Physicists Biographies

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientists of all time. It changed the way we understand space and time, paving the way for a major revolution in physics.

Albert Einstein was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century.*
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German physicist born in the city of Ulm , Germany , where his father had an electronics workshop. He was the son of non-practicing Jews . Before he was born, his family’s business was not doing very well, and so the birth of Einstein led the family to move to Munich , the capital of Bavaria, where they hoped to obtain better financial conditions.

It was in this city that Einstein received his formal education. As a child, he didn’t show great signs of genius , but he wasn’t a bad student either. He clearly had a preference for subjects that required logical thinking, such as mathematics.

He graduated in Mathematics and Physics at the age of 21, in the year 1900. During his graduation period, Einstein was not considered the best of students. As he himself confessed in his autobiographical notes, the then student skipped classes to do his readings and was overly concerned with fundamentally more complex and advanced issues than the superficial ones he was taught at his graduation.

After graduation, Einstein spent a long time without a job. He wanted to take the position of assistant professor, but he couldn’t. So one of his friends, Grossman, got him a job at the Official Patent Office in Bern in 1902 . Einstein remained in that position until 1909 .

Einstein was married between 1903 and 1913 to a classmate, Mileva Maric . From the union two children were born . His position and salary allowed Einstein a quiet life, who devoted much of his time to research.

Scientific production

In 1896, Einstein joined the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and, at age 26, published his special theory of relativity .

In 1905, five years after his graduation, Einstein published four articles in the German scientific journal Annalen der Physik , which completely changed the current paradigm of Physics. The first of these deals with Brownian motion In it, Einstein explains the motion of small molecules that hover over the surface of liquids .

His second work published that year deals with the causes of the photoelectric effect . In that publication, Einstein suggests that the nature of light in this phenomenon was corpuscular , that is, light is composed of small, massless packets of energy: photons .

Einstein’s explanation for the photoelectric effect gave rise to what we call wave-particle duality . Today, we know that some particles, such as protons and electrons, can behave like a wave or a particle.

The third article produced by Einstein deals with his theory of special relativity , in which Einstein proposes that time and space are not absolute , but depend on the observer , contradicting all Newtonian mechanics known at the time by bringing totally new concepts to Physics, such as the temporal dilation and spatial contraction .

A few years later, Einstein developed the theory of general relativity, which deals with the deformation of space and time caused by massive bodies. One of the consequences of his theory was the possibility of the existence of gravitational waves , whose existence could only be confirmed in 2017, due to the lack of technologies capable of detecting this type of wave and, also, the occurrence of an astronomical event of large scale, capable of producing detectable gravitational waves, such as the collision of two supermassive black holes.

In his fourth publication of that year, Einstein detailed the mathematical development of the theory of relativity and presented to the world his famous equivalence relationship between rest mass and energy:

E = mc 2

The above relationship was used to calculate the energy that is released in nuclear reactions. Based on these calculations, several technological applications emerged, such as power plants and nuclear warheads.

Nobel Prize in Physics

Despite the enormous contributions to the most diverse areas of Physics, Albert Einstein was only awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 , not for the theory of relativity, but for the explanation of the photoelectric effect .

Thanks to his explanation for the photoelectric effect, photovoltaic cells now exist , capable of converting the energy carried by photons — the particles of light — into electrical currents that power homes, factories and rural properties around the world.


Einstein died in 1955 in New Jersey, United States. The physicist spent the last years of his life in search of a theory that would unify all the forces of nature : he was looking for a single general law capable of explaining all interactions in the universe.

Curiosities about Einstein

  • There are those who believe that Einstein was not good at Mathematics. In fact, Einstein always had an excellent command of Mathematics, and this proved to be true in the face of his vast scientific production.
  • Einstein had a late development of his speech: he only started to communicate verbally when he was four years old.
  • After separating from his wife, Mileva Maric, Einstein married his cousin, Elsa Lowenthal.
  • Einstein moved to the United States from Germany during the Nazi regime . At the time, there was a $5,000 prize for whoever caught him. The Nazis believed that Einstein was an American spy.
  • Einstein wrote a letter to the President of the United States of America, Frank Delano Roosevelt, suggesting that the US produce the atomic bomb as soon as possible, before Nazi physicists did. In his final years, Einstein was repentant about this and was totally against the use of nuclear warheads.
  • After graduating, Einstein spent almost 10 years without getting a job at the Academy. His professors considered him brilliant, however, rebellious and undisciplined, so they refused to recommend him to other institutions.
  • Two years before winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, Einstein had promised to give it to his wife as part of a divorce settlement. When he was laureate, Einstein gave him the whole award.
  • After the death of Israel’s first president, Einstein was invited to become president, but he declined the proposal.
  • Albert Einstein’s brain was stolen by a pathologist who participated in his autopsy: Thomas Harvey, who kept the organ preserved for over 40 years.
  • Studies of Einstein’s brain show that his parietal lobe, the brain region responsible for mathematical thinking, was 15% larger than the average human.

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