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Science communication is important in today's technologically advanced society. A good part of the adult community is not science saavy and lacks the background to make sense of rapidly changing technology. My blog attempts to help by publishing articles of general interest in an easy to read and understand format without using mathematics. I also give free lectures in community events - you can arrange these by writing to me.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Albert Einstein Early Life 1879 to 1905

In the following and later blogs (to come in due course) I have published some outlines from my talks on
Albert Eistein and the Theory of Relativity
I am truly a ‘lone traveller’ and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart... --- Albert Einstein 1930

In 1905, Albert Einstein published his famous Special Theory of Relativity and overthrew commonsense assumptions about space and time. Relative to the observer, both are altered near the speed of light: lengths appear to contract; clocks tick more slowly.

A decade and a year later, Einstein further challenged conventional wisdom by describing gravity as the warping of spacetime, not a force acting at a distance.
Since then, Einstein's revolutionary insights have largely stood the test of time. One by one, his predictions have been borne out by experiments.
Paul Dirac called General Relativity probably the greatest scientific discovery ever made
Max Born called it the greatest feat of human thinking about nature

In 1999, an opinion poll of 100 leading physicists ranked Einstein the "greatest physicist ever"
In many ways, Einstein has become a mythical figure
He has been the subject of or inspiration for many novels, films, plays, and works of music.
His expressive face and distinctive hairstyle have been widely copied and exaggerated.
He is frequently depicted as an absent-minded professor -
"a cartoonist's dream come true".
While Einstein is best known for his theory of relativity, he had contributed many other groundbreaking ideas

Einstein – Early Life 1879-1905
Einstein was born on 14 March 1879 in Ulm, in Württemberg, Germany
1880 – Parents moved to Munich to set up a company to manufacture electrical equipment. Parents were non-observant Jews.
Einstein attended a catholic school until age 10
1894 – Parents moved to Pavia, Italy. Einstein stayed in Munich to finish his studies at the Luitpold Gymnasium
Einstein clashed with authorities and resented the school's rules and teaching method. He later wrote that the spirit of learning and creative thought were lost in strict rote learning.
1895, he convinced the school to let him go by using a doctor's note and joined his family in Pavia
Einstein's youth could be summarized as rebellious and subversive of authority
1896: renounced his citizenship in the German Kingdom of Württemberg to avoid 3 years of compulsory military service. Einstein became stateless
1901: became a Swiss citizen
1896: After a failed attempt, enrolled in ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, ETH is ranked among the top universities in the world with more than 20 of its graduates winning Nobel Prize.
Both at the Gymnasium and at ETH, Einstein found it difficult to adjust and was hugely disliked by his teachers. He did not regularly attend lectures at ETH and borrowed notes from Grossman.
‘Your mere presence here undermines the class’s respect for me’ -- Gymnasium Teacher 1894
Hermann Minkowski referred him as a "lazy dog".

Einstein, later said at at ETH, he seems to have been written off as virtually unemployable,"a pariah, discounted and little loved”

At ETH, Einstein made good friends with Michelangelo Besso, a somewhat eccentric but brilliant electric engineer and Marcel Grossmann, a gifted mathematician.
In June 1902, Grossman’s father arranged Einstein to be interviewed for a position as technical expert in the Swiss Patent Office. He accepted the position of rank 3rd class – not a very high ranking.
Away from the coercive environment of academia, Einstein could once again start to think about science, and resumed his self-directed studies
The work at the Patent Office was undemanding and left Einstein time to develop the momentous ideas that his mind had already started churning.
In 1905 he completed his doctoral thesis.
In 1905 Einstein published four groundbreaking papers in the prestigious journal Annalen der Physik which revolutionised the way physical theories are formulated
These papers not only explained some of the difficulties that physics at the turn of the century was confronted with, but also formed the basis of the development of modern physics on which much of the industrial innovation is now based

The papers brought Einstein to the attention of the scientific world and soon he became one of the most respected physicist of his times
One also notes how the scientific establishment has changed. It will be difficult to imagine a reputed journal publishing papers from an unknown scientist

Einstein met Mileva Maric, a fellow student at ETH
They married in 1903 and had two sons Hans (1904) and Eduardo (1910)
The couple divorced in 1919.
They had negotiated a settlement whereby the Nobel Prize money that Einstein anticipated he would soon receive was to be placed in trust for their two boys, while Marić would be able to draw on the interest, but have no authority over the capital without Einstein's permission

1 comment:

Allen Esterson said...

Although he skipped some classes to focus on his own interests in physics in the last two years of his ETH four-year course, it is not the case that he hardly ever attended classes, as his ETH leaving certificate testifies.