Einstein and his Contribution to Science

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Introduction

When the history of the field of science is re-visited, it becomes practically impossible to bypass the name of Albert Einstein. His role and contribution in the field of science is doubtless great. Although deceased almost fifty years ago, Einstein remains one of the worldwide recognized physicists of the twentieth century. His image still remains live in the minds of many especially the scientists in various field in which Einstein influenced. In addition, his reputation has totally refused to go away, gaining fame each passing day. But how do people know Einstein? Generally the physicist is recognized for two things; first, he was “a shaggy-haired genius” and as years went by he left his hair to grow long though this can be attributed to the trend of the moment which was regarded as fashionable (Goldsmith and Bartusiak, 2008, p.9); second, Einstein is remembered for formulating a formula in the field of physics-E=mc2, though with time the symbol has assumed different symbols but which mean the same thing (Goldsmith and Bartusiak, 2008, p.9). The formula has been utilized at providing solution to the puzzles of the nature. Basically, E=mc2 gives the description of the amount of energy (E) which is the energy mass that is found in each object that has an amount of mass (m); speed is denoted by (c) and the square on it implies that, regardless of the size of the object whether small or big, it possess an enormous energy of mass (Goldsmith and Bartusiak, 2008, p.9).

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Einstein’s Background

Albert Einstein, described as one of the greatest physicians of his time, was born of Jewish parents in the town of Ulm in Southern Germany on 14 March 1879. However, the history literatures have not been able to locate the house in which the great scientist was born because it is believed to have been destroyed by a bomb attack of 1945 (Whitrow, 1973, p.1). Einstein’s father moved his family to Bavarian which was the capital of Munich when the young Albert was one year old. The region was a suburb and it was in this region where Einstein’s father known as, Hermann Einstein, operated a small electrochemical factory together with his brother. At the same time, Einstein had a sister known as Maja who was one year younger than him (Whitrow, 1973, p.1).

Albert’s father has been described to have been incompetent person who in many instances did not succeed in his business ventures. Indeed, his mother, who was known as Pauline Koch is the one who injected and portrayed a strong character in the business and this is the reason why the business had some life. Furthermore, Einstein’s mother had a strong and undisputed love for Germany classical music specifically the Beethoven’s piano sonatas. However, to an extent, Einstein’s two parents did not stimulate his intellectual curiosity but was largely influenced by his uncle who was a trained engineer (Whitrow, 1973, p.1).

Just like the other earlier geniuses in the field Newton, Einstein did not show early signs of being a genius. Evidence shows how he was slow in learning how to talk, and as a child, he was much more reserved and did not find pleasure in playing with other children, utilizing much of his time day-dreaming (Whitrow, 1973, p.1). During these early years, it became evident that Einstein was much attracted to the traditional religion and he was opposed to the skepticism that his father harbored. These religious feelings that Einstein cultivated were to later have a deep belief by the young man of the existence of essential harmony of the laws of nature. As if to mark his first entry into the field of philosophy which would later take him to marvel at wonders of the nature, Einstein, at the age of five, became curious at the behavior of a magnet compass that his father showed him. Getting perplexed at the sight of the needle pointing in the same direction upon the compass being turned about, Einstein was to develop a deep and a strong lasting curiosity about this wonder (Whitrow, 1973). Indeed, he got convinced that at least there was something not easily seen which was puzzling and causing the needle to turn in that particular direction.

At the age of ten, Albert Einstein joined Leopold Gymnasium in Munich where he dedicated much of his time studying Latin and Greek grammar. Here, he found out that mechanical learning of language was tedious and his interest in learning the languages was only aroused and spiced up by a teacher who introduced him to the writings of Goethe and Schiller (Whitrow, 1973). Upon becoming a professor, Einstein went back to Munich to visit the teacher but because of his poor dressing, the teacher did not recognize him, thus refused to meet Einstein, an act that embarrassed Einstein later.

Einstein’s interest in mathematics is believed to have been aroused while still at home and not in school primarily by his uncle who introduced him to algebra. This gave young Einstein pleasure especially when solving simple problems using own ways instead of having to stick to particular known methods. At the age of fourteen, his interest became much drawn in popular books on natural science which he read with a lot of interest and passion (Whitrow, 1973) and during this period, his attitude and beliefs in religion became stronger and clearly defined. However, despite not agreeing to the religious rituals that were being done and not deciding to join any religious group, young Albert was totally convinced of the paramount ethical value of the Biblical tradition.

In 1894, Albert’s parents decided to leave Munich and moved to Italy because of economic problems, leaving young Albert behind in order for him to complete his studies in the Gymnasium. But after the elapse of six months, Albert found it difficult to operate without his parents and immediately left for Milan. Indeed, moving to Italy excited Einstein since he saw this as an opportunity of moving into a more spontaneous and less rigorous society than that in Germany. Here, he developed interest in theoretical physics; unfortunately, he had no diploma from the Gymnasium which could enable him to enter University. As a result, he decided to seek admission at the popular Polytechnic Institute in Zurich but luck would also slip away from him as he failed the entrance examination despite the fact that he had excelled in mathematics (Whitrow, 1973). Nevertheless, he was advised to attend a school in Aarau which was rated as one of the best schools in order for him to obtain a diploma.

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Einstein found the environment in the school to be fine as compared to that of the Gymnasium and in 1896, at the age of seventeen, he finally got a chance to be admitted to Zurich Polytechnic, currently known as Federal Institute of Technology, as a student of mathematics and physics. And it is here that Einstein discovered that he was by nature a theoretical physicist rather than a mathematician. Nevertheless, in many cases, he was self-taught, an element most geniuses demonstrate.

Einstein’s contribution to the field of science

The history of physics took dramatic turn between 1895 and 1905 when the field experienced enormous transition (Pais, 2005, p.26). This period witnessed the discovery of: X-rays in 1895, the Zeeman Effect in 1896, radioactivity in 1896, and the extension of infrared spectroscopy, the emergence of quantum theory in 1900 and relativity theory in 1905 (Pais, 2005, p.26). These events marked the era in which the need to revise the foundation of physics theory was inevitable and one man who was among those who led the new search for theoretical concepts was Albert Einstein, who at the time was a technical expert at the Swiss patent office in Bern and working alone (Pais, 2005, p.26).

Albert Einstein was the brain behind the special theory of relativity. At the turn of the century, one of the puzzles that confronted physicist rested on the foundation of the natural science and was related to the nature of space and time (Holton and Elkana, 1997, p.27). Therefore, Einstein’s theory was seen as revolutionary as it appeared simple yet well deep. Giving details on the concepts of space and time, Einstein showed that the simultaneity of distant events are observer or frame-dependent if one was to agree to the idea that speed of light cannot be exceeded by any signaling device (Holton and Elkana, 1997, p.28). Therefore, Einstein modified the relativistic mechanics by bridging the gap in a considerable way through making the mass velocity-dependent hence proportionality being realized between mass and energy through manipulating the force. Also, Einstein made great contribution in the areas of quantum theory and Brownian motion.

Einstein’s idea of generalization

Einstein idea of generalization can be located in his theory of general relativity and it is here where he offered two principles as to the foundation of the theory. The first principle he outlined is the widely known principle of equivalence, which in detail and clarity expressed the basic idea of general relativity whereby, gravity has to be viewed as an effect of the space-time structure in it. The second principle, although it has realized some tremendous and profound changes especially in its expression and role, has its basic idea resting on the generalization of the special principle of relativity where it requires that all the systems of reference and not only the inertial ones, need to be treated on equal levels. Therefore, it is from this fact that the principle is generally known as the principle of general relativity (Kox and Einsenstaedt, 2005, p.103).

Einstein provides an intellectual argument on the concept of relativity of inertia basically by revisiting the relativity of motion. He credits his argument to Ernst Mach, who was known to have frequently criticized the Newtonian concept of absolute space. In the case, Einstein made the observation that physical distinction between inertial and accelerated motion cannot rely on the fact that a system is able to move against absolute space, and by adopting such belief and conviction, Einstein asserted that such was a completely unobservable entity. Thus, he stated that to be right, the entity needs to be explained by the motion against other physical bodies. From this, Einstein believed that inertial forces do not cause acceleration against absolute space but acceleration against other masses, and he referred to this as, “hypothesis of the relativity of inertia” (Kox and Einsenstaedt, 2005, p.103).

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In the subsequent years, Einstein got involved in unraveling the puzzle of whether general relativity could be formulated in a general covariant way and as he would demonstrate and formulate two solutions to the problems and subsequent achievement of general covariance, Einstein became satisfied that he had accomplished the demand for a generalization of relativity in a maximal way by stating that, “if all coordinate systems are equivalent for the formulation of the theory, then especially there cannot be a difference between coordinates systems that represent frames in inertial motion” (Kox and Einsenstaedt, 2005, p.104). At the same time, Einstein suggested that the laws of physics need to be formulated in a way that they provide truth in reference systems in any given state of motion, thus this implied the relativity of inertia.

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the life of Einstein impacted a lot on the field of science although he was not only confined to sciences. History books show how Einstein, between 1920 and 1930, became active in politics and international affairs and became to be a strong supporter of Zionism. But his greatest credits are in physics where the history remains untainted on how his concepts of mechanics and electrodynamics through the theory of relativity, together with his intellectual challenge to Newtonian physics through quantum theory, will shape the field of physics for a long time.

References

Goldsmith, D. and Bartusiak, M. (2008). E = Einstein: His Life, His Thought, and His Influence on Our Culture. NY, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. Web.

Holton, G. and Elkana, Y. (1997). Albert Einstein: Historical and Cultural Perspectives. NY, Courier Dover Publications. Web.

Kox, A. J.and Eisenstaedt, J. (2005). The universe of general relativity. NY, Springer Science & Business. Web.

Pais, A. (2005). Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. NY, Oxford University Press. Web.

Whitrow, G. J. (1973). Einstein, the man and his achievement. NY, Courier Dover Publications. Web.

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