Hands on History: Who is Albert Einstein?
By Shani Asokan
Arguably, the most influential scientist of the 20th century, Albert Einstein is best known for his theory of relativity, which transformed the way in which we understand space, time, gravity and the universe as a whole. However, there is so much more to be known about this brilliant physicist who worked hard to crack open the mysteries of the universe. Today, we will learn all about how he came to be one of the greatest minds of our time.
Albert Einstein was born in 1879, in Ulm, Germany. As a young child, he enjoyed solving math riddles and building towers out of playing cards, and was considered to be something of a prodigy. This means that he exceptional qualities or abilities for someone his age. Fun fact, some of his card towers were 14 stories tall – an incredible feat! Young Albert did very well at math and psychics, and often outshone his classmates.
At just 12 years of age, he taught himself algebra and geometry over the course of a single summer. By 14, he had mastered calculus. However, Albert wasn’t just interested in maths and physics, he also enjoyed philosophy and music, and devoted some of his time to pursuing those interests. He continued to excel at school in his early teens, and by the age of 16, he wrote his first academic paper on the force of magnetism. In his late teens, he went to live in Switzerland, where he studied to become a physicist.
Genius at work
In 1905, Einstein made his first landmark discovery. He figured out that matter, the tiny particles that make up everything in the physical world, could be turned into energy, and vice versa. He also came up with his famous formula E=mc2 which calculates the energy produced by converting a given amount of matter. These achievements propelled Einstein to instant stardom in the scientific community! Just 10 years later in 1915, Einstein stunned the world again by publishing his now famous theory of relativity.
This theory essentially explains gravity. The basic idea is that instead of being a force that attracts objects to one another, gravity is a curving or warping of space. The larger the object, the more it warps the space around it. In 1922, Einstein awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his groundbreaking discoveries in science. In the 1930s, as a Jew, Einstein could no longer stay in Germany or Western Europe as the Nazis rose to power under Adolf Hitler. So eventually, he moved to Princeton University in New Jersey, USA in 1933 to live and continue his research. In 1940, Einstein became an American citizen and lived there until the end of his life.
Death and legacy
In 1955, Einstein died at the age of 76 due to sudden illness that caused internal bleeding. Like much of his adult life, Einstein was working while he took ill, and even took a draft of a speech he was preparing for a television appearance with him to hospital. Unfortunately, he did not live to complete it. Today, Einstein is a name that everyone knows. His legacy has lived on in his theories and formulae which are widely used in the scientific world, and are the very foundations for the way we understand the world around us.