Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein is one of the singular heroes in history who succeeded in becoming a legend in his own time. He is most remembered by his scientific theories but he was also a great social reformer, philosopher and man of peace. Everybody knows that he had done something really important but few really know what it actually is.

Einstein was born in Ulm, Wurttemberg, Germany of Jewish parents at March 14, 1879. His father, Hermann and his uncle Jakob owned a small electrochemical works and set up shop in Munich when Albert was four. Einstein's interest in science was kindled at a very early age. The Jewish boy was sent to a rigid Roman Catholic school and this experience had made a deep and lasting impression upon him. His teachers did not consider him a good student because he had trouble with the primary subjects. His mother, Paulina Koch, would have had him become a musician, Albert had become a promising violinist but science was to consume him. Another Jewish boy, a medical student named Max Talmey gave him a book on geometry and aroused his interest in mathematics and by the age of fourteen Albert had risen above his masters.

At the age of 16 Albert had written an essay including his special theory of relativity. It was also at this time that Einstein began a study of philosophy and was influenced by Kant and other metaphysicians. He was deeply religious but rejected established religion because of the conservatism that opposed science. Albert needed nothing more out of life than the freedom to pursue the knowledge of the nature of the universe. He read the Old and New Testament and gained a profound wisdom from them. Einstein went on to graduate in physics and mathematics with distinction from the Polytechnic Academy in Zurich in 1900. He wanted to serve as assistant professor at the Polytechnic but was let down and settled for a stable appointment as examiner at the Confederate Patent Office at Bern in 1902. He became a Swiss citizen in 1905.

Einstein married another student, Mileva Maríc in 1903 and they had two sons, Hans Albert and Edward. World War I had separated them and the frustration led to divorce in 1919. The Job at the Swiss patent office had the advantage of leaving his mind free to speculate on the theory of relativity and he published a paper in 1905. It was at this time that Zurich realized that they had a genius on their hands and in 1909 Einstein was installed as a professor at the university and at Prague in 1911 and Berlin in 1914. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. The rest as they say is history.

As a scientist, Einstein towers above all others of our century. He said that it would take him three days to explain a short definition of relativity; only a few in the world would be able to understand it enough to follow his reasoning or challenge his conclusions. He taught mankind a new way of looking at the wondrous universe through space and time and ranks with Newton and Galileo in expanding our understanding of the physical world. Einstein would say, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." And elsewhere, "The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

Einstein was a spiritual man and wrote of a "cosmic religious feeling" that was indescribable to those without it. He saw this feeling in the religious geniuses of all ages and in diverse personages as Democritus, Francis of Assisi and Spinoza. "In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it." He wanted to know God's thoughts and considered the rest only details.

An outspoken pacifist in the early thirties, Einstein was a champion of world peace and liberalism. Being Jewish, Einstein supported Zionism and with the rise of the fascist state his views put him under suspicion in Berlin. He left Germany and settled in the United States in 1934 and became a U.S. citizen. In 1939 he warned Roosevelt that Germany may be preparing an atomic bomb and the Manhattan project was born, he felt that force was needed to achieve peace. He did not personally work on the project and became a professor at Princeton in 1940.

Albert Einstein was a great social democrat; democracy was his political ideal and saw it most in the United States of the thirties and forties. He detested capitalism, avowed socialism and felt that better times were coming. "The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil," Einstein would say. He wanted socialism to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development and society directed toward a social-ethical end.

Einstein was an idealist and thought that "knowledge and justice are ranked above wealth and power by a large section of the human race." "I regard it as the chief duty of the State to protect the individual and give him the opportunity to develop into a creative personality. That is to say, the State should be our servant and not we its slaves." Einstein was "absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it." "It is at last beginning to be realized that great wealth is not necessary for a happy and satisfactory life."

Albert believed in a free association of people on an international level networked together with a constant interchange of opinions that could acquire a moral influence over the settlement of political questions. "If an intellectual association of standing could be formed it would no doubt have to try to mobilize the religious organizations for the fight against war." "Success on a large scale will take time, but it will undoubtedly come." "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive." "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

Einstein demonstrated against the McCarthy delusions and the House Un-American Senate Subcommittee, which targeted many scientists. He spent his remaining years trying to establish a merger between quantum theory and his general theory of relativity. In 1952 he was offered to go to Israel and serve as president there but declined. His health also declined and he died in his sleep in a hospital bed at Princeton in 1955.
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