Einstein in links
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Date: 28 January, 2005

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'In 1915, Einstein presented his general theory of relativity, introducing the world to 'space-time' and a host of other often misunderstood terms.'

By Andrew Chapman.

It's 100 years since Albert Einstein developed his world-changing theories. Relatively speaking, that is.

Einstein was born in March 1879 in Germany (later becoming a Swiss citizen), the son of a feather bed salesman who later ran an electrochemical works. The family were non-observing Jews. Despite a precocious interest in physics, he was regarded as a slow learner at school, and failed his university liberal arts exams.

He married the Serbian mathemtician Mileva Maric in 1903, while he worked at the Swiss Patent Office. He obtained a doctorate in 1905, 'On a new determination of molecular dimensions', which kicked off a year in which he changed the way the world was seen. Four 'annus mirabilis' papers followed, on:

Brownian motion - he found empirical evidence for the existence of atoms the photoelectric effect - he proposed the idea of 'light quanta' or photons special relativity - his theory bringing together time, distance, mass and energy, and explaining the speed of light energy equivalency - where Einstein establihsed his famous formula E=mc2.

The second of these papers eventually won Einstein a Nobel Prize. He became a professor at the University of Prague and later in Berlin, although his Jewish origins and pacifist beliefs inspired nationalist hatred of him. He later fled to the US, where he dies in 1955.

In 1915, Einstein presented his general theory of relativity, introducing the world to 'space-time' and a host of other often misunderstood terms.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Physics has declared 2005 the 'World Year of Physics' in honour of the centenary of Einstein's greatest year.

More specifically, 2005 has also been declared Einstein Year as a contribution from Britain and Ireland. As part of a year of activities and events, the British Association for the Advancement of Science has launched a poetry competition.

The closing date for entries is 11 February, so it's not too late - especially if you have a time machine. Celebrities such as Terry Practchett, Sir Patrick Moore and the Muppets have already entered!