Sketch a thicket of unruly hair, a soup-straining moustache, a pair of knowing eyes and perhaps a thought balloon full of equations--people around the world will know who you mean as easily as if you had drawn Mickey Mouse's ears or Superman's cape. Not only is "E = mc2" one of science's best-known equations, but as a catchphrase it is probably as familiar to much of the public as any line from Shakespeare. Every list of the 20th century's most outstanding figures must include Albert Einstein because that era--and our own--is unimaginable without him and his influence. Even today, a century after his earth-shaking 1905 papers on relativity, quantum theory and molecular theory, the questions that preoccupied Einstein remain at the forefront of science.
It's only natural that a man who showed how to bend space and stretch time should become a titan of science. Yet Einstein also attained a wider renown than many of his equally brilliant peers in physics--such as Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Paul Dirac or Erwin Schr¿dinger. Surely the reason is that the public had feelings for him beyond admiration.