Albert Einstein Research Paper

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Albert Einstein remains one of the most influential people in the fields of science and mathematics. The Nobel Prize–winning physicist contributed theories on relativity and the photoelectric effect that are still upheld today. Though German-born, Einstein lived out the last portion of his life in the United States and even urged President Roosevelt to act against Nazi Germany.

Albert Einstein contributed more than any other scientist to the twentieth-century vision of physical reality with his special and general theories of relativity, and he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Recognized in his own lifetime as one of the most brilliant minds in human history, he advanced a series of theories that proposed entirely new ways of thinking about space, time, and gravitation. His theories profoundly advanced the field of physics and revolutionized scientific and philosophical inquiry.

Born 14 March 1879, in Ulm, Germany, Einstein and his family moved a year later to Munich to establish a small electrical engineering firm as the family business. Einstein showed little interest or ability in school. Two of his uncles who were involved with the family business, however, stimulated his interest in mathematics and science. When the business failed in 1894, the family moved to Milan, Italy, and Einstein soon followed and then resumed his education in Switzerland. He graduated from the Zurich Polytechnic school in 1900 as a secondary school teacher of mathematics and physics, also becoming a Swiss citizen.

After a short period, he obtained a job as an examiner at the Swiss patent office in Bern and married his university sweetheart, Mileva Maric, in 1903. They had two sons, but the marriage ended several years later. He married Elsa Lowenthal in 1919.

From 1902 to 1909, while working at the patent office, he completed an astonishing range of publications in theoretical physics. For the most part these texts were written in his spare time and without the benefit of close contact with either scientific literature or theoretician colleagues. The publication of one paper, “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions,” and its submission to the University of Zurich won him a doctoral degree in 1905. Einstein’s paper provided convincing evidence for the physical existence of atom-sized molecules, a much-theorized topic. In 1908 he sent a second paper to the University of Bern, which got him a job there as a lecturer. The next year he received an appointment as associate professor of physics at the University of Zurich.

One paper, on the production and transformation of light, revolutionized the theory of light. Still another, containing his special theory of relativity, had its beginnings in an essay he had written at age sixteen. The theory postulated that if, for all frames of reference, the speed of light is constant, and if all natural laws are the same, then both time and motion are relative to the observer. The follow-up paper, “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend upon Its Energy Content?” established the equivalence of mass and energy, commonly expressed in the formula E = mc2. The theory remained controversial for many years before its mainstream acceptance.

This outpouring of brilliance in such a short time made Einstein the leading scientific thinker among Europe’s physics community, though public understanding of his theories was years away. After moving quickly from one university post to another, in 1914 he became professor at the prestigious Prussian Academy of Science in Berlin. He occasionally lectured at the University of Berlin, but from this time on he never again taught regular university courses. He remained there until 1933, when the rise of fascism in Germany impelled him to leave for an analogous research position in the United States, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, a position he held until his death.

In his work after 1905, Einstein had made important contributions to the quantum theory, but increasingly thereafter he focused on perfecting his theory of relativity. By 1916, he had completed his general theory of relativity. It claimed that gravitation is not a force, as Isaac Newton had said, but a curved field in the space–time continuum created by the presence of a mass, such as the sun. When the theory was later proved during a solar eclipse, when his light-deflection prediction could be tested, the popular press praised Einstein.

Einstein’s stand as a pacifist who did not support Germany’s war aims brought him much respect outside Germany, but derision as a traitor and defeatist from his former countrymen. After World War I, when the victorious powers sought to exclude German scientists from international meetings, Einstein worked to include German physicists. His popularity and his political stances, which also included Zionism, led to attacks in the 1920s by anti-Semitic physicists. This in part explains why his Nobel Prize in 1921 was awarded not for relativity, but for his less controversial 1905 work on the photoelectric effect.

Einstein abandoned his pacifism when he realized that Hitler and the Nazis had to be stopped by military means, but he never stopped working on behalf of peace. Einstein sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 urging that the United States develop an atomic bomb before Germany could do so. The letter contributed to Roosevelt’s decision to fund what became the Manhattan Project. It is one of the great ironies of the pacifist Einstein’s life that his energy–mass equation, which asserted that a particle of matter can be converted into an enormous quantity of energy, found its proof in the atomic and hydrogen bombs, the most destructive weapons ever created. After the war, he joined with other scientists in seeking to contain nuclear proliferation.

Though he failed in his political efforts, Einstein was not disappointed. His central interest always remained physics and the search to find the mathematical relationship between electromagnetism and gravitation, better known as the unified field theory. A version of the unified field theory he published in 1950 was politely criticized as flawed and went somewhat neglected for decades. In more recent years, physicists have begun trying to combine Einstein’s relativity theory with quantum theory to arrive at a “theory of everything,” by means of highly advanced mathematical models. That some of Einstein’s theories are only now being fully understood, decades after his death, stands as a testament to his place in science and human history.


  1. Brian, D. (1996). Einstein: A life. New York: Wiley.
  2. Clark, R. W. (1995). Einstein: The life and times. New York: Wings Books.
  3. Einstein, A. (1954). Ideas and opinions. New York: Crown Publishers.
  4. Einstein, A. (1987–2009). The collected papers of Albert Einstein (Vols. 1–12). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  5. Isaacson, W. (2007). Einstein: His life and universe. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  6. Neffe, J., & Frisch, S. (2009). Einstein: A biography. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  7. Sayen, J. (1985). Einstein in America: The scientist’s conscience in the age of Hitler and Hiroshima. New York: Crown.
  8. White, M., & Gribbin, J. (1993). Einstein: A life in science. New York: Dutton.

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