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The 15 Most Important People in European History

The List:
1 Adolf Hitler
2 Isaac Newton
3 Albert Einstein
4 Queen Elizabeth I
5 Charles Darwin
6 King Henry VIII
7 Leonardo Da Vinci
8 Mahatma Gandhi
9 Otto Von Bismarck
10 Galileo Galilei
11 Winston Churchill
12 Michelangelo
13 William Shakespeare
14 Francis Bacon
15 Pablo Picasso
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No. 3 Albert Einstein

Thanks to his theory of relativity, Einstein became the most famous scientist of the 20th century. Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. In 1905, while working in a Swiss patent office, he published a paper proposing a "special theory of relativity," a groundbreaking notion which laid the foundation for much of modern physics theory. Einstein's work had a profound impact on everything from quantum theory to nuclear power and the atom bomb. He continued to develop and refine his early ideas, and in 1915 published what is known as his general theory of relativity.

By 1920 Einstein was internationally renowned. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921, not for relativity but for his 1905 work on the photoelectric effect. In 1935, Einstein moved to the United States. Europe was in turmoil and Einstein had to leave because he was Jewish. In the United States, he worked at Princeton University until the end of his life. In 1939 Einstein sent a famous letter to Franklin Roosevelt, warning of Germany's work on an atomic bomb and urging Allied research. Einstein was not only an active physicist, he had been a strong supporter of the Zionist movement. He was offered the presidency of the state of Israel, though he humbly refused. He spent his last living day in 1955 drafting a speech for the anniversary of Israel's independence.

Einstein had a great direct impact on people's everyday lives. His studies in science are still used by scientists and regular people every day. This modern physics theory constructed by Einstein is the same theory that we study in our Physics texts. The genius of Einstein has helped science progress in a giant way.

Obviously, Einstein had a large-scale impact on countries. His letter to FDR triggered the start of the construction of the Atomic Bomb. This bomb would eventually help the United States end World War II. History would have turned out differently had Einstein refrained from writing this letter. Germany could have beat the United States in the race to create atomic weapons and would have became victors in World War II.

The final reason for inclusion is the impact on long-term movements. Science has not stopped its progress in at all since Einstein. Atomic and nuclear weapons continue to be developed and scientists continue to study Einstein's theory of relativity. His works as a physicist have provided the world with ways to understand the universe, and provided motivation to study his ideas further.

Birth: March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany
Nickname: Not Applicable
Education: ETH (the Federal Polytechnic) in Zurich.
Occupation: Physicist
1902 Examiner at the Swiss Patent Office
1911 Professor at the German University
1912 Professor of Theoretical Physics at the ETH
1914 Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin and professor of theoretical physics at the University of Berlin
Religious Affiliation: Jewish
Marriage: Mileva Maric 1903-1914
Elsa Einstein1919-1936
Children: 1902 - Lieserl
1904 - Hans Albert
1910 - Edward
Political Affiliation: Offered presidency of the State of Israel but refused
Writings: Special Theory of Relativity (1905)
Relativity (English translations, 1920 and 1950)
General Theory of Relativity (1916)
Investigations on Theory of Brownian Movement (1926)
About Zionism (1930)
Why War? (1933)
My Philosophy (1934)
The Evolution of Physics (1938)
Out of My Later Years (1950)
Died: April 18, 1955 in Princeton, NJ.
Buried: Fearful his grave would become a magnet for curiosity seekers, Einstein's executors secretly scattered his ashes.

Links for Albert Einstein
Einstein Revealed -
Albert Einstein Online -
Person of the Century -
Albert Einstein Archives -
Einstein-Image and Impact. AIP History Center exhibit -