He Had One Heck of a Year
In 1905, Einstein published four papers that rocked contemporary views of space, time, mass and energy and helped set the stage for modern physics, all while writing a doctoral dissertation and working as a third-class examiner in the Swiss patent office.
After graduation, Einstein had applied for numerous academic posts, but school after school had rebuffed him. Their rejections stemmed in part from a letter of recommendation that Einstein had foolishly requested from Heinrich Weber, a professor whose classes he had regularly ditched [sources: Kaku]. As decisions go, it was an object lesson in the difference between intelligence and wisdom. But the clerkship left Einstein enough daydreaming time to conceive his four landmark Annals of Physics journal papers, all published in a single annus mirabilis:
- "On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light" explained the photoelectric effect using quantum theory (and would eventually earn him the Nobel Prize, see below).
- "On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat" experimentally proved the existence of atoms.
- "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies" established the mathematical theory of special relativity.
- "Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?" explained how relativity theory led to a mass-energy equivalence of E = mc2.