The mathematician physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) ranks with Galileo and Newton as one of the great conceptual revisions of man's understanding of the universe. Born at Ulm in Bavaria, of Jewish parents, he was educated at Munich but moved with his parents to Milan in 1894, but completed his education at Aarau and the Z�rich Polytechnic. Taking Swiss nationality in 1901, he was appointed examiner at the Swiss Patent Office (1902-05) and began to publish original papers on the theoretical aspects of problems in physics such as the Brownian movement and Planck's quantum theory.
Einstein's principal fame rests on his world famous special (1905) and general (1916) theories of relativity. Einstein showed that in the case of rapid relative motion involving velocities approaching the speed of light, puzzling phenomena such as decreased size and mass are to be expected. Special relativity also allowed the laws of nature to be written in a mathematical form which was the same for all observers not acted upon by a force. His general theory waived this inertial requirement for observers and accounted for the slow rotation of the elliptical path of the planet Mercury which Newtonian gravitational theory failed to do.
After holding professorships at Zürich, Prague and Berlin, Einstein left Europe in response to Hitler's rise to power. He renounced his German citizenship, lectured at Oxford and Cambridge, and after 1934 at Princeton. In 1939 he wrote his famous letter to Roosevelt advising the feasibility of a super-bomb based on atomic fission and the danger of a German lead in this field. In 1940 he received American citizenship and was appointed professor at Princeton.
After World War Two, he urged international control of atomic weapons and protested against the proceedings of the House un-American Senate Subcommittee which had arraigned many of his fellow scientists. Einstein received the Nobel Prize (1921), was elected to the Royal Society (1921) and was awarded its Copley medal in 1925 and the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1926).
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