A Celebration of Albert Einstein's Scientific Genius

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Byline: Mark Foster Daily Herald Correspondent

Albert Einstein turned the world upside down in 1905.

While working as a patent clerk in Switzerland, he wrote a series of papers that reshaped the foundations of physics.

Students, teachers and scientists Saturday celebrated Einstein's achievements at a World Year of Physics Symposium at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia.

"Einstein walks among us today," scholar John Rigden of Washington University in St. Louis told the group "He is a presence in our world and our culture. He was a scientist who looked at the world from the fundamentals of physics."

Rigden told the story of how in a little more than six months, Einstein wrote five papers that provided solutions to many of the problems that had been vexing scientists for years.

The first of those papers went further, offering an explanation for the composition of light.

"It was a problem only Einstein recognized," Rigden said. "Einstein's solution was the audacious claim that light is a particle. It was revolutionary. No one accepted it. Scientists rejected and ridiculed it."

Yet by the 1920s scientists had indeed accepted that light is a particle, and had given it a name, the photon.

"Today it is in the woodwork of physics," Rigden said.

In successive papers, Einstein tackled the problems of thermodynamics, kinetic energy, and quantum physics, outlined his theory of relativity, and developed his famous equation, E=mc2, meaning that energy and mass are simply two forms of the same thing. …