EINSTEIN, ALBERT

EINSTEIN, ALBERT (1879–1955), physicist, discoverer of the theory of relativity, and Nobel Prize winner. Born in the German town of Ulm, son of the proprietor of a small electrochemical business, Einstein spent his early youth in Munich. He detested the military discipline of the German schools and joined his parents, leaving school after they moved to Italy. His interest in mathematics and physics started at an early age, and he avidly read books on mathematics. Unable to obtain an instructorship at the Zurich Polytechnic Institute, from which he graduated at the age of 21, he took a post at the patent office in Berne, having become in the meantime a Swiss citizen. This position left him ample time to carry on his own research. In 1905 he published three brilliant scientific papers, one dealing with the "Brownian motion," the second one with the "photoelectric effect," and the third on the "Special theory of relativity." It was the last one which was to bring his name before the public. He demonstrated that motion is relative and that physical laws must be the same for all observers moving relative to each other, as well as his famous E = mc2 equation showing that mass is equivalent to energy. Ironically, however, when he received the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 it was for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Immediately after the publication of that paper Einstein was offered a professorship at the University of Zurich which he at first refused, having become fond of his job at the patent office. In 1910 he joined the German University in Prague, where he held the position of professor ordinarius in physics, the highest academic rank. Despite his absorption in his scholarly pursuits he could not fail to notice the political strife and quarrels between the rival feelings of nationalism, and felt great sympathy for the Czechs and their aspirations. In 1912 Einstein returned to Switzerland, where he taught at the Polytechnic, the same place to which he had come as a poor student in 1896. His friend and colleague, Max Planck, succeeded in obtaining for him a professorship at the Prussian Academy of Science in Berlin, a research institute where Einstein could devote all his time to research. In 1916, amid a world in the throes of World War I, Einstein made another fundamental contribution to science contained in Die Grundlagen der allgemeinen Relativitaetstheorie (Relativity, the Special and the General Theory, a Popular Exposition, 1920). In this theory he generalized the principle of relativity to all motion, uniform or not. The presence of large masses produces a gravitational field, which will result in a "warping" of the underlying (four-dimensional) space. That field will act on objects, such as planets or light rays, which will be deflected from their paths. His prediction of the deflection of starlight by the gravitational field of the sun was borne out by the expedition at the time of a solar eclipse in 1919. When the results of the solar eclipse observations became known to the general public, Einstein's name became a household word. He was offered, but refused, great sums of money for articles, pictures, and advertisements as his fame mounted. During the early years after World War I he worked for the League of Nations Intellectual Cooperation Organization and became a familiar figure on public platforms speaking on social problems as well as his Theory of Relativity. He became more and more disappointed by the misuse of sciences in the hands of man. "In the hands of our generation these hard-won achievements are like a razor wielded by a child of three. The possession of marvelous means of production has brought care and hunger instead of freedom." In 1932, Einstein accepted an invitation to spend the winter term at the California Institute of Technology. By January 1933, Hitler had come to power. Einstein promptly resigned from his position at the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences and never returned to Germany. Many positions were offered him but he finally accepted a professorship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., and later became an American citizen. During World War II secret news reached the U.S. physicists that the German uranium project was progressing. Einstein, when approached by his friend szilard , signed a letter to President Roosevelt pointing out the feasibility of atomic energy. It was that letter which sparked the Manhattan Project and future developments of atomic energy. However, Einstein was opposed   to the use of the atomic bomb, as were many other scientists, and wrote another letter which, however, arrived only after Roosevelt's death. In spite of his dislike for engaging in public affairs Einstein became chairman of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists and urged the outlawing of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. During the McCarthy period Einstein advised scientists to refuse to testify before the Congressional Committee on Un-American Affairs. Despite his advanced age he continued to work on the "Unified Field Theory" which attempted as a first step to unify gravitation and electromagnetism into one theory. It is impossible to assess whether he would have succeeded in this momentous task, since he died before its completion. Einstein was not only one of the greatest scientists of all time but also a generous person who took time and effort to help others and spoke out openly for his beliefs and principles. He never forgot that he had been a refugee himself and lent a helping hand to the many who asked for his intervention. The man who refused to write popular articles for his own benefit devoted hours to raising money for refugees and other worthwhile causes. Einstein was a Jew not only by birth but also by belief and action. He took an active part in Jewish affairs, wrote extensively, and attended many functions in order to raise money for Jewish causes. He was first introduced to Zionism during his stay in Prague, where Jewish intellectuals gathered in each other's homes talking about their dream of a Jewish Homeland. He and weizmann had become acquainted, and, despite different outlooks – Weizmann regarded Einstein as an unpractical idealist and Einstein in turn thought Weizmann was too much of a "Realpolitiker" – remained allies and friends. In 1921 Weizmann asked Einstein to join him on a fundraising tour of America to buy land in Palestine and seek aid for the Hebrew University. Einstein readily agreed, since his interest in the University had been growing. The tour was highly successful. He visited Palestine and was greatly impressed by what he saw. Einstein appeared before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine in 1946 and entered a strong plea for a Jewish Homeland. When the State of Israel was established he hailed the event as the fulfillment of an ancient dream, providing conditions in which the spiritual and cultural life of a Hebrew society could find free expression. After Weizmann's death he was asked by Ben-Gurion to stand as a candidate for the presidency of the State of Israel, which he declined "being deeply touched by the offer but not suited for the position." When he went to the hospital for the illness which proved to be his last he took with him the notes he had made for the television address he was to give on Israel's seventh Independence Day. The notes were expanded into an article which is included in Einstein on Peace (ed. by O. Nathan and H. Norden, 1960). Among his works are About Zionism (ed. and tr. by L. Simon, 1930), speeches and letters; Mein Weltbild (1934; The World As I See It, 1934); Evolution of Physics (with L. Infeld, 1938); Out of My Later Years (1950); and The Meaning of Relativity (1921, 19566). The Albert Einstein Archives at the Jewish National and University Library of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (www.albert-einstein.org) house Einstein's personal papers. Through 1998, eight volumes of a projected 30 volumes of Einstein's Collected Papers were published by Princeton University Press. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Moszkowski, Einstein, the Searcher: His Work Explained from Dialogues (1921); M. Born, Einstein's Theory of Relativity (1924, 19622); P. Frank, Einstein, his Life and Times (1947); L. Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein (1948, 19502); E.E. Levinger, Albert Einstein (Eng., 1949); P.A. Schlipp (ed.), Albert Einstein, Philosopher-Scientist (1949, 19512), includes autobiographical notes and bibliography of Einstein's writings; L. Infeld, Albert Einstein: His Work and Its Influence on Our World (1950); A. Vallentin (pseud.), The Drama of Albert Einstein (1954); K. Seelig, Albert Einstein: A Documentary Biography (1956); N. Boni, A Bibliographical Checklist and Index to the Published Writings of Albert Einstein (1960); P. Michelmore, Einstein, Portrait of the Man (1962); H. Cuny, Albert Einstein, the Man and his Theories (1963); C. Lanczos, Albert Einstein and the Cosmic World (1965); H. Schmidt, in: Judaism, 8 (1959), 234–41; H. Parzen, in; JSOS, 32 (1970), 187–213; R.W. Clark, Einstein, The Life and Times (1971); B. Hoffmann (with H. Dukas), Albert Einstein, Creator and Rebel (1973); A. Moszkowski, Conversations with Einstein (1970). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Pais, Subtle is the Lord. The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982); J. Stachel, Einstein's Miraculous Year: Five Papers That Changed the Face of Physics (1998); P.D. Smith, Einstein (2003); E.B. Blair, Einstein Defiant: Genius versus Genius in the Quantum Revolution (2004). (Gerald E. Tauber)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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