Albert Einstein


Widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein famously started his career as a patent clerk but would rise to prominence, winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. Born in Germany, Einstein fled Nazi Germany in the 1930’s and became a U.S. citizen in 1940. He warned the U.S. of the Nazi’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon which led to the Manhattan Project and the advent of the nuclear era, a role that troubled him deeply until his death in Princeton, New Jersey in 1955 at the age of 76.  Join Active Minds as we trace the life and impact of this great thinker.

Key Lecture Points

  • An important scientist. In 1999 Time Magazine deemed Albert Einstein “the Person of the [20th] Century” for his scientific contributions. The ripple effects of his work are still felt in everything from the ways we power our homes to the ways we understand the mysteries of the universe.
  • A man of convictions. Einstein’s legacy includes more than his contribution to science. He was also an important voice for pacifism even at the risk of his career, reputation, and life in Germany during World Wars I and II. He was also a quiet but staunch supporter of the American Civil Rights Movement for more than two decades.
  • A flawed hero. In the later 1980s and 1990s, letters came to light that revealed difficult moments in Einstein’s personal life, most notably with his first wife, Mileva. There is some newly discovered evidence Mileva collaborated with Einstein on many of his most important papers, although her role still isn’t fully understood.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways can you see Albert Einstein’s explanations at work in your own life?
  • Einstein was both a scientist and an activist. How do those two roles fit together as a whole?
  • What role do you think Mileva played in Einstein’s work? Does learning about her contributions change the way you think about Einstein’s legacy?
  • How would you describe Einstein’s legacy today?

More to Explore

  • Information about Einstein ’s life and work Click here
  • Einstein as Time Magazine Person of the Century Click here
  • Public television program on Einstein Click here

Books For Further Reading

  • Berger, Gary S. and Michael Diruggiero. Einstein: The Man and His Mind. Damani, 2022. 212 pages. A visual biography of Einstein in photographs, letters, manuscripts, and journals.
    Click here to order
  • Isaacson, Walter. Einstein: His Life and Universe. Simon & Schuster, 2008. 704 pages. The preeminent biographer takes up Einstein’s life and work.
    Click here to order
  • Jerome, Fred and Roger Taylor. Einstein on Race and Racism. Rutgers, 2006. 224 pages. This volume collects Einstein’s writing on the topic of race in the US and around the world from speeches, letters, and articles.
    Click here to order
  • Perkowitz, Sidney. Physics: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, 2019. 168 pages. The Very Short Introductions Series provides short, pocket-sized, but scholarly overviews of important topics. Perkowitz takes up the history of physics from the Ancient Greeks to the latest developments in quantum mechanics, as well as applications of physics to modern life and technology.
    Click here to order
  • Renn, Jürgen and Schulmann, Robert, eds. Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric: The Love Letters. Princeton, 2000. 140 pages. Collects letters passed between Albert and his first wife.
    Click here to order