Einstein And His General Theory Essay, Research Paper
Originaly handed in 11/6/98
Submitted to School Sucks 11/9/98
Probably the most recognized figure in the science
world today is that of Albert Einstein. One of the few
scientists who revolutionized the entire Physics field and
the way we think, he is responsible for ideas as grand and
complex as the relationships that exist between time and
gravity, to why the sky is blue, an issue now considered to
Albert Einstein was born March 14, 1879, in Ulm,
Germany into a middle-class Jewish family. A year later,
they moved to Munich, were Albert grew up. In elementary
school, his success was less then admirable. At the age of
twelve, he was given a book on Geometry, he instantly fell
in love. He found that his studies were much more successful
outside of the classroom.
In1894, his family moved to Italy. Einstein stayed
behind to finish his studies. In 1895, he applied for
admission to the Zurich Polytechnic Institute. He was denied
acceptance, due to the fact that his previous curriculum was
completely science centered. He was forced to complete
another year of secondary school, before he was admitted to
the institute in 1896. While at school, he met Mileva Maric,
the woman he would marry in 1903, and go on to father two
Upon graduation from the institute, he took a job as an
examiner at the Swiss patent office in Bern. At night, he
would work on his Physics, and his own theories. His first
works were published in 1904, and dealt with statistical
thermodynamics, but not anything that wasn?t already known
in the physics field.
He first made a name for himself in 1905, with the
publishing of his series of papers, titled: Annalen der
Physik. The first paper ?On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning
the Production and Transformation of Light? linked
statistical thermodynamics to light radiation, by using
results that had been obtained five years earlier by Max
Planck. This paper dealt with the way light is distributed
among the spectrum, and particles he called Light Quanta.
The idea was not accepted right off the bat. It wasn?t until
more than a decade later, when Robert Millikan verified
Einstein?s theory of light quanta that the idea was
The second paper in the series was entitled ?On the
Movement of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid
Demanded by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat.? This
piece studied the erratic movement of particles suspended in
a liquid, with this, Einstein showed direct evidence of the
existence of both molecules and atoms.
The most significant of his 1905 papers, however, was
?On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.? The subject of
this paper is what has come to be known as the Special
Theory of Relativity. It dealt with the relationship between
physical measurement made while traveling at a constant
velocity. Here, he showed that whether or not two events
occurred simultaneously was all relative to the observer. In
other words, measurements of duration are all relative to
Another amazing Einstein discovery of 1905 was revealed
in the paper ?Does the inertia of a Body Depend on its
Energy Content?? This drew its conclusion from the principle
of relativity. Its conclusion? When the energy content of a
body changes, its mass must also change. This conclusion
lead to the formula: E=Mc2.
It took the next decade following Einstein?s big year
for all of this new information to settle with the Physics
community. He was made a professor at the University of
Zurich in 1909, German University in Prague in 1911, and at
his old stomping ground, the Zurich Polytechnic Institute in
1912. Finally, he was offered a position as director of the
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin. He would
stay there from 1914 to 1933. During his stint in Berlin, he
divorced his wife, and married his first cousin Elsa
Also, while he was in Berlin, in 1915, he developed and
proved his General Theory of Relativity (See Section Two).
In essence, he developed the idea that both light, and
therefore time are affected by gravity. This idea was
verified in 1919 during a solar eclipse, where it was
determined that the sun was altering the path of star light.
This lead to a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for Albert
Einstein had become something of a celebrity, and due
to this, he and Elsa were on a trip to the United States in
1933, when the Nazis came to power. He and his wife vowed
never to return to Germany. He was given a research and
teaching post at Princeton, and took U.S. citizenship. He
always opposed, and spoke out against the Nazi government.
In 1939, Einstein wrote a letter to President
Roosevelt, warning him of Germany?s capability to produce an
atomic bomb. Einstein was a strong pacifist, and was opposed
to the building of weapons of mass destruction. The irony is
that it was Einstein?s discovery of E=Mc2 that made the
production of the A-bomb a possibility.
For the rest of his life, Einstein worked on the idea
of a Unified Field Theory to no avail, but helped to promote
pacifism, and the United Nations. He died 1955 in Princeton,
Developed from 1911-1915, Einstein?s view of gravity?s
effects on the universe, including both light and time
became one of his most famous theories. The proof of his
ideas ended up earning Einstein a Nobel Prize for Physics.
The basic idea is that the universe in which we exist
is four dimensional. The four dimensions are length, width,
height, and time. Space without matter can be thought of as
a flat plane. Newton?s ideas figured that gravity was a
mutual attraction of all material objects, and that this was
how the universe worked. Newton believed that everything
existed on this flat plane. Einstein had a new idea.
He believed that gravity could affect more than just
material objects. He felt that light, and consequently time
were subject to the same law. He felt that the gravity of
matter created divots in the fabric of space time.
His theory views space time as a tightly stretched
sheet of rubber. If a massive object is placed in the
center, it creates a divot. If a smaller object is rolled
along the rubber towards the object, because of the bend in
the rubber, it will naturally role towards the more massive
object. This was Einstein?s idea of how orbits were formed.
A massive object creates a depression in space-time, and
smaller objects following a straight path ends up in an
orbit. In other words, matter ?tells? space-time how to
bend, and bent space-time ?tells? matter how to move.
Einstein got this idea, when thinking about someone in
freefall. The person does not feel the effects of gravity,
they have a sense of weightlessness. If all material objects
had a uniform attraction, this would not occur.
Einstein also believed that light was bent by gravity.
This was proved, in turn proving the theory a few years
later. In 1919, there was a complete solar eclipse. The
moon?s shadowing of the sun allowed stars to be seen during
the day. According to Einstein?s theory, the starlight
passing close to the sun would be bent, and the visible
stars would appear in a different position. This was the
case. Einstein was right. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for
Physics in 1921.
A prediction in the theory was an object so massive in
space that any light passing by would not be able to escape
the gravity. A place from which light could not escape: a
black hole. With the Hubble Space Telescope, the existence
of black holes has been verified.
The public was satisfied teaching the Newtonian
principles of gravity, but Einstein was not. Thanks to him
we now have a much more comprehensive view of our universe.
But, who knows? In 100 more years, we may have altered our
opinions just as greatly as opinions were changed by Albert
Einstein in 1915.
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Gribbin, John. Time and Space. Dorling Kendersly: London. 1994
Infeld, Leopold. Albert Einstein. Scribner?s Sons: New York. 1950
Rucker, Rudolf B. Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension. Dover Products: New