Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany. In 1880 his father's business failed, and he moved to Munich. When Albert was still young his family moved to Milan, Italy and they left Einstein in Germany to finish school.

At an early age Einstein revealed an independence of mind that was to become characteristic of his entire future life. On a visit to Milan Einstein announced to his father three final decisions: he would quit school; he would abandon the Jewish community, and he would drop his German nationality. The school did not provide him with a proper education, the Jewish community was to narrow minded, and Germany was too chauvinistic. Einstein assumed that a small nation like Switzerland would be devoid of super power ambitions and he eventually aquired Swiss citizenship.

Einstein entered the Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, Switzerland, where he earned a doctorate in physics in 1905. The same year he published four research papers. Each contained a great discovery : the theory of Brownian motion; the equivalence of mass and energy; the photon theory of light; and the special theory of relativity. In the Special Theory of Relativity he extended to optical phenomena the concept of relativity, while maintaining under all circumstances the constancy of the velocity of light, from which follows that no material body can move as fast as light.

In 1915 Einstein proposed the General Theory of Relativity as an extension of the Special Theory. Its basis was the identification of gravity with inertia. His work provided the theoretical expectation that vast amounts of energy could be released from the nucleus.

In 1919 a prediction of Einstein's General Relativity was verified, and in a few years it became the basis of new cosmologies. Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize for Physics in 1921. Although a committed pacifist Einstein began to warn against the dangers of fascism as the Nazis denounced his work as Jewish science. In 1933 he left Germany and took up residence at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey, where he pursued his research toward unifying the laws of physics.
(For a more detailed description of Einstein's scientific achievements see Einstein's physics).

In a humorous aside Einstein once remarked that 'if relativity is proved right the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German, and the Germans will call me a Jew.'

A week before he died, Einstein signed the Russell / Einstein appeal to stop all nucelar testing, an appeal that bore fruit in the nucelar test ban treaty eight years after his death.

'If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?'

'Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler.'

In 1999 Einstein was selected as the Man of the 20th Century
People: 1500-2000 Events: 1905 1915