freud. He was studying medicine when he was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Switzerland in 1932, at the age of twenty-two. He was diagnosed in 1933 with schizophrenia.


This "hurt Einstein a lot," said Gutfreund. In one of his letters he stated: "The best son, whom I consider to be the most like myself, has an incurable mental illness."


In 1933, as the threat of Nazism increased in Germany, Einstein was forced to leave for the United States.  After his departure from Germany, "Einstein visited his son Edward for the last time," as stated in the Einstein Encyclopedia: "Father and son will never meet again."


At that time, Mileva was the primary caretaker of Edward. When his symptoms worsened -and perhaps her illness also worsened- it was best for him to be kept in a psychiatric hospital.


After her death in 1948, Einstein hired a paid guardian to make arrangements for Edward. "I don't think there has been any correspondence between son and father in all these years," Rosenkranz says.


According to Isaacson, Edward was not allowed to immigrate to the United States due to his mental state. Edward spent his last years in a psychiatric hospital, until he died of a heart attack in 1965 at the age of 55.




Screen Shot 2022-04-18 at 3.45.09 AM
1936 photo of Albert Einstein, his son Hans Albert and his grandson Bernard.




The eldest son, Hans Albert, studied civil engineering at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Einstein bragged about his son in a 1924 letter, in which he wrote, "My son Albert has become a man of skill and ability."

Hans Albert graduated in 1926, and by 1936 had become a Doctor of Technical Sciences. In 1938, Hans Albert immigrated to the United States following the advice of his father, and continued his studies there, specializing in the movement of geological deposits.


In a letter written by Albert Einstein in 1954, he greatly praised his son Hans, saying that he had inherited from him "the chief quality of his character, the ability to transcend ordinary effort by insisting on devoting all his faculties to an impersonal goal".


But there were differences between them, as the father did not approve of the wife chosen by Hans.


Mileva agreed with Albert Einstein on this position, but Hans Albert insisted on his position and married philologist Frieda Knecht in 1927.


In time, Albert Einstein accepted his son's decision and welcomed Frieda - who brought three grandchildren into his family.


According to Gutfreund, although contacts and visits continued, Hans Albert and his father lived apart. The first remained on the West Coast of the United States, while the second lived on the East Coast at Princeton University.


He added that Albert Einstein had started a new life with his second family, consisting of Elsa and her two daughters from a previous marriage.


After Frieda's death in 1958, Hans Albert married biochemist Elizabeth Roboz, who remained with him until his death in 1973 due to a heart attack, at the age of 69.


Isaacson says that Einstein once told Mileva that "his two sons are the best part of his private life, and they are a lasting extension of his life after his body perishes."


But, being the son of a famous genius is not easy. Edward himself once wrote: "Sometimes it is hard to have a father so important, because it makes me feel insignificant."


As for Hans Albert, who was born before his father published the theory of relativity, when asked how he felt as the son of such a famous scientist, he said, "It would have been hopeless if I had not learned to laugh in the face of harassment from my childhood," and then elaborated on what makes his father exceptional.



In a short speech given by the famous Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw, delivered in honor of the scientist Albert Einstein in 1930, it was stated that “Napoleon and great men like him built empires, but Einstein and his ilk built entire universes, without shedding a single drop of the blood of his fellow men.”


Einstein began working on this idea in 1907 and was still working at the patent office in Bern. But serious work on this theory began as soon as he left the patent office in 1909 to take the position of professor at the University of Zurich, and he developed the idea until he presented it to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1915.


Einstein's intellectual achievement is unique, as the depth of his physical theory and its mathematical beauty are unprecedented in the history of modern science. The starting point for this theory came from an idea that came to Einstein in 1907, which he described as "the happiest idea of his life".


That idea, came to him when he was sitting in his office and saw from his window workers working on the roof of the opposite building. He realized that objects -as they fall- are in a state of weightlessness.  That is, weightlessness is equivalent to free fall, as is the case with astronauts, who move under the influence of gravity when they orbit around the Earth. This idea resulted in one of the two basic principles of his theory known as the "equivalence principle". The other principle in his theory is the principle of relativity, which he also used in developing the special theory of relativity.


This small idea, which he reached with his wild imagination and stubborn thought, led to a complete revolution in physics and its understanding of nature.


Einstein completed his theory while working at the University of Berlin during the First World War years. He was vehemently opposed to this war at a time when German nationalism was at its height - as was the case in other European countries at the time.


Furthermore, Einstein considered this war a failure of human civilization and challenged his society as a whole by refusing to support the war, bearing some accusations against him of treason. This stance shows the status of Einstein’s humanity, not just his scientific ingenuity.


In 1933, as the threat of Nazism increased in Germany, Einstein was forced to leave for the United States.


Perhaps the most important result of Einstein's theory is that we know today -thanks to him- the components of the universe with great accuracy.


We know that the ordinary matter of which everything around us is made of is only about 5 percent of the universe; About 25 percent of it is an opaque substance. We don't know what it is, but we know its properties. As for the remaining 70 percent of the universe, it is in the form of dark energy. We do not know much about it except that it pushes the universe to accelerate by spreading, as does the cosmological constant proposed by Einstein in 1917.


This theory also enables us to know the history of the universe and what happened to it in its various stages, from its beginning until now.


The most beautiful and profound result of the general theory of relativity, is that thanks to Einstein and for the first time in our history as human beings, we understand scientifically the story of our universe.



Here are six fun facts about Albert Einstein:


1- Einstein was a decent violin player.

2- The Greek teacher at his school said that Einstein would never accomplish        anything in his life.

3- His brain structure was abnormal.

4- Einstein was a refugee.

5- He rejected the post of President of the State of Israel.

6- His most famous photo was taken when he got tired of smiling.













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