Albert Einstein was a visionary thinker – in fact, his ideas were so revolutionary, he completely changed the way our whole Universe was imagined!
Born in Germany in 1879, Einstein was a bit of a slow learner – he didn’t speak until after he was 2!
His interest in science started at the age of 5 years old when his father gave him a compass to play with. He just couldn’t understand how the needle always pointed north no matter where he moved – he was captivated by it and ultimately would solve the puzzle.
Einstein was actually a bit of a rebel at school – he wanted to know why things were the way they were, not just be told to memorise the facts. He was never a big fan of authority, and so, even though he had obvious talent in science and maths, he was given bad reports and one teacher even said “he will never amount to anything.”
Proving his teachers wrong, Einstein went on to develop the best-known equation in physics which proved that what he actually amounted to was his mass times the square of the speed of light – E=mc²
Even when he applied to University, he failed the entrance exam! So he spent a year completing the equivalent of A-levels to give himself a better chance of getting into uni the following year! He struggled but he worked hard and eventually got accepted.
He graduated with a degree in Physics but then no one would give him a job as a teacher. After two years, he eventually accepted an easy job in a patent office. He could then spend his spare time daydreaming about physics!
Einstein redefined the idea of what light is made of, discovered special relativity which showed that space and time were connected, proved the existence of the atom, and proved energy and mass to be equivalent. These discoveries weren’t just theoretical, they helped in the development of lasers, nuclear power, fibre optics, space travel and semi-conductors.
His ideas eventually helped him secure a teaching job at University – professor at the University of Zurich. While there, he struggled to generalise his theory of special relativity to include gravity. In 1915, he published the field equations of gravitation. The theory described how gravity is the result of the distortion of space-time and how when objects travel close to the speed of light, their lengths contract and time slows down.
His theory also predicted the existence of gravitational waves which were actually only officially observed very recently, even though Einstein predicted them 100 years ago. The theory also stated that light could be bent by large objects – this one was observed in his lifetime. He was proclaimed a genius, became a bit of a celebrity and even won the Nobel Prize.
Einstein had united space, time, gravity, energy and mass but he still couldn’t get quantum mechanics to fit onto his other theories – he hoped to create a unified field theory but was never successful. Physicists still struggle with this today. Maybe someone else will come up with the theory to unite the universe- that person could be you! So, work hard, get your Maths and Science A-levels and never give up!
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