In civilization there have been few individuals that leave a legacy of ideas that have impacted on society forever. Albert Einstein the German-born scientist was one of the gifted few. Despite being one of the greatest thinkers ever to grace the world with his presence, Einstein flunked out of grade school miserably (Poole). He was a terrible English student, because of his poor grammar skills (Poole). At one point a teacher actually told Einstein’s parents that he was mentally challenged. He was actually recommended for “special classes”(Brown). His parent did not believe this, they could see that he was different, but far from mentally challenged. There perseverance was soon proved well worth it. Albert Einstein, may be considered the most famous, influential, and controversial scientist of his time, and possibly ever.
Albert Einstein, the German American physicist was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879 (Grolier). He may have contributed more than any other scientist to 20th century physics. Einstein’s life is filled with amazing quirks, one example is he did not speak until he was three years old (Poole). He was told by his teachers that he not intelligent, it would be a sever understatement to say that Einstein proved his teachers wrong. At 19 Einstein failed an examination that would have allowed him to get a diploma as an electrical engineer (Grolier). This failure further illustrates Einstein’s inability to think on a down to earth basis. Later in life, even after Einstein was recognized as a genius, he had many strange problems. For instance, Einstein was never able to drive an automobile, the reason being that he could not concentrate on the road for more than a few minutes. His mind was to busy devising theories and thinking in a more complicated manner than most people can comprehend. After teaching at Princeton for years, he still did not know what time his classes started, or even where they were. A messenger had to be sent to retrieve him for each class (Cavanaugh). Einstein died in Princeton, N.J. on April 18, 1955 of what was said to be natural causes (Grolier).
Einstein’s accomplishments include the discovery and invention of many theories. One of them is the theory of the photoelectric effect which is when certain metals emit electrons when illuminated by light with a given frequency. Einstein’s theory formed the idea of quantum mechanics. Einstein is most famous for his theory of relativity. The basic theory of relativity is, the laws of physics have to have the same form in any frame of reference.
Einstein’s life has had many positive effects on the world. His theories are the basis of modern physics. He revolutionized the field with his theory of relativity. With this he proved that all things are relative according to your point of view. This helped explain motion and the way in which light moved. From this theory scientists were able to study things that were moving too fast to see, such as the atom.
This theory gave new and accelerated effects to the study of the atom. scientists were able to do this by changing their point of view using Einstein’s complicated equation. No one before him was able to explore so deeply into the sciences. This theory even helped study the speed of waves used in our modern television sets. With Einstein’s thinking, science was brought into the space age. His impact was so great that his teachings are used in all parts of the world. Out of all of Einstein’s ideas perhaps none was more influential than his ideas of nuclear power. This idea was the basis of the largest technological advancement of the twentieth century.
Nuclear energy is now used to power numerous things in our civilization. Nuclear power is one of the cleanest and most efficient energy sources available today. The amount of energy in one gram of uranium, is enough to power a city for weeks(Grolier). There are nuclear power plants in nearly all industrialized countries of the world. In the 50 years since the discovery of fission, nuclear power has become a major source of the world’s electric energy. “At the end of 1989 there were 416 nuclear plants operating worldwide, generating about 17% of the world’s electricity, with another 130 in the design or construction stages.”(Grolier) Nuclear plants operate in 27 nations, and 5 additional nations are in the process of building them. The United States has the world’s largest nuclear energy program with more than 100 operating plants that have a capacity of about 100,000 MW and provide nearly 20% of U.S. power. Nuclear power is now the second largest source of U.S.electricity. Coal, which provides about 55% of the country’s electricity is the second largest provider. (Grolier)
Many military submarines are powered by a small nuclear reactor housed inside of them(Brown). A submarine powered with nuclear energy could travel around the world without refueling. In comparison, a ship powered by gasoline would find it necessary to make over a hundred stops to refuel. Submarines that use gasoline to power them must have the capacity to handle the enormous weight of the fuel on board. Submarines powered by nuclear power, can be much larger than those powered by gasoline. This is because nuclear power doesn’t weigh much, yet provides a great deal more power per square foot.
Without nuclear power, military science could never have advanced in the fashion that it did. Because of Einstein’s letter to President Roosevelt on October 11, 1939, discussing the implications of a nuclear chain reaction and the powerful bombs that may be constructed, Roosevelt immediately began a secret military undertaking that resulted in the atomic bomb. In his letter Einstein stated, “A single bomb of this type carried by a boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port, together with some of the surrounding territory.” (Davis) Because of the atomic bomb, World War II ended saving numerous American and Allied troops’ lives. Thus, Einstein’s theories and discoveries greatly impacted mankind in many positive aspects.
On the other hand, Einstein’s theories led to many negative effects on civilization. “Hiroshima caught the attention of the world when a U.S. plane dropped the first atomic bomb on the city, destroying it on August 6, 1945” (Grolier). The atomic bomb blast in 1945 obliterated three-fifths of the city within seconds and killed about 75,000 people. Three days later another bomb on Nagasaki brought World War II to an abrupt end. On August 9, 1945, a U.S. bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, aiming at the Mitsubishi shipyards. The bomb missed its target, but destroyed about half of the city and killed approximately 75,000 people. The death total from the 2 bombs, just in the initial explosion was 150,000 people most of them innocent men women and children. The official military report sent to President Truman and allied leaders read as follows:
On Aug. 6, 1945, an atomic bomb with an explosive force greater than 20,000 U.S. tons of TNT was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, with a population of about 300,000. At least 78,000 people were killed outright, 10,000 were never found, and more than 70,000 were injured. Almost two-thirds of the city was destroyed. On August 9, the day after the USSR declared war on Japan, an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, with a population of 250,000. About 40,000 people were killed, and about the same number were injured.
Special clinics have had to be set up to combat radiation illnesses and other lingering effects of the blast even today.
The atom bomb is just one of the ways that Einstein’s revolutionary ideas about nuclear power have gone awry. Nuclear power plants can also be extremely hazardous due to the ever present threat of a meltdown. Chernobyl is an example whereby the purpose that Einstein intended his work to be used for have gone wrong. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant near Kiev, in Ukraine, was the site of the world’s worst nuclear meltdown. The nuclear reaction suddenly went out of control. The power surge shattered the fuel. A chemical explosion followed, and scattered fragments caused further local fires. The disaster killed 31 people immediately and later caused the hospitalization of about 500 others. The heaviest fallout descended on the western Soviet Union and a few European areas.
Although heavily contaminated soil and trees were removed from the 30-km (19-mi) zone near the power plant, authorities acknowledged in 1990 that several million persons were still living on contaminated ground. The incidences of thyroid cancer, leukemia, and other radiation-related illnesses are higher than normal among this population. (Grolier)
Also, in the United States there have been nuclear scares such as Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where the nuclear reactor began a partial meltdown on March 28, 1979. Luckily the hazardous waste was contained. These are just a few of the negative effects that Albert Einstein’s ideas brought about even though he intended no harm. Therefore, many ideas created by innovative thinkers such as Albert Einstein, are vulnerable to negativity through the minds of men and accidents caused by human error.