Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein attends a dinner with fellow Nobel laureates in 1933.

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From a physics perspective, Albert Einstein helped to overhaul not just the entire world but also the entire universe. His concepts were so far-reaching that, in some ways, they turned our perception of the very nature of reality inside out.

Einstein went to school to receive a teaching degree for chemistry and math. When he couldn't find a job, he went to work at the Swiss patent office. There, in his spare time, his busy mind took up big questions in theoretical physics.

Einstein discovered mass-energy equivalence and also tackled theories of relativity. He won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of the photoelectric effect, which refers to the ejection of electrons from another material in response to light.

His explanation demonstrated that light is made of particles, which then led to the development of the photoelectric cell. This, in turn, resulted in countless inventions, including television, motion pictures and many others.

Perhaps more importantly, his research evolved our understanding of physics, including quantum theory. His forward thinking didn't just nudge science and technology forward; it shoved those disciplines into entirely new territory.