Albert Einstein was born of Jewish parents in Ulm, Germany, in 1879. He was educated at Munich, Aarau and Zurich. Disapproving of German militarism he took Swiss nationality in 1901 and the following year was appointed examiner at the Swiss Patent Office. While in this post he began publishing original papers on the theoretical aspects of problems in physics.
Influenced by quantum theory developed by Max Planck in Berlin, Einstein explained the photoelectric law that governs the production of electricity from light-sensitive metals.
In 1905 Einstein published his special theory of relativity. Einstein argued that the laws of nature are the same for all observers in unaccelerated motion, and the speed of light is independent in the motion of its source. Einstein postulated that the time interval between two events was longer for an observer in whose frame of reference the events occur in different places than for the observer for whom they occur at the same place.
Einstein took his PhD at Zurich and in 1909 became a lecturer in theoretical physics at the university. He also taught at Prague (1911-12) before Max Planck invited him to become director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Physical Institute in Berlin in 1914.
In 1915 Einstein published his general theory of relativity where he argued that the properties of space-time were to be conceived as modified locally by the presence of a body with mass. The theory of relativity revolutionized our understanding of matter, space, and time.
Einstein achieved world recognition for his general theory of relativity and won the Nobel prize for physics in 1921. As a Jew, Einstein suffered a great deal of prejudice in Germany and after being involved in a memorial service for the assassinated German politician, Walther Rathenau, he was warned that he was likely to be murdered by the Freikorps.
Einstein became increasingly interested in politics and he toured Europe making speeches on peace and disarmament. Now a pacifist, he told his audiences that: "my pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting." In 1929 he upset right-wing forces in Weimar Germany by stating: "I would unconditionally refuse all war service, direct or indirect regardless of how I might feel about the causes of any particular war."
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 Einstein was in California. His house was immediately attacked by the Sturm Abteilung (SA). After being told what had happened Einstein decided not to return home. Instead he toured Europe making speeches explaining what was taking place in Nazi Germany.
In 1934 Einstein emigrated to the United States where he became a professor of mathematics at Princeton. He was no longer a pacifist and argued that democratic nations needed to rearm in order to defend itself against the aggressive foreign policy of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
After the war he urged control of atomic weapons and was one of the first people in the United States to protest about McCarthyism and the activities of the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Albert Einstein, who spent his final years trying to establish a merger between between quantum theory and his general theory of relativity, died in 1955.