Born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany, Albert Einstein was a physicist who made substantial leaps in microscopic and macroscopic sciences, and greatly influenced all of science with the derivation of his mass-energy equivalence equation of E=mc2. At age five, Einstein received his first compass, and his fascination with it ignited a spark that led him to investigate the natural world. As a child, Einstein was interested in math and science, and excelled in these areas due to a self-education program he created. As he matured, it was evident that he was intelligent, as he taught himself calculus between the ages of 12-14 (Robbins); however, in school, subjects other than math and science failed to captivate him. Because he was an introvert, Einstein preferred to spend much of his time alone, thinking. In 1902, two years after graduating from Federal Polytechnic in Zurich, Einstein took a job as a Patent Clerk to support his family (Bodanis).
Einstein was able to work efficiently at his mundane job as a patent clerk, leaving a great deal of free time for him to contemplate the mysteries of the universe. One of the greatest mysteries on his mind was to consider if energy and mass, two very different concepts, could somehow be linked to each other. In his quest to find answers, Einstein composed the most fundamentally important and most recognizable scientific equation we see today, E=mc2, that since its genesis, has been instrumental as a basis for multiple scientific and technological innovations in the last century. He also created his Special Theory of Relativity that can be summarized by saying “that any measurement of the speed of any flash of light by any observer in any inertial frame will give the same answer c” (Fowler) where c equals the speed of light. Besides the derivation of E=mc2, Einstein is also famous for his work with General Relativity. However, in his journey to E=mc2, he generated other astounding scientific breakthroughs that changed the way we think, from relativity to atoms and molecules. In 1905, Einstein’s career exploded with his publication of what many call the Annus Mirabilis (or Miracle Year) papers (Brian 60-68). These papers discussed four main topics: the Photoelectric Effect, Brownian Motion, Special Relativity, and Mass-Energy Equivalence.
The Photoelectric Effect, as described by Einstein, refers to the occurrence in which electrons are discharged from the surface of a metal when light strikes it. In summary, Einstein characterized the photoelectric effect by four observations.
1. Studies in which the frequency of the light is varied show that no electrons are emitted by a given metal below a specific threshold frequency v_0.
2. For light with frequency lower than the threshold frequency, no electrons are emitted regardless of the intensity of the light.
3. For light with frequency greater than the threshold frequency, the number of electrons emitted increases with the intensity of the light.