Dr Albert Einstein, whose thinking changed the history of man, died today at Princeton, NJ.
The white-haired, world famous physicist of the “fourth dimension” had celebrated his 76th birthday March 14.
He entered the Princeton hospital Friday and died at 1:15 am today of a gall bladder inflammation.
Just 50 years ago, the shy, retiring mathematician had put forth his famed theory of relativity which startled and changed the course of physics. He was then only 20 years old. For the last half a century, the humble man with the baggy pants and wild flowing hair led the scientific world in its tremendous gains.
His theories gave the world the new dimension — time — helped shrink the size of the globe, became vital in 20th century television and electronics and helped split the atom which led to the atomic bomb and the freeing of nuclear energy.
He was always retiring — except in defense of what he considered the liberty and freedom of man. Last March 14 he declared: “I do not consider myself important any more. First, I was nobody, and then I became famous and people developed illusions of greatness about me that were untrue.”
But the world had long been convinced. It awarded Dr Einstein the Nobel Prize in 1922. It had held him in esteem and awe ever since.
Dr Einstein was born in Germany, served as a professor at Prague, Zurich and Berlin before fleeing the Nazis to come to the Untied States in 1933. He became a citizen in 1940.
He was appointed for life a member of the Institute For Advanced Study at Princeton, where he studied and lectured until he died.
Dr Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879 to middle class south German Jews. His father was indifferently successful as the operator of an engineering plant.
The family moved to Munich, then to Italy. The schoolboy’s classwork was only fair. But he devoured mathematics and philosophy. He completed schooling at Zurich’s polytechnic academy. He almost starved in the first two years after his graduation.
Then he secured a position as a patent examiner in Berne. There his brilliant mind raced through his work so rapidly that he had time for his mathematical speculations.
In 1903, he married a Serbian Catholic, Mileva Maric, who bore him two sons. They were separated in 1911.
Then, in 1906, he proclaimed his theory of relativity. Men’s senses could not be relied on. Only the speed of light – 186,000 miles a second – was consistent.
He added a new, fourth dimension — time — to the classical three of length, width, and depth. This new dimension existed only as a mathematical symbol.
The same year, as part of his theory, Dr Einstein propounded the theory that eventually led to the atomic bomb — that matter and energy could be changed into energy, and energy into matter.
The revolutionary theories were in conflict with certain aspects of the Sacrosanct axioms of Isaac Newton. A storm of scientific protest fell on the young man’s head.
But in time, not Dr Einstein, but those protesting had to change their beliefs. Newton’s laws were revised to conform with the demonstrated accuracy of Einstein’s observations.
Honors came rapidly. Dr Einstein became a professor at the University of Zurich, and later held teaching posts at the University of Prague, Polytechnic Academy in Zurich, and the Prussian Academy of Science in Berlin.
He reclaimed the German citizenship he had given up when he went to Switzerland only after Germany became a republic in 1919. Meanwhile, he had married his first cousin, Elsa Einstein, in 1915. She died in 1936.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1922. But he replied to the adulation showered on him in these words:
“Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and respect from my fellows through no fault of my own.”
Because of his parentage and his unshakable belief in the dignity of the individual, Einstein was an early and inevitable target of the Nazis when they seized power in 1933.
Abroad at the time, the scientist quickly denounced the Hitlerites and emerged from his scientific studies to make such pronouncements as:
“In these days of the persecution of the Jews, it is time to remind the Western world that it owes to the Jewish people its religion and therewith its valuable moral ideas.”
Soon afterward in America, he set aside his long-held pacifist convictions and declared:
“Since the arrival of the Fascist danger, I for the present no longer believe in the effectiveness of absolute passive pacifism.
“As long as Fascism rules in Europe, there will be no peace.
“This despotism must fall if real peace is to prevail.”
He went to work for the Navy Bureau of Ordinance for a year, lent his enormous prestige to war bond drives and other war-effort work. In 1939, he wrote a historic letter to the late President Franklin D Roosevelt.
This letter played a large role in starting the government-sponsored research which led to the development of the atomic bomb and the potentials of nuclear power in peace.
During the last years, with an aging body but an ever agile mind, he kept active. He took part in drives to assist the infant state of Israel and back formation of the United Nations to deal with new problems. Many of those problems had been created by his discoveries.
Last March 14 he told of his plans: “Now,” he said, “I plan to live quietly — as quietly as possible — unless I feel it is my duty to come forward.”
He was still working last week in his modest home in the quiet university town of Princeton.