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Summary of the text ‘A truly beautiful mind’.
Albert Einstein: From a Unique Childhood to a Scientific Revolution
Albert Einstein, one of the most renowned scientists of all time, had an extraordinary journey that began in the German city of Ulm on March 14, 1879. However, his early life did not hint at the greatness he would later achieve. In fact, his own mother considered him unusual due to his seemingly oversized head.
Einstein’s childhood was marked by some peculiar traits. At the age of two-and-a-half, he had not yet spoken. When he finally uttered his first words, he repeated everything twice. His playmates even nicknamed him “Brother Boring” because he struggled to interact with other children. Instead, he preferred to engage with mechanical toys, often expressing curiosity about how things worked. For instance, upon seeing his newborn sister, Maja, he remarked, “Fine, but where are her wheels?”
Despite these initial challenges, Einstein’s brilliance began to emerge. A story recounted by the historian Otto Neugebauer shed light on his unique character. As a late talker, Einstein’s parents were understandably concerned. However, during one dinner, he suddenly broke his silence, saying, “The soup is too hot.” When asked why he had remained quiet for so long, Einstein responded, “Because up to now, everything was in order.”
Einstein’s academic journey was not without its setbacks. A headmaster once told his father that Albert would never succeed in any profession. However, this prediction did not deter him. At the age of six, he started learning to play the violin, a skill he would maintain throughout his life, thanks to his mother’s encouragement.
While Einstein may not have been a model student, he excelled academically. He attended high school in Munich after his family moved there when he was just 15 months old. He consistently earned good grades in nearly every subject. However, he despised the rigid structure of the school and often clashed with his teachers. His dissatisfaction reached a breaking point at age 15 when he decided to leave school for good.
In the previous year, Einstein’s parents had relocated to Milan, leaving him in the care of relatives. After careful deliberation, Einstein persuaded his family to allow him to continue his education in German-speaking Switzerland, a more liberal environment than Munich.
Einstein’s fascination with mathematics and physics led him to choose Zurich for his university studies. However, his interests extended beyond science. He developed a unique connection with a fellow student, Mileva Maric, a brilliant young woman from Serbia. At that time, Zurich was one of the few European universities where women could pursue degrees, and Einstein recognized in Mileva an ally against the conservative elements in his family and university.
Einstein and Mileva’s relationship blossomed, blending science with tenderness in their letters to each other. They dreamt of jointly achieving success in the field of relativity.
In 1900, at the age of 21, Einstein found himself a university graduate without employment. To make ends meet, he worked as a teaching assistant, gave private lessons, and, in 1902, secured a job as a technical expert in the patent office in Bern. This seemingly ordinary job turned out to be a fertile ground for his burgeoning ideas. In fact, he humorously referred to his desk drawer as the “bureau of theoretical physics,” where he secretly developed his groundbreaking theories.
One of Einstein’s most famous works emerged in 1905 with the publication of his Special Theory of Relativity. This theory challenged the previously held notions of time and distance, suggesting that these concepts were not absolute. According to his theory, two perfectly accurate clocks would not show the same time if they reunited after one had been moving very fast relative to the other. This groundbreaking work introduced the world to the famous equation E=mc^2, which describes the relationship between mass and energy.
While Einstein was making monumental strides in physics, his personal life faced difficulties. He had wanted to marry Mileva immediately after finishing his studies, but his mother’s objections and concerns about Mileva’s intelligence led to a delay. They eventually married in 1903 and had two sons. However, their marriage began to falter a few years later. Mileva’s diminishing intellectual ambitions and her growing unhappiness as a housewife culminated in their divorce in 1919. That same year, Einstein married his cousin, Elsa.
Einstein’s personal transformation coincided with his ascent to worldwide fame. In 1915, he published his General Theory of Relativity, offering a fresh interpretation of gravity. In 1919, during a solar eclipse, evidence supporting the accuracy of his theory emerged when he correctly calculated how the sun’s gravitational field would deflect the light from fixed stars. Newspapers hailed his work as a “scientific revolution.”
In recognition of his contributions to physics, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921, and he received numerous honors and invitations from around the world.
When the Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933, Einstein emigrated to the United States. Five years later, the discovery of nuclear fission in Berlin raised concerns among American physicists. Many of them had fled from fascism, like Einstein, and feared that the Nazis might build and use an atomic bomb.
Einstein, deeply affected by the devastating potential of nuclear weapons, wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939, warning of the destructive power of atomic bombs. This led to the U.S. launching its own secret atomic bomb project, resulting in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
In response to the widespread destruction caused by these bombings, Einstein wrote to the United Nations, proposing the establishment of a world government to promote peace and disarmament. Although his letter did not have an immediate impact, Einstein continued to engage in political activism, advocating for peace and democracy.
When Albert Einstein passed away in 1955 at the age of 76, he was celebrated not only as a scientific genius but also as a visionary and a world citizen who had left an indelible mark on both the scientific and political landscapes of his time.