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March 14: Albert Einstein

March 14, 2011

The quintessential scientific genius of the 20th century, Albert Einstein, was born on this date in 1879 in Germany. In 1905, while working in the Swiss Patent Office, he published four scientific papers — explaining the photoelectric effect (the emittance of “particles” of light, or photons, by energy-absorbing matter), proving that molecules exist through measurement of Brownian motion (their constant “bumping”), propounding the insights of special relativity (the relativity of time, speed, mass, etc. depending upon the position of the observer, with the speed of light being the only invariable constant), and describing the equivalence of matter and energy (energy = matter times the velocity of light squared). Each of these papers revolutionized science and eventually transformed the way most human beings think about reality. Einstein received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, and wrote some 300 scientific papers in the course of his life, which contributed to the fields of quantum mechanics, astronomy, subatomic physics, and much more. He fled the Nazis in 1933, helped convince President Roosevelt to build America’s atomic bomb before Hitler could build one, and went on to become a world famous advocate for peace, disarmament, socialism, internationalism, humanism, and the renewal of modern Israel as a binational, progressive state.

“The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.” —Albert Einstein