Albert Einstein: Who was the man behind the icon?
Summarizing the career and life of Albert Einstein would be difficult… to associate him with forensic engineering even more so! For many of us, he’s that shaggy-haired scientist, sticking his tongue out and shouting “E=mc².” However, this pop culture image doesn’t really do justice to the political and global influence he had throughout his life.
So for our last infographic of the season, here are a few facts about the man who is considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time.
David Einstein versus Goliath Newton
Einstein, born in Germany to a Jewish family, was not keen on school, as shown by his decent but not extraordinary results. However, he had a sharp mind. Thanks to this confidence and his skills, he made a very remarkable entry into the scientific community by publishing in 1905, not one, not two, but four articles!
Among his most remarkable works is the one which establishes the famous equivalence between the mass and the energy of a system, namely E = mc². While that theory is incredibly important to science, his theories on movement and physics also made enormous impacts on engineering and science!
Interest, criticism, skepticism: young Einstein was not unanimously popular among his peers, who disputed his conclusions. A dramatic turn of events in 1919: an expedition during a solar eclipse allowed to prove that Einstein’s theory of relativity was correct and above all, to defeat none other than Isaac Newton, whose discoveries then became outdated.
The humanist at the origin of the atomic bomb
In 1934, Einstein took advantage of his notoriety and his many skills to offer his philosophical vision of the world and that of science, in his book The World as I See It. And since it was not easy to be a Jew in Germany at this time, he took refuge in the United States, where he became a fervent pacifist and anti-racism activist.
He also played a political role that is both determining and sad when physicists Léo Szilard and Eugene Wigner asked him to sign a letter to President Roosevelt. Their objective? Warning him against the Nazi party, who were working to develop an atomic weapon from nuclear energy… which stemmed directly from the theory of relativity! In no time at all, Einstein signed the letter, and the Manhattan Project was born. The United States invested time and money to design an atomic bomb as quickly as possible. And the rest is history…
Einstein, a passionate humanist, would never have thought that his genius would serve to create a weapon of mass destruction. Although he campaigned until his death in 1955 for global atomic disarmament, he never recovered from this event, confessing to Linus Pauling, “I made one great mistake in my life when I signed the letter”.
“Do as I say, not as I do”
While humanity’s progress was a priority for Einstein, his personal life could be considered less successful. His first marriage ended in divorce, though it is reported that he supported his wife and children with the money he received when he won his Nobel Prize. His second marriage was reportedly one of convenience, and there are multiple recorded affairs throughout it’s time.
Winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, Einstein went down in history as an undisputed genius, a contradictory mind and a man more committed to science than to his personal life. The one who renounced his German citizenship will have lived his whole life without ties, while the world as we know it remains deeply linked to his work, from GPS systems, to hearing aids, to X-rays and particle accelerators.
FUN FACTS AND QUOTATIONS
“It takes a touch of genius-and a lot of courage-to move in the opposite direction.”
Einstein’s brain was kept in a jar for 43 years.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”.
Although he ate meat for a long time, Einstein was convinced of the benefits of vegetarianism on human health and the temperament of individuals.