Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = m c 2 which has been called "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.
Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics were no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led him to develop his special theory of relativity. He subsequently realized that the principle of relativity could be extended to gravitational fields, and published a paper on general relativity in 1916 introducing his theory of gravitation. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light and the quantum theory of radiation, the basis of laser, which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe.
In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power. Because of his Jewish background, Einstein did not return to Germany. He settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting FDR to the potential development of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type" and recommending that the US begin similar research. This eventually led to the Manhattan Project. Einstein supported the Allies, but he generally denounced the idea of using nuclear fission as a weapon.
Some subjects may be too complex for younger children. Try exploring just one or two links per session and observe the child’s reaction closely. Learning must always be fun, never tiresome.
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer. He has been called the "father of the scientific method”. Before Galileo, most science was based merely on the opinions of philosophers. Galileo taught us to search for physical proof to support our theories and he encouraged experimentation.
Galileo studied speed velocity and gravity. He dropped two spheres of different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove that both objects fell at the same rate, thus disproving Aristotle.
Galileo championed the work of Nicolaus Copernicus who theorized the sun, not the earth, was at the center of our solar system. He met with opposition from doubting astronomers but he defended his views in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632).
Carson began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s. Her 1951 bestseller The Sea Around Us won her a U.S. National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book, The Edge of the Sea, and the reissued version of her first book, Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers.
Late in the 1950s, Carson turned her attention to conservation, especially some problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. The result was the book Silent Spring, which brought environmental concerns to the American people. Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a ban on DDT and other pesticides. It also inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author. He is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time. His book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made contributions to optics, and shares credit for developing calculus.
Newton formulated laws of motion and universal gravitation and used his mathematical description of gravity to account for tides, the paths of comets, the seasons and other phenomena. Popular legend suggests Newton developed his concept of gravity while watching apples fall from trees.
Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a sophisticated theory of color based on the observation that a prism separates white light into the colors of the visible spectrum. He also made the first theoretical calculation of the speed of sound.
Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and a professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge. Newton served two brief terms as Member of Parliament for the University of Cambridge. He was knighted by Queen Anne in 1705 and spent the last three decades of his life in London, serving as Warden and Master of the Royal Mint, as well as president of the Royal Society.
Alan Turing was highly influential in the development of computer science, and the concepts of algorithm and computation. He is widely considered to be the father of computer science and artificial intelligence.
Turing studied as an undergraduate from 1931 to 1934 at King's College, Cambridge, where he was awarded first-class honors in mathematics. In 1935, at the age of 22, he was elected a fellow of King's on the strength of a dissertation in which he proved the central limit theorem.
In 1936, Turing published his paper On Computable Numbers. In this paper, Turing reformulated the devices that became known as “Turing machines” and lead to the development of the “busy beaver game”, two essential steps in the creation of the modern computer.
During the Second World War, Turing worked for Britain's code-breaking center. Turing played a pivotal role in cracking intercepted coded messages that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in the Battle of the Atlantic. It has been estimated that this work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved over 14 million lives.
After the war, Turing worked at the National Physical Laboratory, where he designed the ACE, among the first designs for a stored-program computer. In 1948 Turing joined Max Newman's Computing Machine Laboratory at the Victoria University of Manchester, where he helped develop the Manchester computers.
Marie Curie was a Polish and French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.
Born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, she studied at Warsaw's clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her older sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and with physicist Henri Becquerel. She won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Her achievements included the development of the theory of radioactivity, a term that she coined, techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world's first studies into the treatment of neoplasms were conducted using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centers of medical research today. During World War I, she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals.
Jane Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist. Considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996. In April 2002, she was named a UN Messenger of Peace.
Without collegiate training directing her research, Goodall observed things that strict scientific doctrines may have overlooked. Instead of numbering the chimpanzees she observed, she gave them names, and observed them to have unique and individual personalities, an unconventional idea at the time. She found that, "it isn't only human beings who have personality, who are capable of rational thought and emotions like joy and sorrow." These findings suggest that similarities between humans and chimpanzees exist in more than genes alone, and can be seen in emotion, intelligence, and family and social relationships.
Barbara McClintock was an American scientist and cytogeneticist who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927. There she started her career as the leader in the development of corn cytogenetics, the focus of her research for the rest of her life. From the late 1920s, McClintock studied chromosomes and how they change during reproduction in maize. She developed the technique for visualizing maize chromosomes and used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic ideas. She produced the first genetic map for maize, linking regions of the chromosome to physical traits. She was recognized as among the best in the field, awarded prestigious fellowships, and elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1944. During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered transposition and used it to demonstrate that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off. She developed theories to explain the suppression and expression of genetic information from one generation of maize plants to the next. McClintock's research became well understood in the 1960s and 1970s, as other scientists confirmed the mechanisms of genetic change and genetic regulation that she had demonstrated in her corn research in the 1940s and 1950s. Awards and recognition for her contributions to the field followed.
Caroline Herschel was born in Hanover England on March 16, 1750. She was the eighth child and fourth daughter of professional musicians. Caroline and the other children received a cursory education, learning to read and write and little more.
When she was ten, her brother William proposed that she join him in Bath as a singer for his church performances. When William became increasingly interested in astronomy, Caroline again supported his efforts. On March 13, 1781 William discovered the planet Uranus and accepted the private office of court astronomer to King George III. Caroline was asked to "sweep" the sky, meticulously moving through the sky in strips to search for interesting objects. She gradually developed a love for the work and on 26 February 1783, Caroline made her first discovery, a nebula that was not included in the contemporary catalogues. That same night, she independently discovered Messier 110 (NGC 205), the second companion of the Andromeda Galaxy. In 1787, she was granted an annual salary of £50 by George III for her work. Caroline's appointment made her the first woman in England honored with an official government position, and the first woman to be paid for her work in astronomy. In August 1799, Caroline was independently recognized for her work, when she spent a week in Greenwich as a guest of the royal family.
After her brother died in 1822, Caroline continued her astronomical studies and produced a catalogue of nebulae. In 1828 the Royal Astronomical Society presented her with their Gold Medal. Throughout the twilight of her life, Caroline remained active and regularly socialized with other scientific luminaries.
Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding. Darwin has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. His five-year voyage on HMS Beagle established him as an eminent geologist whose observations and theories supported Charles Lyell's conception of gradual geological change, and publication of his journal of the voyage made him famous as a popular author. Puzzled by the geographical distribution of wildlife and fossils he collected on the voyage, Darwin began detailed investigations, and in 1838 conceived his theory of natural selection. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.