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Albert Einstein is one of the most celebrated scientists in history. His work helped bring a new era of discovery and knowledge to the area of physics. However he is not just known for his famous equations on the conservation of matter and energy or his theory of relativity. Throughout his career he became the Edison of physics helping to contribute many important pieces of knowledge to our understanding of the universe and how it works. Without Albert Einstein’s inventions and discoveries we would be further behind in physics than we are right now.
The first major discovery he made upon getting his doctorate was a formula that accurately described Brownian motion. Brownian motion for the uninitiated in physics is the movement of particles in a fluid. A fluid in this case can be either a liquid or gas. The concept that the motion of particles can be explained by interaction on the molecular and atomic level has been around since ancient times, but Albert Einstein was the first to develop an accurate mathematical model for this movement. The most amazing fact was that at one point it was considered wrong. It was only later with more experimentation that Einstein proved correct. This is a trend that would follow with his other discoveries and theories.
The next discovery was doosie helping to build the foundation of quantum physics. This was the discovery of the quantum nature of the photoelectric effect. The phenomenon had already been observed by other scientist. Light when it struck certain types of photosensitive materials caused them to emit electrons. According to the classical theory it was believed that light was a wave, pure energy. If this was so the intensity of the light would increase the energy of the electrons being released. However, increased intensity of light only increased the number of released electrons not the energy. Something did not fit. Einstein proposed that light was not just a wave but a series of particles with a specific energy. This was the first concrete proposal a photon particle. Like his other proposals it would not be until an experiment ten years later that he would be proven light. For this discovery he got the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.
These are just two of his many contributions to physics. The most interesting correlation was his visionary view of the universe and how it works. Many believed that Einstein had been able to construct a mental image of the Universe and used this as the basis of much his work. Every time he made a new proposal the experiments and data would prove making him the Da Vinci of the 20th century.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. Listen here, Episode 9: Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.