Any list of the greatest thinkers in history contains the name of the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein. His theories of relativity led to entirely new ways of thinking about time, space, matter, energy, and gravity. Einstein's work led to such scientific advances as the control of atomic energy and to some of the investigations of space currently being made by astrophysicists. Television and other inventions are practical applications of Einstein's discoveries.
Einstein was born in Germany, on March 14, 1879. He was a shy and curious child. He attended a Munich elementary school where he showed an interest in science and mathematics. However it its known that his uncle often joked: "Not everybody is born to become a professor".
In 1895 future famous scientist failed entrance exams to a technical college in Switzerland. A year later, however, he managed to pass the exam and became a student. After graduating from the college in 1902 Einstein became an examiner in the Swiss patent office at Bern.
In 1905, at the age of 26, he published five major research papers in an important German physics journal. Among them was "Special theory of Relativity", which gave the famous equation relating mass and energy. The formula shows that a small particle of matter is the equivalent of an enormous quantity of energy. These papers won Einstein a place among Europe's most respected physicists.
Between 1909 and 1912 Einstein taught theoretical physics in Switzerland and Germany. In 1916 Einstein published his general theory of relativity.
Einstein spoke out frequently against nationalism, the exalting of one nation above all others. He opposed war and violence. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they denounced his ideas, seized his property, and burned his books. That year he moved to the United States.
In 1940 he became an American citizen. In 1939, shortly before the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Einstein learned that two German chemists had split the uranium atom. Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist who lived in the United States, proposed that a chain-reaction splitting of uranium atoms could release enormous quantities of energy.
In 1939 Einstein wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt warning him that this scientific knowledge could lead to Germany's developing an atomic bomb. He suggested that the United States should prepare its own atomic bomb research. Out of this effort came the Manhattan Project, in which the first two atomic bombs were developed.
In 1945 Einstein died in Princeton, N.J., on April 18, 1955.