Albert Einstein, a German-born scientist, is renowned for his influential and controversial ideas that have had a lasting impact on society. Despite facing difficulties in grade school and language barriers caused by poor grammar skills, Einstein is widely recognized as one of history’s most brilliant thinkers. Although his teacher deemed him mentally challenged and recommended “special classes,” his parents disagreed and persevered. As a result, Einstein emerged as the most renowned scientist of his time, if not all time (Poole) (Brown).
Albert Einstein, a German American physicist, was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, Germany. He is widely considered as one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century (Grolier). Remarkably, Einstein did not start speaking until he turned three years old (Poole). In spite of his teachers’ belief that he lacked intelligence, Einstein proved them wrong. At 19 years old, he failed an exam that would have allowed him to become an electrical engineer (Grolier), further highlighting his unconventional thinking abilities. Even after gaining recognition as a genius, Einstein faced various unique challenges. For instance, he couldn’t drive because he would become too engrossed in his thoughts and theories to pay attention to the road for more than a few minutes. Moreover, while teaching at Princeton University, he struggled with simple matters like knowing when and where his classes were scheduled. A messenger had to retrieve him before each class (Cavanaugh). On April 18th, 1955, Albert Einstein passed away in Princeton, N.J., supposedly due to natural causes (Grolier).
Einstein, a well-known physicist, made important contributions to various scientific theories. Among these was his discovery of the photoelectric effect, which explains how certain metals release electrons when exposed to light with a specific frequency. This theory played a crucial role in advancing quantum mechanics. However, Einstein’s most renowned accomplishment is his theory of relativity, which states that the fundamental laws of physics should remain unchanged regardless of the frame of reference.
Einstein’s theories, such as the theory of relativity, had a profound influence on both the world and modern physics. They completely transformed the field and established the basis for comprehending the relative nature of everything from an individual’s point of view. Additionally, this groundbreaking explanation also provided insights into motion and the characteristics of light. Consequently, scientists were able to investigate phenomena that were previously unobservable, like atoms in rapid motion.
Einstein’s complex equation revolutionized the study of the atom, allowing scientists to deeply explore its depths. No one had previously delved into science as profoundly as he did. Additionally, this theory was instrumental in investigating the velocity of waves used in modern television sets. Einstein’s approach propelled science into the space age and had a lasting impact, with his teachings being utilized worldwide. Among all of Einstein’s concepts, perhaps none were as influential as his ideas about nuclear power, which laid the foundation for significant technological progress in the twentieth century.
Nuclear energy is currently utilized to power various aspects of society and is regarded as a highly efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. According to Grolier, just one gram of uranium can supply enough energy to sustain a city for several weeks. Nuclear power plants exist in nearly all developed countries worldwide, playing a significant role in global electricity production since its discovery five decades ago. As of 1989, there were 416 operational nuclear plants globally, generating approximately 17% of the world’s electricity, with an additional 130 plants being designed or constructed. At present, there are 27 nations with functioning nuclear plants and five more nations in the process of constructing them. The United States boasts the largest nuclear energy program with over 100 operational plants that collectively have a capacity of around 100,000 MW—contributing almost 20% to U.S. power generation. Within the U.S., nuclear power ranks second only to coal as the largest provider of electricity at around 55%, according to Grolier.
According to Brown, military submarines often utilize a compact nuclear reactor for propulsion, allowing them to travel worldwide without the need for refueling. In comparison, ships powered by gasoline require frequent refueling stops. Nuclear-powered submarines can be constructed larger than their gasoline counterparts due to the lighter yet more potent attributes of nuclear energy.
The advancements in military science can be attributed to nuclear power. In 1939, Albert Einstein’s letter to President Roosevelt initiated a secret military project resulting in the creation of the atomic bomb. In his letter, Einstein cautioned about the immense destructive capabilities of this bomb, capable of annihilating an entire port and its surroundings. The deployment of this weapon ultimately brought World War II to an end and safeguarded numerous American and Allied soldiers. Consequently, Einstein’s theories and findings had an enormously beneficial effect on mankind.
However, Einstein’s theories had significant negative consequences on society. According to Grolier, the world was horrified by the devastating incident that occurred in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. A U.S. aircraft dropped an atomic bomb which completely obliterated the city, eradicating approximately 60% of it and resulting in an estimated 75,000 fatalities. Merely three days later, another bomb ravaged Nagasaki and effectively brought World War II to a close. Although initially intended for the Mitsubishi shipyards, this bomb missed its target and instead devastated nearly half of Nagasaki, leading to around 75,000 casualties. Overall, these two bombings caused a total death toll of 150,000 individuals; tragically most of them were innocent men, women, and children who comprised the majority of victims. The official military report presented to President Truman and allied leaders conveyed this information:
Hiroshima, a city in Japan with a population of about 300,000, suffered great devastation on August 6, 1945. The detonation of an atomic bomb caused over 78,000 immediate deaths and around 10,000 people were reported missing. Additionally, more than 70,000 individuals were injured and almost two-thirds of the city was destroyed. Shortly after this tragic event, Nagasaki also experienced a similar fate when it was targeted with an atomic bomb on August 9th. Approximately 40,000 fatalities occurred along with an equal number of injuries.
At present, specialized clinics have been established specifically for the treatment of radiation illnesses and other long-lasting impacts resulting from the explosion.
Einstein’s revolutionary theories had adverse impacts on nuclear power, evident in various aspects such as the development and use of atomic bombs and the potential hazards associated with nuclear power plants. The Chernobyl disaster serves as a prime example of the unintended consequences that arose from Einstein’s work. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located near Kiev, Ukraine, experienced the most severe documented nuclear meltdown. The chain reaction spiraled out of control unexpectedly, resulting in a sudden increase in power that destroyed the fuel. This led to a subsequent chemical explosion and scattered fragments that caused local fires. Initial casualties reached 31 deaths, with around 500 individuals later admitted to hospitals. The greatest accumulation of radioactive fallout occurred in western parts of the Soviet Union and specific regions within Europe.
Despite the removal of heavily contaminated soil and trees from the 30-km (19-mi) zone near the power plant, it was acknowledged in 1990 by authorities that numerous individuals still lived on polluted ground. The population residing in this area experiences higher rates of thyroid cancer, leukemia, and other illnesses linked to radiation exposure. (Grolier)
The United States faced its own nuclear scares, including the Three Mile Island incident in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On March 28, 1979, a nuclear reactor at that site underwent a partial meltdown, but the dangerous materials were effectively contained. These incidents merely exemplify the unintended negative consequences that arise from Albert Einstein’s ideas. Despite Einstein’s lack of harmful intentions, visionary individuals like him are susceptible to having their concepts misinterpreted by human minds and impacted by human errors caused by fallibility.