Albert Einstein as Philosopher of Science

Scientific philosophies of Albert Einstein, German-Swiss-American physicist, philosopher and writer, famous for Theory of Relativity, E=MC².

Albert Einstein, scientist and philosopher of science, is regarded as the father of modern science. He is famous for his Theory of Relativity, formulated as E=MC², with practical application in nuclear energy development.

Einstein’s Life and Work, Short Profile

Albert Einstein (1879-1955), was born in Ulm, Germany, and grew up in Munich. The young Albert hated formal schooling with its rigid teaching methods. His only pleasures were mathematics and his violin, influenced by his pianist mother, and inspired by Mozart.

Einstein gave up his German citizenship and moved to Switzerland to avoid the military duty. In Zurich, he succeeded in studying physics and mathematics at the Polytechnic. At age 23, he finally got a job as a technical examiner at Bern, and married his Hungarian fiancée, Mileva Maric; she was a fellow student at Zurich Polytechnic.

Albert Einstein began his papers on ‘disposition for abstract and mathematical thought’ and contributed them to a German physics journal, Annals of Physics.

The first paper explained photoelectric effect. He received a Nobel Prize for his work 16 years later. The second paper discussed measuring the size of molecules; this piece led Einstein to his doctorate from the Zurich Polytechnic.

The third paper provided a theoretical explanation for Brownian motion on the existence of atoms – the movement of tiny particles suspended in liquid. His work related to unified field theory, linked to electromagnetism and gravity, was much influenced by Faraday and Clerk Maxwell. His fifth paper discussed the Special Theory of Relativity.

Special Theory of Relativity: Space, Time and the Speed of Light

Einstein’s theory in simple terms expresses the equivalence of energy and mass. His fourth paper of 1905, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” proposes that space and time are relative to the observer. It is considered his most significant ideology as it outlines the Special Theory of Relativity.

Einstein theorized that space and time are no longer absolute as they depend on the position and speed of the object experiencing them. The only absolute is the speed of light. In this fifth paper, Einstein saw further implication of this special theory. He concluded his now famous formula that energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light: E = MC²

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, with Inclusion of Gravity

He later joined Planck as professor at Berlin University where he continued his research, a condition that suited him. He engaged himself in the extension of his Special Theory of Relativity to include gravity, a study relating those objects that only moved at a steady velocity. This paper was the General Theory of Relativity, he released in 1915, 10 years later. He stated that gravity is not a force – as physicists had believed since Newton – but a distortion in space-time, created by the presence of mass. The theory was only proven four years later.

Impact of Einstein’s Scientific Philosophy

Einstein five papers submitted to Annals of Physics were all remarkable. The philosophical implication of his scientific work on the Special Theory of Relativity and later, General Theory of Relativity, is enormous. Firstly, it follows from relativity theory that no one can speak of an event occurring at precisely the same time for different observers. Secondly, although the speed of light is constant, its frequency varies closer to massive objects like planets, which basically means that time appears to pass at a slower rate when an individual is near a massive or dense body.

Just as Einstein explained what lay behind the laws created by his predecessor and idol, Sir Isaac Newton, only time will tell what philosophical consequence might unfold after relativity theory that stirred the earlier notions of time and space from the philosophies of Newton, Locke and Kant. Who knows? Perhaps another genius will come forward to expand further the evolution of the universe.

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