It May Be Relative: Albert Einstein's General Theory

 On May 11, 1916, Albert Einstein presented his General Theory of Relativity to the world.

To make a long story short -- and I'm sure you will thank me for that -- general relativity, also known as the general theory of relativity, is the geometric theory of gravitation in modern physics. 

Einstein's theory of special relativity has to do with questions of objects in different systems moving with constant speed and their relation to each other. You might remember the story of Einstein coming up with this theory while sitting in a stationary passenger train, watching another train passing by. 

General relativity expounds upon special relativity, adding Isaac Newton's law of gravity to the mix.

Einstein's general theory of relativity is the basis for astrophysical sciences. It is what makes possible the concepts of black holes, micro quasars, time travel, and just about anything to do with astronomy in modern physics.

Einstein, who is considered the father of physics, is said to have had problems speaking although there is no documentation of that, and his descendants deny it. By the age of six, he had taught himself to play the violin, which he did for the rest of his life. He particularly enjoyed playing Mozart and Bach.

He appeared not to like school, and in fact he dropped out of school at the age of 13 without a diploma and moved to Italy where his parents and younger sister had settled.

Although he wanted to enter the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, he did not do well on the entrance exam. His knowledge of science and mathematics was phenomenal, but other subjects which he found not to be so interesting apparently did not hold his attention long enough for him to learn well.  and

When he finally was able to go back to finish school, he was, however, only an average student. 

He found jobs here and there as a teacher and as a tutor who gave private lessons in math and physics to students. He finally found work in the patent office in Bern

In 1903, he married Mileva Maric, a Hungarian woman, and they had two sons: Hans Albert and Eduard. Many years later, it was discovered that he and his wife had had a daughter before their marriage. The fate of this daughter is unclear, but it is strongly suspected she was given up for adoption

In 1905, Einstein finished his doctoral dissertation, “A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions.” 

He then began a whirlwind of publishing groundbreaking papers which in scientific magazines. Theories and thoughts about such thing as the transformation of light, specific relativity and the photoelectric effect all got plenty of press. Although originally dismissed by the scientific and physics community, they ended up being the foundation of quantum theory. In 1929, he received the Nobel Prize for that work.

In 1914, Einstein moved to Berlin leaving his wife and sons in Switzerland. The couple lived apart for five years until Valentine's Day of 1919 when they were divorced.

He married Elsa Lowenthal (nee Einstein) a few months later in June of 1919. They were very related, being first cousins maternally and second cousins paternally. In 1936, Elsa died of heart and kidney problems

In 1933 they were in the United States, and when Europe became engaged in World War II, Einstein remained and became a citizen of the United States in 1940.

Most of his adult life, Einstein called for resistance to war and claimed on numerous occasions that “war is a disease." But in 1933, with Adolf Hitler in power in Germany, he changed his mind about pacifism entirely. 

In August of 1939, almost six years to the day before the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, Japan, he and a fellow scientist alerted President Franklin D. Roosevelt that Germany was quite likely working on the development of an atomic weapon. He recommended that the United States begin similar research. By all accounts, this information was part of the impetus for the Manhattan Project, in which he participated, becoming instrumental in the United States being the only country to have developed an atomic bomb during that time. 

In 1954, less than a year before he died, Einstein told Linus Pauling, “I made one great mistake in my life–when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made…”

On April 17, 1955, Einstein was rushed to Princeton Hospital in severe pain. He refused surgery, with this statement: “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share. It is time to go. I will do it elegantly.”

On April 18, 1955, Dr. Albert Einstein died at the age of 76, the result of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The world had lost the man whose name would later become synonymous with the word “genius.” 

He once confessed to his good friend and colleague nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer that if he were able to live his life again, he would be a plumber. From all accounts, Oppenheimer summed up the personality of Dr. Einstein quite well when he said, “He was almost wholly without sophistication and wholly without worldliness…There was always with him a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”