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Einstein's Influence on the Science World: Chemistry. [Part2]

By Julia Galperin

In the years before Albert Einstein was born, researchers had proposed a wide variety of scientific theories that initially seemed groundbreaking but were later on discovered to be inconsistent measurements. Albert Einstein’s discoveries challenged and modified some of these widely accepted ideas. In the 20th century Albert Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect and his investigation in Brownian motion substantially impacted the advancement in science and widely used in chemistry.

Even though Einstein did not come up with the idea for the photoelectric effect, his explanation of it allowed science and society to advance. In 1887, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz had discovered the photoelectric effect: the phenomenon that occurs when metallic surfaces release electrons under radiation (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). In 1902, Philipp Lenard had thoroughly experimented and proved the effect true (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). However, the kinetic energy of the electrons did not correlate with the amount of energy brought in by the light source (Banerjee 1). Moreover, in some cases, no release of electrons from the metal surface was observed no matter how big the energy was of the incoming light (1). People kept seeing this happen over and over again, but no one could explain it. Einstein was the first to explain the photoelectric effect in his work in 1905 (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). He described that under certain circumstances light may behave as if it consisted of particles of energy (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). Einstein thought that a single quantum of light could transfer all of its energy into an electron in the metal (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). This was proven when experimentalists used ultraviolet light, which has a high frequency, to release electrons from thin metal (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). A decade after 1905, R.A. Millikan verified Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect to everyone’s satisfaction (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). 

The photoelectric effect was a very important contribution, causing Einstein to receive the Nobel Prize and influencing scientific advancements to this day. The photoelectric effect was the first time that light was described as both a wave and a particle, a principle now known as wave-particle duality (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). The photoelectric effect contradicted James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory of light, while it proved Newton’s idea that light consists of particles (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia). Einstein’s fame skyrocketed after his explanation of the photoelectric effect, and he soon won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his groundbreaking work. More specifically, “Einstein’s 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded for his important contributions to quantum theory(a theory ultimately irreconcilable with relativity theory) via his explanation of the photoelectric effect” (“Einstein’s Theories of Relativity”). Einstein’s receipt of the prestigious award for his ideas demonstrated that the world understood the importance of the photoelectric effect. The ideas presented in the photoelectric effect are still used today in televisions and the modern laser (“Albert Einstein.” Encyclopedia).  

Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect is only one of the manu amazing accomplishments he achieved for the science world. Albert Einstein also investigated Brownian motion, the random movement of microscopic particles suspended in liquids and gases("Albert Einstein." Chemistry). Einstein wanted to create the existence of atoms that are essential to an explanation of the molecular-kinetic theory of heat.

In conclusion, Albert Einstein has had an enormous impact on our modern science knowledge. Some of his key science discoveries are the explanation of the photoelectric effect and an investigation into Brownian motion advanced chemistry greatly.

Sources Used:

“Albert Einstein.” Chemistry Explained,


"Albert Einstein." Encyclopedia of World Biography Online, Gale, 1998. Gale In Context: World


"Einstein's Theories of Relativity." Science and Its Times, edited by Neil Schlager and Josh

Lauer, vol. 6, Gale, 2001. Gale In Context: World History,


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