October 29, 2007

Today in Jewish History - Cheshvan 17

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On this date in 1919, a New York Times headline declared "Einstein Theory Triumphs." Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was a German-born physicist whose theory of relativity revolutionized the scientific approach to time, space, matter, energy and gravity. Einstein claimed that his defining moment came at age five when his father showed him a compass, and young Albert was intrigued by the mysterious, invisible force acting upon it. Einstein succeeded in explaining principles of cosmology and physics that had baffled scientists for decades. From 1914 to 1933, he conducted physics research in Berlin, and it was during this time that he made his most groundbreaking discoveries and was awarded a Nobel Prize. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and fled to the United States, where he accepted a position in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1939, Einstein sent a letter to President Roosevelt urging the study of nuclear fission for military purposes, fearing that the Nazis would be first to develop atomic weapons. After the war, however, Einstein lobbied for nuclear disarmament, saying that: "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Einstein was instrumental in founding Brandeis University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to which Einstein bequeathed his estate. In 1952 he turned down an offer to become President of the State of Israel. Einstein has been called one of the most influential figures in history, and Time magazine named him "Person of the Century."

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