Albert Einstein - A Centennial Celebration of His Miraculous Year
The Miraculous Year
Einstein published his first paper in 1901 and his second in 1902. Both papers dealt with the forces between molecules and Einstein himself described the papers as worthless. He then wrote three papers of mixed quality on the foundations of statistical mechanics. Biographer Abraham Pais describes this work as "important warming-up exercises in Einstein's own development." The year 1904 was mostly a year of academic silence. However, 1905 saw the explosion of publications which we are here to commemorate today.
The papers fall into three general categories:
Einstein completed six papers in 1905. Each was published by the prestigious German journal Annalen der Physik. Four of the papers were published in 1905 and the other two in 1906. The papers were:
- The light quanta and photoelectric effect,
- Brownian Motion, and
- Special Relativity.
- "On a Heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light," completed March 17, 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 17, pages 132-148. This work includes the light quanta hypothesis and study of the photoelectric effect. This was fundamental in the development of the quantum theory and was the basis of the justification for Einstein receiving the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921.
- "On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat," completed in May 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 17, pages 549-560. This paper on Brownian motion helped explain the agitated random motion of particles suspended in a liquid.
- "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies," completed in June 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 17, pages 891-921. This is probably the most famous of Einstein's 1905 papers. It is this paper that founded the special theory of relativity.
- "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content?," completed in September 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 18, pages 639-641. This is a follow-up to the special relativity paper in which Einstein presents a preliminary version of the equation E=mc2.
- "A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions," completed April 30, 1905 and revised on August 19, 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 19, pages 289-305 in 1906. This is Einstein's Ph.D. dissertation work from the University of Zurich. It contains a new method for the determination of molecular sizes and of Avagadro's number.
- "On the Theory of Brownian Motion," completed December 19, 1905. This appeared in Annalen der Physik, volume 19, pages 371-381, in 1906. This is a second paper on Brownian motion.
Go to The Photoelectric Effect and Light Quanta section.