Albert Einstein

2005 is the 100 year anniversary of Albert Einstein’s “Miracle Year”. Young Einstein is pictured here before the Einsteins moved from Germany to Italy in 1894.

Thanks to his theory of relativity, Einstein became the most famous scientist of the 20th century. In 1905, while working in a Swiss patent office, he published a paper proposing a “special theory of relativity,” a groundbreaking notion which laid the foundation for much of modern physics theory. (The theory included his famous equation e=mc2.)

He obtained his doctorate after submitting his thesis “A new determination of molecular dimensions” in 1905.

Einstein considered himself a pacifist and humanitarian, and in later years, a committed democratic socialist. He once said, “I believe Gandhi’s views were the most enlightened of all the political men of our time. We should strive to do things in his spirit: not to use violence for fighting for our cause, but by non-participation of anything you believe is evil.” Einstein’s views on other issues, including socialism, McCarthyism and racism, were controversial. Einstein was a co-founder of the liberal German Democratic Party.

The U.S. FBI kept a 1,427 page file on his activities and recommended that he be barred from immigrating to the United States under the Alien Exclusion Act, alleging that Einstein “believes in, advises, advocates, or teaches a doctrine which, in a legal sense, as held by the courts in other cases, ‘would allow anarchy to stalk in unmolested’ and result in ‘government in name only’”, among other charges. Einstein opposed tyrannical forms of government, and for this reason (and his Jewish background), opposed the Nazi regime and fled Germany shortly after it came to power. He initially favored construction of the atomic bomb, in order to ensure that Hitler did not do so first, and even sent a letter to President Roosevelt (dated August 2, 1939, before World War II broke out, and likely authored by Leó Szilárd) encouraging him to initiate a program to create a nuclear weapon. Roosevelt responded to this by setting up a committee for the investigation of using uranium as a weapon, which in a few years was superseded by the Manhattan Project.

After the war, though, Einstein lobbied for nuclear disarmament and a world government: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

As his last public act, and just days before his death, he signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, which led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. (Adapted from: www.answers.com/topic/albert-einstein)

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