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Important Terms and People

Important Terms and People

Important Terms and People

Important Terms and People


Anti-Semitism -   · Hatred of, or prejudice against, the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism was especially pervasive in Germany and Central Europe in the early decades of the 20th century, and was acutely exacerbated by the rise of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
Brownian motion -   · The permanent erratic movement of particles suspended in a liquid, first noticed by the English botanist Robert Brown in 1828. Brownian motion was the subject of one of Einstein's three great 1905 papers.
Cubism -   · Early twentieth-century movement in art that involved breaking the essence of the depicted object into geometrical planes, thereby presenting multiple points of view simultaneously. The paintings of Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris initiated Cubism, but the movement soon included sculpture as well, such as the works of Henri Matisse and Naum Gabo.
Ether -   · A universal medium that fills all space and behaves like an elastic solid through which light waves can travel. The concept of ether was proposed in the nineteenth century in an effort to link mechanics and electrodynamics, because light can only be understood as a mechanical wave if it has a physical medium through which to move.
Federal Swiss Polytechnic  -   · A highly respected technical institution where Einstein participated in a teaching course between 1896 and 1900. Einstein finally received his doctoral degree from the University of Zurich in 1906.
General Relativity  -   · Einstein's 1915 theory that the laws of physics are the same for observers in any general state of motion, whether they are at rest, moving with a constant speed, or accelerating in a non-inertial fashion. Contrasted with special relativity, general relativity is a broader concept that encompasses accelerating frames as well and, as a result of the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass, provides a new theory of gravitation.
Logical Positivism -   · A philosophical approach to science based on the notion that the only statements we can know to be true are those that can be verified by direct, positive experimental evidence. The logical positivists also emphasized the role of symbolic logic in the formulation of scientific theories.
Mechanical Worldview -   · The Newtonian view of the universe that dominated physics until the twentieth century, according to which all natural phenomena arise from the interactions among moving matter. This matter obeys Newton's three laws of motion, involving action and reaction, force and acceleration, and inertia.
Objectivism -   · A twentieth-century form of poetry characterized by innovative experiments with verse, structure, and meter in an attempt to incorporate into poetry the ideas that Einstein brought to physics. Early objectivist poets include Archibald MacLeish, William Carlos Williams, and Leon Zukofsky.
Olympia Academy -   · A group founded by Einstein and his friends in the early 1900s that held regular meetings in Bern to discuss their intellectual interests.
Quantum Theory -   · The theory in physics that energy is comprised of discrete, individual particles called quanta. Quantum theory was the subject of one of Einstein's three great 1905 papers.
Special Relativity  -   · Einstein's theory that the laws of physics are the same in all inertial (non- accelerating) frames of reference, such that it is impossible for an observer to tell whether or not he or she is at motion or at rest relative to any sort of absolute space. Special relativity was the subject of one of Einstein's three great 1905 papers. (For more information on the science behind this concept, see the Physics SparkNote on Special Relativity.
Vienna Circle -   · A group of scientists and philosophers that arose in Vienna in 1922 around the physicist Moritz Schlick to discuss their goal of a unified science achieved through logical analysis.
Wave-Particle Duality -   · The theory that light behaves sometimes as if it is a wave and sometimes as if it is comprised of discrete particles, depending on the experimental situation.
Zionism -   · A late nineteenth- and twentieth-century international movement for the establishment of a Jewish national state in Palestine. Einstein was exposed to Zionism when he moved to Berlin in 1911, which was the Zionist headquarters. For Einstein, Zionism served as an alternative to Prussian militarism and as an important means of preserving the Jewish values of social justice and intellectual aspiration.


Michele Angelo Besso -  A close friend of Einstein during his years at the Zurich Polytechnic and then at the patent office in Bern. Besso, a mechanical engineer, shared Einstein's affinities for classical music and the philosophy of Ernst Mach.
Helen Dukas -  A Swabian woman whom Einstein hired as his personal secretary in 1928. Helen traveled with the Einsteins on lecture tours, moved with them to the United States in 1933, and cared for Einstein after the death of Elsa in 1933.
Hermann Einstein  -  Einstein's father, a merchant and engineer
Pauline Einstein  -  Einstein's mother, a talented musician
Maria Einstein  -  Einstein's younger sister and closest childhood friend
Marcel Grossman -  Einstein's friend and fellow student at the Zurich Polytechnic. Einstein, who often skipped his classes, relied upon Grossman's lecture notes. Grossman continued to come to Einstein's aid in later years, first by helping him to secure a position at a patent office in Bern following his graduation, and then by working on the mathematical calculations of the general theory of relativity.
Elsa Lowenthal  -  Einstein's cousin and second wife (after Mileva Maric). Einstein moved in with Elsa in 1917 in Berlin, and she nursed him back to health during a period of prolonged sickness. Einstein and Elsa were married in 1919, and Einstein adopted Elsa's daughters Ilse and Margot. Elsa moved with Einstein to America in 1933 and lived with him at Princeton until her death in 1936.
Ernst Mach -  An Austrian philosopher and contemporary of Einstein who believed that all science is based on empirical observations. Mach insisted that science must be free of metaphysical speculation, including any concept that does not have its root in observable phenomena. Einstein and Mach corresponded with one another between 1909-1913, a period during which Mach at first supported relativity theory but then grew suspicious of its more mathematical formulations.
Mileva Maric -  Einstein's fellow student at the Zurich Polytechnic, and later his first wife. She belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church and was of lower social standing than the Einsteins, and thus Einstein's well-off Jewish parents opposed the marriage. Einstein and Mileva had one illegitimate daughter together, later given up for adoption, and then two sons following their marriage in 1903. When Einstein moved to Berlin in 1914, the couple separated and Mileva and their sons returned to Zurich.
Hermann Minkowski -  A German mathematician who re-interpreted Einstein's theory of special relativity as a form of geometry, in which three dimensions of space and a fourth dimension of time were united in an "absolute world." Minkowski was also Einstein's mathematics professor at the Zurich Polytechnic.
Max Talmud -  A young medical student who would eat one meal a week with the Einstein family when Albert was a child. Talmud introduced Einstein to Kant and other philosophers and scientists, leading him to renounce his strong religious faith by the age of thirteen.

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