German Men of Ideas: Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
Field of Study: Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, philosopher, peace activist.
Revolutionary Insight: In his mid-20s, published papers that upended Newton's law of gravity with general & special theories of relativity. Argued that the speed of light remains constant, but space and time aren't absolute; gravity is an expression of how four-dimensional space-time curves around large masses -- a seemingly simple notion that underpins modern astrophysics & the Big Bang Theory.
Controversy Quotient (0to 5): (2) Fled Nazi Germany in 1933; convinced U.S. to begin developing atomic bomb during World War II; later regretted his role in rise of nuclear technology, becoming a pacifist & fierce civil rights advocate.
Little Known Fact: In 1952, after the first president of Israel died, Einstein was offered the post. He declined, saying, "I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people."