Albert Einstein And His Miraculous Year Of 1905

August 25, 2022 at 11:34 p.m.


As I mentioned in last week’s column about Johannes Kepler, he and Albert Einstein are certainly included in the list of the world’s smartest men.

According to Walter Isaacson in his book “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Albert Einstein was a locksmith blessed with imagination and guided by a faith in the harmony of nature’s handiwork. His fascinating story, a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom, reflects the triumphs and tumults of the modern era.”  

Einstein was the greatest genius of the 20th century and perhaps of all history.

Biography

Jack Steinberg noted in his book “The Life of a Genius,”  that Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, into a secular Jewish family and was the elder brother to Maja who was born in 1881.

However, even though he was born in Ulm, his family was forced to move to Munich some six weeks after he was born. His father, Hermann Einstein, initially worked as a bed salesman until he decided to go into business alongside his brother.

Between the two of them, they had created a business by the name of Elektrotechnische Fabrik J.Einstein & Cie. It is reasonable to assume that being surrounded by this type of technology may have also had a bearing on the life of Einstein.

We know that from approximately 1891 that Einstein had successfully managed to teach himself Euclidean geometry merely from a school book and he then switched his attention to calculus, which would go on to serve him well later on in life. It is believed that through his love of geometry that he then began to really understand the power of deductive reasoning with this allowing him to begin to think in a broader manner about so many aspects of life. The lucky break for Einstein came in Switzerland with him being able to enroll in the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School, which was based in Zurich.

A Miraculous Year

1905 was Albert Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis, or “Miraculous Year.” Between March and December that year, the 26-year-old Einstein published six seminal papers in the journal Annalen der Physik that advanced — indeed, revolutionized — our understanding of the physical universe in major ways in three different directions.

In the order in which they appeared, the papers  dealt with (i) the “light-quantum” or the photon concept and an explanation of the photoelectric effect, (ii) the theory and explanation of Brownian motion and (iii) the Special Theory of Relativity, a radically new view of space and time.

Einstein himself regarded the first as truly revolutionary; it was the second major step in the development of quantum theory. In contrast, both Brownian motion and Special Relativity belong to the realm of classical physics. In addition, in 1905, Einstein discovered the equivalence of mass and energy, encapsulated in perhaps the most famous formula of all: E=mc2. No single year before or since then has seen such a diversity of fundamental discovery by a single person, with the exception of the period 1665-66 in which Isaac Newton, also in his early 20s, discovered “the system of the world,” and much else besides.

The Famous Papers

 “The first deals with radiation and the energy properties of light and is very revolutionary,” he explained.  

It argued that light could be regarded not just as a wave but also as a stream of tiny particles called quanta. The implications that would eventually arise from this theory — a cosmos without strict causality or certainty — would spook him for the rest of his life.

“The second paper is a determination of the true sizes of atoms.” Even though the very existence of atoms was still in dispute, this was the most straightforward of the papers, which is why he chose it as the safest bet for his latest attempt at a doctoral thesis.

He was in the process of revolutionizing physics, but he had been repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to win an academic job or even get a doctoral degree, which he hoped might get him promoted from a third- to a second-class examiner at the patent office.

The third paper explained the jittery motion of microscopic particles in liquid by using a statistical analysis  of random collisions. In the process, it established that atoms and molecules actually exist.

The fourth paper is only a rough draft at this point, and is an electrodynamics of moving bodies which employs a modification of the theory of space and time. It would become known as the Special Theory of Relativity.  

He produced a fifth paper that year, a short addendum to the fourth, which posited a relationship between energy and mass. Out of it would arise the best-known equation in all of physics: E=mc2.

A decade after that, in 1915, he wrested from nature his crowning glory, one of the most beautiful theories in all of science, the general theory of relativity. As with the special theory, his thinking had evolved through thought experiments. Imagine being in an enclosed elevator accelerating up through space, he conjectured in one of them. The effects you’d feel would be indistinguishable from the experience of gravity.

Max Sherman is a medical writer and pharmacist retired from the medical device industry.  His new book “Science Snippets” is available from Amazon and other book sellers. It contains a number of previously published columns.  He can be reached by email at  [email protected]

As I mentioned in last week’s column about Johannes Kepler, he and Albert Einstein are certainly included in the list of the world’s smartest men.

According to Walter Isaacson in his book “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Albert Einstein was a locksmith blessed with imagination and guided by a faith in the harmony of nature’s handiwork. His fascinating story, a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom, reflects the triumphs and tumults of the modern era.”  

Einstein was the greatest genius of the 20th century and perhaps of all history.

Biography

Jack Steinberg noted in his book “The Life of a Genius,”  that Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, into a secular Jewish family and was the elder brother to Maja who was born in 1881.

However, even though he was born in Ulm, his family was forced to move to Munich some six weeks after he was born. His father, Hermann Einstein, initially worked as a bed salesman until he decided to go into business alongside his brother.

Between the two of them, they had created a business by the name of Elektrotechnische Fabrik J.Einstein & Cie. It is reasonable to assume that being surrounded by this type of technology may have also had a bearing on the life of Einstein.

We know that from approximately 1891 that Einstein had successfully managed to teach himself Euclidean geometry merely from a school book and he then switched his attention to calculus, which would go on to serve him well later on in life. It is believed that through his love of geometry that he then began to really understand the power of deductive reasoning with this allowing him to begin to think in a broader manner about so many aspects of life. The lucky break for Einstein came in Switzerland with him being able to enroll in the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School, which was based in Zurich.

A Miraculous Year

1905 was Albert Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis, or “Miraculous Year.” Between March and December that year, the 26-year-old Einstein published six seminal papers in the journal Annalen der Physik that advanced — indeed, revolutionized — our understanding of the physical universe in major ways in three different directions.

In the order in which they appeared, the papers  dealt with (i) the “light-quantum” or the photon concept and an explanation of the photoelectric effect, (ii) the theory and explanation of Brownian motion and (iii) the Special Theory of Relativity, a radically new view of space and time.

Einstein himself regarded the first as truly revolutionary; it was the second major step in the development of quantum theory. In contrast, both Brownian motion and Special Relativity belong to the realm of classical physics. In addition, in 1905, Einstein discovered the equivalence of mass and energy, encapsulated in perhaps the most famous formula of all: E=mc2. No single year before or since then has seen such a diversity of fundamental discovery by a single person, with the exception of the period 1665-66 in which Isaac Newton, also in his early 20s, discovered “the system of the world,” and much else besides.

The Famous Papers

 “The first deals with radiation and the energy properties of light and is very revolutionary,” he explained.  

It argued that light could be regarded not just as a wave but also as a stream of tiny particles called quanta. The implications that would eventually arise from this theory — a cosmos without strict causality or certainty — would spook him for the rest of his life.

“The second paper is a determination of the true sizes of atoms.” Even though the very existence of atoms was still in dispute, this was the most straightforward of the papers, which is why he chose it as the safest bet for his latest attempt at a doctoral thesis.

He was in the process of revolutionizing physics, but he had been repeatedly thwarted in his efforts to win an academic job or even get a doctoral degree, which he hoped might get him promoted from a third- to a second-class examiner at the patent office.

The third paper explained the jittery motion of microscopic particles in liquid by using a statistical analysis  of random collisions. In the process, it established that atoms and molecules actually exist.

The fourth paper is only a rough draft at this point, and is an electrodynamics of moving bodies which employs a modification of the theory of space and time. It would become known as the Special Theory of Relativity.  

He produced a fifth paper that year, a short addendum to the fourth, which posited a relationship between energy and mass. Out of it would arise the best-known equation in all of physics: E=mc2.

A decade after that, in 1915, he wrested from nature his crowning glory, one of the most beautiful theories in all of science, the general theory of relativity. As with the special theory, his thinking had evolved through thought experiments. Imagine being in an enclosed elevator accelerating up through space, he conjectured in one of them. The effects you’d feel would be indistinguishable from the experience of gravity.

Max Sherman is a medical writer and pharmacist retired from the medical device industry.  His new book “Science Snippets” is available from Amazon and other book sellers. It contains a number of previously published columns.  He can be reached by email at  [email protected]

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