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
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.
- · 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
- Einstein's father, a merchant
- Einstein's mother, a talented musician
- Einstein's younger sister and closest childhood
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.