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Albert Einstein, full, detailed history, biography, The greatest physicists of all time.

by The Oregon Herald
Einstein received numerous awards and honors, and in 1922, he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics
The United States Postal Service honored Einstein with a Prominent Americans series (1965–1978) 8¢ postage stamp.
 Published on Monday October 11, 2021 4:38 AM
Albert Einstein; born 14 March 1879 – died 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is best known for developing the theory of relativity.

Einstein also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are together the two pillars of modern physics. His mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which arises from relativity theory, has been dubbed 'the world's most famous equation'. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics 'for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect', a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. His intellectual achievements and originality resulted in 'Einstein' becoming synonymous with 'genius'.

In 1905, a year sometimes described as his annus mirabilis, Einstein published four groundbreaking papers. These outlined the theory of the photoelectric effect, explained Brownian motion, introduced special relativity, and demonstrated mass-energy equivalence. Einstein thought that the laws of classical mechanics could no longer be reconciled with those of the electromagnetic field, which led him to develop his special theory of relativity. He then extended the theory to gravitational fields; he published a paper on general relativity in 1916, introducing his theory of gravitation. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light and the quantum theory of radiation, which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. However, for much of the later part of his career, he worked on two ultimately unsuccessful endeavors. First, despite his great contributions to quantum mechanics, he opposed what it evolved into, objecting that nature 'does not play dice'. Second, he attempted to devise a unified field theory by generalizing his geometric theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism. As a result, he became increasingly isolated from the mainstream of modern physics.

Einstein was born in the German Empire, but moved to Switzerland in 1895, forsaking his German citizenship the following year. In 1897, at the age of 17, he enrolled in the mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Swiss Federal polytechnic school in Zürich, graduating in 1900. In 1901 he acquired Swiss citizenship, which he kept for the rest of his life, and in 1903 he secured a permanent position at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. In 1905, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin in order to join the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the Humboldt University of Berlin. In 1917, Einstein became director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics; he also became a German citizen again, this time Prussian.

In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. Einstein objected to the policies of the newly elected Nazi government; he settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential German nuclear weapons program and recommending that the US begin similar research. Einstein supported the Allies but generally denounced the idea of nuclear weapons.

Early life and education

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire, on 14 March 1879 into a family of secular Ashkenazi Jews. His parents were Hermann Einstein, a salesman and engineer, and Pauline Koch. In 1880, the family moved to Munich, where Einstein's father and his uncle Jakob founded Elektrotechnische Fabrik J. Einstein & Cie, a company that manufactured electrical equipment based on direct current. Albert attended a Catholic elementary school in Munich, from the age of five, for three years. At the age of eight, he was transferred to the Luitpold Gymnasium, where he received advanced primary and secondary school education until he left the German Empire seven years later.

In 1894, Hermann and Jakob's company lost a bid to supply the city of Munich with electrical lighting because they lacked the capital to convert their equipment from the direct current standard to the more efficient alternating current standard. The loss forced the sale of the Munich factory. In search of business, the Einstein family moved to Italy, first to Milan and a few months later to Pavia. When the family moved to Pavia, Einstein, then 15, stayed in Munich to finish his studies at the Luitpold Gymnasium. His father intended for him to pursue electrical engineering, but Einstein clashed with the authorities and resented the school's regimen and teaching method. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought was lost in strict rote learning. At the end of December 1894, he traveled to Italy to join his family in Pavia, convincing the school to let him go by using a doctor's note. During his time in Italy he wrote a short essay with the title 'On the Investigation of the State of the Ether in a Magnetic Field'.

Einstein excelled at math and physics from a young age, reaching a mathematical level years ahead of his peers. The 12-year-old Einstein taught himself algebra and Euclidean geometry over a single summer. Einstein also independently discovered his own original proof of the Pythagorean theorem at age 12. A family tutor Max Talmud says that after he had given the 12-year-old Einstein a geometry textbook, after a short time ' had worked through the whole book. He thereupon devoted himself to higher mathematics... Soon the flight of his mathematical genius was so high I could not follow.' His passion for geometry and algebra led the 12-year-old to become convinced that nature could be understood as a 'mathematical structure'. Einstein started teaching himself calculus at 12, and as a 14-year-old he says he had 'mastered integral and differential calculus'

At age 13, when he had become more seriously interested in philosophy, Einstein was introduced to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Kant became his favorite philosopher, his tutor stating: 'At the time he was still a child, only thirteen years old, yet Kant's works, incomprehensible to ordinary mortals, seemed to be clear to him.

In 1895, at the age of 16, Einstein took the entrance examinations for the Swiss Federal polytechnic school in Zürich . He failed to reach the required standard in the general part of the examination, but obtained exceptional grades in physics and mathematics. On the advice of the principal of the polytechnic school, he attended the Argovian cantonal school in Aarau, Switzerland, in 1895 and 1896 to complete his secondary schooling. While lodging with the family of professor Jost Winteler, he fell in love with Winteler's daughter, Marie. Albert's sister Maja later married Winteler's son Paul. In January 1896, with his father's approval, Einstein renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Württemberg to avoid military service. In September 1896, he passed the Swiss Matura with mostly good grades, including a top grade of 6 in physics and mathematical subjects, on a scale of 1–6. At 17, he enrolled in the four-year mathematics and physics teaching diploma program at the Federal polytechnic school. Marie Winteler, who was a year older, moved to Olsberg, Switzerland, for a teaching post.

Einstein's future wife, a 20-year-old Serbian named Mileva Maric, also enrolled at the polytechnic school that year. She was the only woman among the six students in the mathematics and physics section of the teaching diploma course. Over the next few years, Einstein's and Maric's friendship developed into a romance, and they spent countless hours debating and reading books together on extra-curricular physics in which they were both interested. Einstein wrote in his letters to Maric that he preferred studying alongside her. In 1900, Einstein passed the exams in Maths and Physics and was awarded a Federal teaching diploma. There is eyewitness evidence and several letters over many years that indicate Maric might have collaborated with Einstein prior to his landmark 1905 papers, known as the Annus Mirabilis papers, and that they developed some of the concepts together during their studies, although some historians of physics who have studied the issue disagree that she made any substantive contributions

Marriages and children

At age 13, when he had become more seriously interested in philosophy, Einstein was introduced to Kant's Critique of Pure Early correspondence between Einstein and Maric was discovered and published in 1987 which revealed that the couple had a daughter named 'Lieserl', born in early 1902 in Novi Sad where Maric was staying with her parents. Maric returned to Switzerland without the child, whose real name and fate are unknown. The contents of Einstein's letter in September 1903 suggest that the girl was either given up for adoption or died of scarlet fever in infancy.

Einstein and Maric married in January 1903. In May 1904, their son Hans Albert Einstein was born in Bern, Switzerland. Their son Eduard was born in Zürich in July 1910. The couple moved to Berlin in April 1914, but Maric returned to Zürich with their sons after learning that despite their close relationship before, Einstein's chief romantic attraction was now his cousin Elsa Löwenthal; she was his first cousin maternally and second cousin paternally. They divorced on 14 February 1919, having lived apart for five years. As part of the divorce settlement, Einstein agreed to give Maric his Nobel Prize money.

In letters revealed in 2015, Einstein wrote to his early love Marie Winteler about his marriage and his strong feelings for her. He wrote in 1910, while his wife was pregnant with their second child: 'I think of you in heartfelt love every spare minute and am so unhappy as only a man can be.' He spoke about a 'misguided love' and a 'missed life' regarding his love for Marie.

Einstein married his cousin Elsa Löwenthal in 1919, after having had a relationship with her since 1912. They emigrated to the United States in 1933. Elsa was diagnosed with heart and kidney problems in 1935 and died in December 1936.

In 1923, Einstein fell in love with a secretary named Betty Neumann, the niece of a close friend, Hans Mühsam. In a volume of letters released by Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2006, Einstein described about six women, including Margarete Lebach, Estella Katzenellenbogen, Toni Mendel and Ethel Michanowski, with whom he spent time and from whom he received gifts while being married to Elsa. Later, after the death of his second wife Elsa, Einstein was briefly in a relationship with Margarita Konenkova. Konenkova was a Russian spy who was married to the noted Russian sculptor Sergei Konenkov .

Einstein's son Eduard had a breakdown at about age 20 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His mother cared for him and he was also committed to asylums for several periods, finally being committed permanently after her death.

Patent office

After graduating in 1900, Einstein spent almost two frustrating years searching for a teaching post. He acquired Swiss citizenship in February 1901, but was not conscripted for medical reasons. With the help of Marcel Grossmann's father, he secured a job in Bern at the Swiss Patent Office, as an assistant examiner – level III.

Einstein evaluated patent applications for a variety of devices including a gravel sorter and an electromechanical typewriter. In 1903, his position at the Swiss Patent Office became permanent, although he was passed over for promotion until he 'fully mastered machine technolog'y.

Much of his work at the patent office related to questions about transmission of electric signals and electrical-mechanical synchronization of time, two technical problems that show up conspicuously in the thought experiments that eventually led Einstein to his radical conclusions about the nature of light and the fundamental connection between space and time.

With a few friends he had met in Bern, Einstein started a small discussion group in 1902, self-mockingly named 'The Olympia Academ'y, which met regularly to discuss science and philosophy. Sometimes they were joined by Mileva who attentively listened but did not participate. Their readings included the works of Henri Poincaré, Ernst Mach, and David Hume, which influenced his scientific and philosophical outlook

First scientific papers

In 1900, Einstein's paper 'Folgerungen aus den Capillaritätserscheinungen' was published in the journal Annalen der Physik. On 30 April 1905, Einstein completed his thesis, with Alfred Kleiner, Professor of Experimental Physics, serving as pro-forma advisor. As a result, Einstein was awarded a PhD by the University of Zürich, with his dissertation A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions.

Also in 1905, which has been called Einstein's annus mirabilis, he published four groundbreaking papers, on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of mass and energy, which were to bring him to the notice of the academic world, at the age of 26.

1921–1922: Travels abroad

Einstein visited New York City for the first time on 2 April 1921, where he received an official welcome by Mayor John Francis Hylan, followed by three weeks of lectures and receptions. He went on to deliver several lectures at Columbia University and Princeton University, and in Washington, he accompanied representatives of the National Academy of Science on a visit to the White House. On his return to Europe he was the guest of the British statesman and philosopher Viscount Haldane in London, where he met several renowned scientific, intellectual, and political figures, and delivered a lecture at King's College London. He also published an essay, 'My First Impression of the U.S.A.', in July 1921, in which he tried briefly to describe some characteristics of Americans, much as had Alexis de Tocqueville, who published his own impressions in Democracy in America . For some of his observations, Einstein was clearly surprised: 'What strikes a visitor is the joyous, positive attitude to life ... The American is friendly, self-confident, optimistic, and without envy.'

In 1922, his travels took him to Asia and later to Palestine, as part of a six-month excursion and speaking tour, as he visited Singapore, Ceylon and Japan, where he gave a series of lectures to thousands of Japanese. After his first public lecture, he met the emperor and empress at the Imperial Palace, where thousands came to watch. In a letter to his sons, he described his impression of the Japanese as being modest, intelligent, considerate, and having a true feel for art. In his own travel diaries from his 1922–23 visit to Asia, he expresses some views on the Chinese, Japanese and Indian people, which have been described as xenophobic and racist judgments when they were rediscovered in 2018.

Because of Einstein's travels to the Far East, he was unable to personally accept the Nobel Prize for Physics at the Stockholm award ceremony in December 1922. In his place, the banquet speech was made by a German diplomat, who praised Einstein not only as a scientist but also as an international peacemaker and activist.

On his return voyage, he visited Palestine for 12 days, his only visit to that region. He was greeted as if he were a head of state, rather than a physicist, which included a cannon salute upon arriving at the home of the British high commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel. During one reception, the building was stormed by people who wanted to see and hear him. In Einstein's talk to the audience, he expressed happiness that the Jewish people were beginning to be recognized as a force in the world.

Einstein visited Spain for two weeks in 1923, where he briefly met Santiago Ramón y Cajal and also received a diploma from King Alfonso XIII naming him a member of the Spanish Academy of Sciences.

From 1922 to 1932, Einstein was a member of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations in Geneva, a body created to promote international exchange between scientists, researchers, teachers, artists, and intellectuals. Originally slated to serve as the Swiss delegate, Secretary-General Eric Drummond was persuaded by Catholic activists Oskar Halecki and Giuseppe Motta to instead have him become the German delegate, thus allowing Gonzague de Reynold to take the Swiss spot, from which he promoted traditionalist Catholic values. Einstein's former physics professor Hendrik Lorentz and the Polish chemist Marie Curie were also members of the committee

1925: Visit to South America In the months of March and April 1925, Einstein visited South America, where he spent about a month in Argentina, a week in Uruguay, and a week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Einstein's visit was initiated by Jorge Duclout and Mauricio Nirenstein with the support of several Argentine scholars, including Julio Rey Pastor, Jakob Laub, and Leopoldo Lugones. The visit by Einstein and his wife was financed primarily by the Council of the University of Buenos Aires and the Asociación Hebraica Argentina with a smaller contribution from the Argentine-Germanic Cultural Institution

1930–1931: Travel to the US

In December 1930, Einstein visited America for the second time, originally intended as a two-month working visit as a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology. After the national attention, he received during his first trip to the US, he and his arrangers aimed to protect his privacy. Although swamped with telegrams and invitations to receive awards or speak publicly, he declined them all.

After arriving in New York City, Einstein was taken to various places and events, including Chinatown, a lunch with the editors of The New York Times, and a performance of Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, where he was cheered by the audience on his arrival. During the days following, he was given the keys to the city by Mayor Jimmy Walker and met the president of Columbia University, who described Einstein as 'the ruling monarch of the mind'. Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor at New York's Riverside Church, gave Einstein a tour of the church and showed him a full-size statue that the church made of Einstein, standing at the entrance. Also during his stay in New York, he joined a crowd of 15,000 people at Madison Square Garden during a Hanukkah celebration

Einstein next traveled to California, where he met Caltech president and Nobel laureate Robert A. Millikan. His friendship with Millikan was 'awkward', as Millikan 'had a penchant for patriotic militarism', where Einstein was a pronounced pacifist. During an address to Caltech's students, Einstein noted that science was often inclined to do more harm than good.

This aversion to war also led Einstein to befriend author Upton Sinclair and film star Charlie Chaplin, both noted for their pacifism. Carl Laemmle, head of Universal Studios, gave Einstein a tour of his studio and introduced him to Chaplin. They had an instant rapport, with Chaplin inviting Einstein and his wife, Elsa, to his home for dinner. Chaplin said Einstein's outward persona, calm and gentle, seemed to conceal a 'highly emotional temperament', from which came his 'extraordinary intellectual energ'y.

Chaplin's film, City Lights, was to premiere a few days later in Hollywood, and Chaplin invited Einstein and Elsa to join him as his special guests. Walter Isaacson, Einstein's biographer, described this as 'one of the most memorable scenes in the new era of celebrit'y. Chaplin visited Einstein at his home on a later trip to Berlin and recalled his 'modest little flat' and the piano at which he had begun writing his theory. Chaplin speculated that it was 'possibly used as kindling wood by the Nazis'

1933: Emigration to the US

In February 1933, while on a visit to the United States, Einstein knew he could not return to Germany with the rise to power of the Nazis under Germany's new chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

While at American universities in early 1933, he undertook his third two-month visiting professorship at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In February and March 1933, the Gestapo repeatedly raided his family's apartment in Berlin. He and his wife Elsa returned to Europe in March, and during the trip, they learned that the German Reichstag had passed the Enabling Act on 23 March, transforming Hitler's government into a de facto legal dictatorship, and that they would not be able to proceed to Berlin. Later on, they heard that their cottage had been raided by the Nazis and Einstein's personal sailboat confiscated. Upon landing in Antwerp, Belgium on 28 March, Einstein immediately went to the German consulate and surrendered his passport, formally renouncing his German citizenship. The Nazis later sold his boat and converted his cottage into a Hitler Youth camp

Personal life

Assisting Zionist causes

Einstein was a figurehead leader in helping establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which opened in 1925 and was among its first Board of Governors. Earlier, in 1921, he was asked by the biochemist and president of the World Zionist Organization, Chaim Weizmann, to help raise funds for the planned university. He also submitted various suggestions as to its initial programs. Among those, he advised first creating an Institute of Agriculture in order to settle the undeveloped land. That should be followed, he suggested, by a Chemical Institute and an Institute of Microbiology, to fight the various ongoing epidemics such as malaria, which he called an 'evil' that was undermining a third of the country's development. Establishing an Oriental Studies Institute, to include language courses given in both Hebrew and Arabic, for scientific exploration of the country and its historical monuments, was also important.

Einstein was not a nationalist; he was against the creation of an independent Jewish state, which would be established without his help as Israel in 1948. Einstein felt that the waves of arriving Jews of the Aliyah could live alongside existing Arabs in Palestine. His views were not shared by the majority of Jews seeking to form a new country; as a result, Einstein was limited to a marginal role in the Zionist movement.

Chaim Weizmann later became Israel's first president. Upon his death while in office in November 1952 and at the urging of Ezriel Carlebach, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion offered Einstein the position of President of Israel, a mostly ceremonial post. The offer was presented by Israel's ambassador in Washington, Abba Eban, who explained that the offer 'embodies the deepest respect which the Jewish people can repose in any of its sons'. Einstein declined, and wrote in his response that he was 'deeply moved', and 'at once saddened and ashamed' that he could not accept it.

Love of music

Einstein developed an appreciation for music at an early age. In his late journals he wrote: 'If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music.' His mother played the piano reasonably well and wanted her son to learn the violin, not only to instill in him a love of music but also to help him assimilate into German culture. According to conductor Leon Botstein, Einstein began playing when he was 5. However, he did not enjoy it at that age.

When he turned 13, he discovered the violin sonatas of Mozart, whereupon he became enamored of Mozart's compositions and studied music more willingly. Einstein taught himself to play without 'ever practicing systematicall'y. He said that 'love is a better teacher than a sense of duty.' At age 17, he was heard by a school examiner in Aarau while playing Beethoven's violin sonatas. The examiner stated afterward that his playing was 'remarkable and revealing of 'great insight'. What struck the examiner, writes Botstein, was that Einstein 'displayed a deep love of the music, a quality that was and remains in short supply. Music possessed an unusual meaning for this student.'

Political views

In 1918, Einstein was one of the founding members of the German Democratic Party, a liberal party. Later in his life, Einstein's political view was in favor of socialism and critical of capitalism, which he detailed in his essays such as 'Why Socialism?' His opinions on the Bolsheviks also changed with time. In 1925, he criticized them for not having a 'well-regulated system of government' and called their rule a 'regime of terror and a tragedy in human history'. He later adopted a more moderated view, criticizing their methods but praising them, which is shown by his 1929 remark on Vladimir Lenin: 'In Lenin I honor a man, who in total sacrifice of his own person has committed his entire energy to realizing social justice. I do not find his methods advisable. One thing is certain, however: men like him are the guardians and renewers of mankind's conscience.' Einstein offered and was called on to give judgments and opinions on matters often unrelated to theoretical physics or mathematics. He strongly advocated the idea of a democratic global government that would check the power of nation-states in the framework of a world federation. He wrote 'I advocate world government because I am convinced that there is no other possible way of eliminating the most terrible danger in which man has ever found himself.' The FBI created a secret dossier on Einstein in 1932, and by the time of his death his FBI file was 1,427 pages long.

Einstein was deeply impressed by Mahatma Gandhi, with whom he exchanged written letters. He described Gandhi as 'a role model for the generations to come'. The initial connection was established on 27 September 1931, when Wilfrid Israel took his Indian guest V. A. Sundaram to meet his friend Einstein at his summer home in the town of Caputh. Sundaram was Gandhi's disciple and special envoy, whom Wilfrid Israel met while visiting India and visiting the Indian leader's home in 1925. During the visit, Einstein wrote a short letter to Gandhi that was delivered to him through his envoy, and Gandhi responded quickly with his own letter. Although in the end Einstein and Gandhi were unable to meet as they had hoped, the direct connection between them was established through Wilfrid Israel.


On 17 April 1955, Einstein experienced internal bleeding caused by the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had previously been reinforced surgically by Rudolph Nissen in 1948. He took the draft of a speech he was preparing for a television appearance commemorating the state of Israel's seventh anniversary with him to the hospital, but he did not live to complete it. Einstein refused surgery, saying, 'I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.' He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the end.

During the autopsy, the pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, removed Einstein's brain for preservation without the permission of his family, in the hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent. Einstein's remains were cremated in Trenton, New Jersey, and his ashes were scattered at an undisclosed location.

In a memorial lecture delivered on 13 December 1965 at UNESCO headquarters, nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer summarized his impression of Einstein as a person: 'He was almost wholly without sophistication and wholly without worldliness ... There was always with him a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.'

Einstein bequeathed his personal archives, library and intellectual assets to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel


Throughout his life, Einstein published hundreds of books and articles. He published more than 300 scientific papers and 150 non-scientific ones. On 5 December 2014, universities and archives announced the release of Einstein's papers, comprising more than 30,000 unique documents. Einstein's intellectual achievements and originality have made the word 'Einstein' synonymous with 'genius'. In addition to the work he did by himself he also collaborated with other scientists on additional projects including the Bose–Einstein statistics, the Einstein refrigerator and others.

1905 – Annus Mirabilis papers The Annus Mirabilis papers are four articles pertaining to the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, the special theory of relativity, and E = mc2 that Einstein published in the Annalen der Physik scientific journal in 1905. These four works contributed substantially to the foundation of modern physics and changed views on space, time, and matter.

Statistical mechanics

Thermodynamic fluctuations and statistical physics

Einstein's first paper submitted in 1900 to Annalen der Physik was on capillary attraction. It was published in 1901 with the title 'Folgerungen aus den Capillaritätserscheinungen', which translates as 'Conclusions from the capillarity phenomena'. Two papers he published in 1902–1903 attempted to interpret atomic phenomena from a statistical point of view. These papers were the foundation for the 1905 paper on Brownian motion, which showed that Brownian movement can be construed as firm evidence that molecules exist. His research in 1903 and 1904 was mainly concerned with the effect of finite atomic size on diffusion phenomena

Theory of critical opalescence

Einstein returned to the problem of thermodynamic fluctuations, giving a treatment of the density variations in a fluid at its critical point. Ordinarily the density fluctuations are controlled by the second derivative of the free energy with respect to the density. At the critical point, this derivative is zero, leading to large fluctuations. The effect of density fluctuations is that light of all wavelengths is scattered, making the fluid look milky white. Einstein relates this to Rayleigh scattering, which is what happens when the fluctuation size is much smaller than the wavelength, and which explains why the sky is blue. Einstein quantitatively derived critical opalescence from a treatment of density fluctuations, and demonstrated how both the effect and Rayleigh scattering originate from the atomistic constitution of matter.

Special relativity

Einstein's 'Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper' was received on 30 June 1905 and published 26 September of that same year. It reconciled conflicts between Maxwell's equations and the laws of Newtonian mechanics by introducing changes to the laws of mechanics. Observationally, the effects of these changes are most apparent at high speeds . The theory developed in this paper later became known as Einstein's special theory of relativity. There is evidence from Einstein's writings that he collaborated with his first wife, Mileva Maric, on this work. The decision to publish only under his name seems to have been mutual, but the exact reason is unknown.

This paper predicted that, when measured in the frame of a relatively moving observer, a clock carried by a moving body would appear to slow down, and the body itself would contract in its direction of motion. This paper also argued that the idea of a luminiferous aether—one of the leading theoretical entities in physics at the time—was superfluous.

In his paper on mass–energy equivalence, Einstein produced E = mc2 as a consequence of his special relativity equations. Einstein's 1905 work on relativity remained controversial for many years, but was accepted by leading physicists, starting with Max Planck.

Einstein originally framed special relativity in terms of kinematics . In 1908, Hermann Minkowski reinterpreted special relativity in geometric terms as a theory of spacetime. Einstein adopted Minkowski's formalism in his 1915 general theory of relativity.

General relativity

General relativity and the equivalence principle

General relativity is a theory of gravitation that was developed by Einstein between 1907 and 1915. According to general relativity, the observed gravitational attraction between masses results from the warping of space and time by those masses. General relativity has developed into an essential tool in modern astrophysics. It provides the foundation for the current understanding of black holes, regions of space where gravitational attraction is so strong that not even light can escape.

As Einstein later said, the reason for the development of general relativity was that the preference of inertial motions within special relativity was unsatisfactory, while a theory which from the outset prefers no state of motion should appear more satisfactory. Consequently, in 1907 he published an article on acceleration under special relativity. In that article titled 'On the Relativity Principle and the Conclusions Drawn from It', he argued that free fall is really inertial motion, and that for a free-falling observer the rules of special relativity must apply. This argument is called the equivalence principle. In the same article, Einstein also predicted the phenomena of gravitational time dilation, gravitational redshift and deflection of light.

In 1911, Einstein published another article 'On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light' expanding on the 1907 article, in which he estimated the amount of deflection of light by massive bodies. Thus, the theoretical prediction of general relativity could for the first time be tested experimentally

Gravitational waves In 1916, Einstein predicted gravitational waves, ripples in the curvature of spacetime which propagate as waves, traveling outward from the source, transporting energy as gravitational radiation. The existence of gravitational waves is possible under general relativity due to its Lorentz invariance which brings the concept of a finite speed of propagation of the physical interactions of gravity with it. By contrast, gravitational waves cannot exist in the Newtonian theory of gravitation, which postulates that the physical interactions of gravity propagate at infinite speed.

The first, indirect, detection of gravitational waves came in the 1970s through observation of a pair of closely orbiting neutron stars, PSR B1913+16. The explanation of the decay in their orbital period was that they were emitting gravitational waves. Einstein's prediction was confirmed on 11 February 2016, when researchers at LIGO published the first observation of gravitational waves, detected on Earth on 14 September 2015, nearly one hundred years after the prediction.

Hole argument and Entwurf theory

While developing general relativity, Einstein became confused about the gauge invariance in the theory. He formulated an argument that led him to conclude that a general relativistic field theory is impossible. He gave up looking for fully generally covariant tensor equations and searched for equations that would be invariant under general linear transformations only.

In June 1913, the Entwurf theory was the result of these investigations. As its name suggests, it was a sketch of a theory, less elegant and more difficult than general relativity, with the equations of motion supplemented by additional gauge fixing conditions. After more than two years of intensive work, Einstein realized that the hole argument was mistaken and abandoned the theory in November 1915.

Physical cosmology

In 1917, Einstein applied the general theory of relativity to the structure of the universe as a whole. He discovered that the general field equations predicted a universe that was dynamic, either contracting or expanding. As observational evidence for a dynamic universe was not known at the time, Einstein introduced a new term, the cosmological constant, to the field equations, in order to allow the theory to predict a static universe. The modified field equations predicted a static universe of closed curvature, in accordance with Einstein's understanding of Mach's principle in these years. This model became known as the Einstein World or Einstein's static universe. Following the discovery of the recession of the nebulae by Edwin Hubble in 1929, Einstein abandoned his static model of the universe, and proposed two dynamic models of the cosmos, The Friedmann-Einstein universe of 1931 and the Einstein–de Sitter universe of 1932. In each of these models, Einstein discarded the cosmological constant, claiming that it was 'in any case theoretically unsatisfactor'y.

In many Einstein biographies, it is claimed that Einstein referred to the cosmological constant in later years as his 'biggest blunder'. The astrophysicist Mario Livio has recently cast doubt on this claim, suggesting that it may be exaggerated.

In late 2013, a team led by the Irish physicist Cormac O'Raifeartaigh discovered evidence that, shortly after learning of Hubble's observations of the recession of the nebulae, Einstein considered a steady-state model of the universe. In a hitherto overlooked manuscript, apparently written in early 1931, Einstein explored a model of the expanding universe in which the density of matter remains constant due to a continuous creation of matter, a process he associated with the cosmological constant. As he stated in the paper, 'In what follows, I would like to draw attention to a solution to equation that can account for Hubbel's facts, and in which the density is constant over time' ... 'If one considers a physically bounded volume, particles of matter will be continually leaving it. For the density to remain constant, new particles of matter must be continually formed in the volume from space.'

It thus appears that Einstein considered a steady-state model of the expanding universe many years before Hoyle, Bondi and Gold. However, Einstein's steady-state model contained a fundamental flaw and he quickly abandoned the idea.

Energy momentum pseudotensor

General relativity includes a dynamical spacetime, so it is difficult to see how to identify the conserved energy and momentum. Noether's theorem allows these quantities to be determined from a Lagrangian with translation invariance, but general covariance makes translation invariance into something of a gauge symmetry. The energy and momentum derived within general relativity by Noether's prescriptions do not make a real tensor for this reason. Einstein argued that this is true for a fundamental reason: the gravitational field could be made to vanish by a choice of coordinates. He maintained that the non-covariant energy momentum pseudotensor was, in fact, the best description of the energy momentum distribution in a gravitational field. This approach has been echoed by Lev Landau and Evgeny Lifshitz, and others, and has become standard.

The use of non-covariant objects like pseudotensors was heavily criticized in 1917 by Erwin Schrödinger and others.


In 1935, Einstein collaborated with Nathan Rosen to produce a model of a wormhole, often called Einstein–Rosen bridges. His motivation was to model elementary particles with charge as a solution of gravitational field equations, in line with the program outlined in the paper 'Do Gravitational Fields play an Important Role in the Constitution of the Elementary Particles?'. These solutions cut and pasted Schwarzschild black holes to make a bridge between two patches.

If one end of a wormhole was positively charged, the other end would be negatively charged. These properties led Einstein to believe that pairs of particles and antiparticles could be described in this way.

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