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HISTORICAL EVENTS

Demise of Albert Einstein, German-Swiss-U.S. scientist

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 Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Born to a Jewish family in Germany, he grew up in Munich, and his family moved to Switzerland in 1894. He became a junior examiner at the Swiss patent office in 1902 and began producing original theoretical work that laid many of the foundations for 20th-century physics. He received his doctorate from the University of Zürich in 1905, the same year he won international fame with the publication of three articles: one on Brownian motion, demonstrating the existence of molecules; one on the photoelectric effect, in which he demonstrated the particle nature of light; and one on his special theory of relativity, which included his formulation of the equivalence of mass and energy (E = mc2). He held several professorships before becoming director of Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in 1914. In 1915 he published his general theory of relativity, which was confirmed experimentally during a solar eclipse in 1919 with observations of the deviation of light passing near the Sun. He received a Nobel Prize in 1921 for his work on the photoelectric effect, his work on relativity still being controversial. He made important contributions to quantum field theory, and for decades he sought to discover the mathematical relationship between electromagnetism and gravitation, which he believed would be a first step toward discovering the common laws governing the behaviour of everything in the universe, but such a unified field theory eluded him. His theories of relativity and gravitation represented a profound advance over Newtonian physics and revolutionized scientific and philosophical inquiry. He resigned his position at the Prussian Academy when Adolf Hitler came to power and moved to Princeton, N.J., where he joined the Institute for Advanced Study. Though a longtime pacifist, he was instrumental in persuading Pres. Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 to initiate the Manhattan Project for the production of an atomic bomb, a technology his own theories greatly furthered, though he did not work on the project himself. The most eminent scientist in the world in the postwar years, he declined an offer to become the first prime minister of Israel and became a strong advocate for nuclear disarmament.

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