Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Possibly the most important scientist in history, Einstein's ideas changed what we understand about the universe


Artwork by Terry Pontikos


Quick Facts

Profession: physicist

Born: March 14, 1879, Ulm, modern-day Germany

Died: April 18, 1955, New Jersey, United States

Married: Elsa Lowenthal


"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

Genius revealed

Find words that mean: something that seems impossible, proved, having a good reputation, achievements, trouble

When he was young, Einstein had difficulty speaking. Some people thought this was because he wasn't clever. But he actually did very well in some subjects.

When he was 15, his family moved to Italy. Einstein stayed at school in Munich, but later moved to join them. He applied to a prestigious university in Switzerland, but he failed the entrance exam. He got in when he was 17, after finishing secondary school.

Einstein qualified as a secondary school teacher of maths and physics. But he could not get a teaching job. Instead, he took a job working for the Swiss Patent Office. In his spare time, Einstein was working on theoretical physics. He was about to make some amazing breakthroughs.

In 1905, Einstein turned 26. This is known as his 'miracle year' He wrote the scientific papers that made him famous. The first was on light and it earned him a PhD from a Swiss university.

The second paper was the beginning of the theory that Einstein is famous for - the General Theory of Relativity. The theory - which a lot of people know as E = MC2 - said that the speed of light was always the same. It also established that energy and mass were the same thing.

Einstein did not finish working on his theory of relativity until 1915. When he won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921, he won it for his earlier work on light.

Einstein and the second world war

Find words that mean the opposite: surrender [something], opposing the idea, sending, ancient, accepted

Due to the rise of Nazi power in Germany, many Jews, like Einstein, were forced to flee. Einstein renounced his German citizenship and moved to the United States. In August 1939, just as the second world war was about to begin, Einstein wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president of the United States. He told the president that recent science made it clear that uranium could be used to make huge amounts of power.

Einstein was writing about the atomic bomb. He was worried that the German Nazis, who were trying to take over all of Europe, would develop the bomb. Roosevelt set up a committee to investigate uranium after receiving the letter. The committee would later develop the two bombs that were dropped on Japan in 1945. Five months before his death, Einstein wrote: 'I made one great mistake in my life... when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made.'

A man of principle

Choose the right option

Einstein had strong opinions about the state of the world. He was concerned about the power of , and worried it would take of many people. He also thought there would always be wars as long as there were countries. After the second world war, he wanted a world government to be formed so that other countries would not have control of the atomic bomb. He said he did not know how the third world war would be fought, but he knew how the fourth one would - 'with rocks'. After the first president of Israel died in 1952, the government asked him to be president. He turned it down. But he agreed with the of Israel, which was set up for the Jews in after the second world war.

True or false?

To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1 Einstein passed his university entrance exams the first time he took them.
2 Einstein's first real job was as a secondary school teacher.
3 Einstein came up with his first scientific theories while working in a patent office.
4 Einstein invented the atomic bomb.



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