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GREAT AND MODEST: Albert Einstein (Part II)

GREAT AND MODEST: Albert Einstein (Part I)
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OBVIOUS, INCREDIBLE

 

Einstein was probably inspired by the marriage and the birth of a son. During the year he wrote and published four sensational scientific works. It was 1905, annus mirabilis – the year of miracles. The first was an article in which he proved the existence of atoms. Associated work on the size of a sugar molecule (“Redefining Molecular Sizes”) earned him a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich.

In the same year, he published an article on the special theory of relativity. Finally, he saw the light of the work that revolutionized quantum mechanics and earned him the Nobel Prize – a study that proved the relationship between body mass and energy, in which he derived the formula E =mc2.

The next two years were just as fruitful. And the reason for everything, as Einstein himself assured, is a happy guess, a sudden inspiration: “I was sitting at the table in the patent office, and suddenly it dawned on me: falling, a person does not feel his weight!”

He tested it experimentally and, according to the results of research, eight years later formulated the general theory of relativity, in which for the first time in the history of science he established a connection between the geometry of space-time and the distribution of body mass. This theory became the basis for studying everything – from black holes to theories of the origin of the universe.

The works of this period brought Einstein the fame of an outstanding scientist. He corresponded with colleagues from many countries, met with outstanding physicists of the world, published a lot and spoke. Max Planck of the University of Berlin incorporated his theory of relativity into his curriculum.

They addressed him only as “Professor Einstein” and, perhaps, would be very surprised to learn that he was not a professor, but continued to serve modestly in the Patent Office, however, already an expert of a higher, II class. He was appointed to the first official scientific post – professor extraordinary at the University of Zurich, only in December 1909.

The position obliged him to teach, but this occupation frankly weighed him down. He devoted most of his time to researching his theories, often moving from one country to another. Only in the last stages of the study of general relativity his colleagues literally forced him to settle in the department.

For all his fame in scientific circles, the financial question was acute for Einstein, because two sons were already growing up in the family (the youngest, Eduard, a sickly and vulnerable boy, was born in 1910). Since the pay in Zurich was small, in 1911 he accepted an invitation to head the Department of Physics at the German University in Prague.

A year later, he returned to Zurich as a professor at his alma mater, the Higher Technical School. And again congresses, lectures, meetings, consultations, disputes with colleagues, admiration, confrontation, rejection, criticism, again admiration … He could not settle in one place, all his work presupposed constant movement.

 

WHEN THE WAR IS EVERYWHERE

 

At the end of 1913, he received an invitation to head the newly created Physics Research Institute in Berlin. One of those who recommended him for the position was Max Planck – he and Einstein had been actively in correspondence for several years, and although they saw each other only once, they managed to make friends. He had decided in advance that he would accept the invitation. Around the same period, an invitation came from the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, signed by Lazarev, but he rejected it.

The disgustingly fabricated case of Beilis and the Jewish pogroms associated with it were covered in all European newspapers, and Einstein, a Jew by birth, wrote that he did not intend to go to a country where his fellow tribesmen were so cruelly persecuted. But something prevented him from seeing the growing wave of anti-Semitism in his native Germany.

A convinced pacifist Einstein arrived in Berlin in the spring of 1914 and found himself in completely unbearable conditions. The country was raving about war, world domination, God knows what else, intelligent, educated people were foaming in some kind of nationalist fit.

How could his home country get involved in such a thing? His fellow scholars drew up an open letter in defense of German aggression, the chauvinistic, hate-filled Call for a Cultural Peace, the so-called Manifesto of Ninety-Three. He called for peace, appealed to common sense, argued to the point of hoarseness, proving that enmity would lead humanity to death.

In the end, at the initiative of the physiologist Georg Friedrich Nicolai, they wrote together “Appeal to Europeans” – an appeal to scientists, asking colleagues to use all their authority to force the rulers to abandon conquest and extermination of peoples.

Under their “Appeal”, in addition to its authors, signed … only two people! “Will future generations thank our Europe, in which three centuries of the most intense cultural work have led only to the fact that religious madness has been replaced by nationalistic madness? Even scientists from different countries behave as if their brains were amputated,” Einstein wrote to Romain Rolland.

Nikolai had to pay dearly for his peaceful ideas: he was immediately sent to the front. Einstein, on the other hand, was saved from a quick reprisal by the citizenship of neutral Switzerland. But that didn’t make it any easier. Anxiety and hard work provoked a relapse of a long-standing liver disease.

He could not leave Berlin – the work at the department kept him, but Mileva and her sons returned to Switzerland. He felt abandoned and overwhelmed. His marriage has never been easy, and now it seems like the time has come to put things in order. Maybe it was necessary to do this even earlier, when Mileva was pregnant with her second son. Then Albert wrote to Maria Wintler that he regretted that he had connected his life with this woman …

He was looked after by his cousin, Elsa Leventhal, who lived almost next door. In 1908, she broke up with her husband and raised two daughters alone. Sweet, calm, flexible and patient, she was the complete opposite of Mileva. She and Albert became close. He informed Mileva of his intention to leave. She was really angry, declared that she would not let go, that he owed her a lot …

The divorce proceedings were exhausting and scandalous. In the end, Mileva agreed to give a divorce … in exchange for the Nobel Prize, which Albert (she did not doubt for a moment) would receive. He accepted the condition.

 

DIVISION LAWS

 

In 1919, three months after the end of the trial, he and Elsa got married, he adopted her children. And in the same year, nature itself – by a solar eclipse – proved the correctness of the theory of the photoelectric effect. The London Times published the headline “A Revolution in Science – A New Theory of the Universe: Newton’s Ideas Overthrown”. And three years later, the agreement with his first wife was finally settled: he received the Nobel Prize, she received money.

No, Mileva did not have a visionary gift. She was a brilliant mathematician, a gifted physicist, like her husband, and she perfectly understood the value of his discoveries. In addition, by the time they broke up, he had already been repeatedly nominated for the main prize in the scientific world. The first time it was in the year of Edward’s birth, in 1910.

But then the Nobel Committee considered the theory of relativity as the main achievement and considered the experimental evidence to it insufficient. His surname in the lists of nominees then appeared annually, with the exception of only 1911 and 1915, but the theory of relativity was too revolutionary, many scientists took it openly with hostility.

In order not to heat up passions, the Nobel Committee found a compromise solution: in 1921, Albert Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect “and other works in the field of theoretical physics”.

 

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