1966 8¢ Prominent Americans: Albert Einstein
US #1285 – from the Prominent Americans Series

One of the greatest scientific minds in human history, Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Württemberg, Germany.

Einstein’s family moved to Munich in 1880 and he spent most of his childhood there. He attended the Luitpold Gymnasium (now called the Albert Einstein Gymnasium) before moving with his family to Italy.

1979 15¢ Albert Einstein
US #1774 was issued for Einstein’s 100th birthday.

Einstein had a natural understanding of math from an early age and was often far ahead of other children his age – he even surpassed his tutor. He taught himself algebra and Euclidean geometry in a summer and developed his own proof of the Pythagorean theorem when he was 12. Einstein became convinced that all of nature could be understood as a “mathematical structure.”

Einstein went on to study physics and mathematics at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. After earning his degree in 1901, he earned Swiss citizenship. However, he was unable to find a teaching job and instead took a job as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. While this job wasn’t in his field, it gave him ample time to research and produce some of his most prolific work.

2002 Guinea Albert Einstein
Guinea #2136 features paintings of Einstein.

In 1905, Einstein was awarded his PhD from the University of Zurich. That same year, called his annus mirabilis (miracle year), he published four papers in the journal Annalen der Physik (Annals of Physics). The first three of these introduced the scientific community to the photoelectric effect, expanded on the kinetic theory of heat, and formed the basis of his theory of relativity.

2002 Guyana Einstein Photomosaic
Guyana #3697 – Einstein Photomosaic

On November 21, Einstein published his final paper of the year, “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?” This paper introduced the formula E=mc2.  According to the formula, the energy of a body at rest (E) is equal to its mass (m) multiplied by the speed of light (c) squared. Many of Einstein’s miracle year theories were controversial for years before they were accepted by leading physicists. This equation in particular enabled developments as diverse as the atom bomb, diagnostic PET scans, and smoke detectors. Over time, Einstein’s ideas became widely accepted.

Einstein went on to teach at universities in Zurich and Berlin. He then received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for his work with the photoelectric effect. In 1933 he traveled to the US to teach Theoretical Physics at Princeton. While in America, the Nazis seized all of his possessions in Germany. He knew he couldn’t return, so he officially renounced his German citizenship and became an American citizen in 1940.

2001 Grenada Einstein
Grenada #3208-09 honor Einstein’s 1921 Nobel Prize.

In 1939, as the world war continued to spread across the globe, a number of scientists including Einstein grew concerned over Germany’s goal to build an atomic weapon. Believing they were close to succeeding, these scientists sent a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt voicing their concern. From this letter, the Manhattan Project was born. Einstein wasn’t allowed to participate, and the scientists involved were not permitted to discuss it with him because officials considered him a security risk. Einstein’s equation, E=mc2, explained how the energy of an atomic bomb was released, though it didn’t detail how to build one.

1966 8¢ Albert Einstein Fleetwood First Day Cover
US #1285 – Fleetwood First Day Cover

When asked about his role, Einstein said he didn’t consider himself the father of atomic energy and that his part was “quite indirect.” He also admitted that had he known the Germans wouldn’t succeed in building an atomic bomb, he never would have written the letter to President Roosevelt initiating the Manhattan Project.

After World War II, Einstein was one of the leading figures in the World Government Movement. He was offered the presidency of Israel, but declined. Einstein then helped establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

1979 15¢ Albert Einstein Classic First Day Cover
US #1774 – Classic First Day Cover

In 1955, Einstein suffered from internal bleeding from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He went to the hospital, but refused surgery, claiming, “I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.” He died the following day, April 18, at the age of 76. 

During his lifetime, Einstein wrote more than 300 scientific papers and received a number of awards, honors, and honorary degrees. 

Click here to read some of Einstein’s work.

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11 Comments

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing it. I hope a lot of younger people read it and do the best they can in their own areas of interest in their own lives.

  2. One of my favorite Einstein stories because it demonstrates his humanity on top of his well known brilliance involves his years at Princeton. One day a young child knocked on his door and told him that they had heard from talk at home that he was pretty good at math and could he please help them with their homework. Einstein graciously invited the child in, and over milk and cookies worked through the problem. One can only imagine the teacher’s reaction when the child explained that some nice old man named Einstein helped with the answers.

  3. What a great history lesson about a gentleman who was brilliant. I wonder who considered him a security risk (and why) and therefore not allowed to participate on the Manhattan Project. And new to me the fact that he was offered to be president of Israel. Thank you Mystic for today’s article.

  4. I’m sure there are many people like me who read these stories almost every day and don’t comment. On behalf of all those like me I send thanks to you at Mystic for providing history and stamps. What a great hobby!

  5. Perhaps the stupidest blunder committed by the gangsters running a Germany in the 1930’s was to make life so difficult for Jewish people that they left. Einstein probably would not have helped the Nazis create a nuclear weapon anyway. The USA and Canada shared the secret Manhattan project…uranium from Canada.The scientists in Canada also developed radiotherapy for cancer treatment. Thank God the allies had the best scientists.

  6. Of course the famous equation E = m (c squared) where c is the speed of electromagnetic waves which includes visible light. When I was unable to insert a superscript with a word processor for the “2” to indicate that it is a square (because of word processor limitations), I would write E = mc^2. Fogive my being a bit nerdy about this.

  7. Thank you for the article. Albert turned out to be a great person not only in life, but also his view when it was time to chose his end. A real Mensch.

  8. I am absolutely AMAZED at how brilliant Einstein proved himself to be !! .How does this happen? I know there are others who are also brilliant above the majority of citizens (like me for example!), but thank God it happens sometimes because they do help the rest of us. Ireallyu enjoyed this article, Mystic, thank you very much!

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