Albert Einstein (March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955) was a a physicist and a mathematician. Many people think that he was one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. In 1921, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics.
Einstein is very famous because of his theories about light, matter, gravity, space, and time, which helped scientists to understand these things much better than they had before. These theories are called the theory of special relativity and the theory of general relativity.
Einstein was born at Ulm in Württemberg, Germany. His family was Jewish, but they were not very religious. Albert went to a Roman Catholic school. He was not a good student, and many people thought he was stupid. One day, someone gave him a magnetic compass. He became very interested in trying to understand how an invisible force could make the needle move, and became interested in studying science and mathematics.
When he became older, he went to a school in Switzerland. After he graduated, he got a job in the patent office there. While he was working there, he wrote his most important papers that made him famous as a great scientist.
Just before the start of World War I, he moved back to Germany, and became director of a school there. He lived in Berlin until the Nazi government came to power. The Nazis hated people who were Jewish or who came from Jewish families. They accused Einstein of helping to create “Jewish physics”, and German physicists tried to prove that his theories were wrong. Einstein moved to the United States and in 1940 he became a United States citizen.
During World War II, Einstein was one of the scientists who recommended to U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt that the United States should develop an atomic bomb before the Nazi government could develop one first.
In 1952 the Israeli government asked Einstein to become the second President of Israel, but he declined. Einstein died on April 18, 1955.
Many scientists are only interested in their work, but Einstein also spoke and wrote frequently about politics and world peace. He liked the ideas of socialism and of having only one government for the whole world. He also worked for Zionism, the effort to try to create the new country of Israel.
Einstein’s family was Jewish, but Einstein never practiced this religion seriously. His liked the ideas of the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and also thought that Buddhism was a good religion.
Although Einstein developed many ideas that helped scientists understand the world much better, he disagreed with many scientific theories that were developed later in his life. Many scientific theories discuss things that we can’t determine for certain, but only as probabilities. Einstein didn’t like this kind of theory, he thought that it should be possible to understand anything definitely, if we had the correct theory. He once said, “I don’t beleive that God plays dice with the Universe.”
Because Einstein helped science so much, his name is used now for several different things. A unit used in photochemistry was named for him. It is equal to Avogadro’s number multiplied by the energy of one photon of light. The chemical element Einsteinium is named after the scientist as well. In slang, we sometimes call a very smart person an ‘einstein’.