Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
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The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
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The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




The World Wars and Interwar Period 


see also:


Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters






The Age of World Wars


1 The end of the European monarchs, caricature, 1918
2 British geographers change the map of Europe
3 Parade in the Red Square, Moscow, 1927
4 Paying out unemployment money, 1930


Rampant nationalism and an international arms race made European politics potentially explosive at the beginning of the 20th century.

It took only the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian heir apparent in July 1914 to ignite a world war that tore apart the 1 old state structures.

Totalitarian political forces emerged, strengthened by the social and economic crises of the postwar period. In 1939, German Nazism plunged the world into the most devastating war in history. At the war's end in 1945, Europe lay in ruins.

Consequences of World War I: Reorganization of States

The First World War, waged with all the resources then available, shifted worldwide power relationships and redrew the 2 map of Europe.

Even the militarily victorious nations Great Britain and France were economically weakened by the war. The United States profited most from the war. replacing Great Britain as the dominant world power, and it sought to bring peace to Europe based on the principle of the right to national self-determination. The postwar order created in Paris by the victorious powers was contradictory, however. It became the source of new conflicts and thereby set the stage for the next war. The military losers bristled at being assigned sole responsibility for the war and saw the reparations that they had been saddled with as greatly unjust. Germany in particular, which was forced to cede its colonies and large parts of its empire, sought revisions in the treaty from the start. The breakup of the multicultural empires of Austria-Hungary and the Ottomans created unstable nation-states in Eastern and Central Europe with strong ethnic minorities.

In the 5 Near East, the victorious powers broke their promise to grant national independence.

5 Jews demonstrate for the right of free
immigration to Palestine, New York, 1920s

The former territories of the Ottoman Empire were divided into British, French, and international mandates. Great Britain's inconsistent posture toward Jewish immigration into Palestine set the groundwork for the Arab-Israeli conflict that would erupt after 1945.


Totalitarianism: Communism and Fascism

World War I mobilized and politicized whole nations for the first time. It shook up the established social order in many countries and led to revolts and revolutions. Centuries-old monarchies collapsed in Russia. Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Parliamentary democracies were established, with mixed success, in many places.

The most momentous development proved to be the 3 Bolsheviks' victory in Russia in 1917.

The founding of the Soviet Union in 1922 influenced the internal development of the whole of Europe.

The Soviet goal of a communist world revolution stirred up fears of left-wing communist uprisings by broad sections of the populace in the unstable European democracies of the 4 postwar period.

In response, new right-wing fascist factions gained strength everywhere. Although these varied greatly from country to country, they all had a militarily nationalist, radical antidemocratic and anticommunist position in common. These movements gained the upper hand in Germany and Italy against the backdrop of the worldwide economic depression. In Spain a fascist regime was establsihed only after a bloody civil war. Authoritarian systems also established themselves in South America, and a nationalist military leadership in Japan sought to establish a colonial empire in Asia. In China, the most populous nation of the world, nationalist and communist factions fought for control. Among the leading powers, only France, the United States and Great Britain retained their liberal democratic systems despite economic crises.


6 Destroyed German city after a bombardment, 1944
7 Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, 1940
8 Assembly of cars on a production line, US, ca. 1940
9 Albert Einstein, ca. 1930


Terror and Total War

An aggressive fascist movement gained power in Germany in the form of Hitler's National Socialist party.

The German Reich started 6 World War II in 1939 with the goal of reorganizing Europe according to Nazi racial theory.

An extermination campaign was begun against entire ethnic groups in Eastern Europe, which culminated in the mass murder of millions of European Jews. The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union formed an alliance that finally put an end to the Nazis' rule of terror and occupied Germany in 1945. Germany's ally Japan surrendered only after the first atomic bombs had been dropped. World War II, which was waged with highly developed technology and an enormous numbers of soldiers, cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The carpet bombing by the air forces claimed appalling numbers of victims and destroyed complete cities. As a result of the war, the Soviet Union and the United States rose to become the two world superpowers. After 1945, the differences between them, however, led to the ideological division of both Europe and the entire world.


The Dawning of Modern Mass Culture

The development of science and technology in the industrialized nations between the wars fundamentally altered daily life.

In 1915, physicist 9 Albert Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity and revolutionized the concept of time and space.

In 1929, bacteriologist 7 Sir Alexander Fleming discovered the medical use of penicillin.

Thanks to the 8 assembly line, the car became the means of transport for the masses.

Life in the cities became more hectic and dynamic, as new and more efficient technology led to an increase in the pace of everyday life. Communication over further distances and within a shorter amount of time was made possible, and increasing numbers of people began to move further  away from their place of origin in the search of work and happiness, aided by the new mobility given them by the car.



Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

American physicist

born March 14, 1879, Ulm, Württemberg, Ger.
died April 18, 1955, Princeton, N.J., U.S.

German-born physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921 for his explanation of the photoelectric effect. Einstein is generally considered the most influential physicist of the 20th century.

Einstein’s parents were secular, middle-class Jews. His father, Hermann Einstein, was originally a featherbed salesman and later ran an electrochemical factory with moderate success. His mother, the former Pauline Koch, ran the family household. He had one sister, Maja, born two years after Albert.

Einstein would write that two “wonders” deeply affected his early years. The first was his encounter with a compass at age five. He was mystified that invisible forces could deflect the needle. This would lead to a lifelong fascination with invisible forces. The second wonder came at age 12 when he discovered a book of geometry, which he devoured, calling it his “sacred little geometry book.”

Einstein became deeply religious at age 12, even composing several songs in praise of God and chanting religious songs on the way to school. This began to change, however, after he read science books that contradicted his religious beliefs. This challenge to established authority left a deep and lasting impression. At the Luitpold Gymnasium, Einstein often felt out of place and victimized by a Prussian-style educational system that seemed to stifle originality and creativity. One teacher even told him that he would never amount to anything.

Yet another important influence on Einstein was a young medical student, Max Talmud (later Max Talmey), who often had dinner at the Einstein home. Talmud became an informal tutor, introducing Einstein to higher mathematics and philosophy. A pivotal turning point occurred when Einstein was 16. Talmud had earlier introduced him to a children’s science series by Aaron Bernstein, Naturwissenschaftliche Volksbucher (1867–68; Popular Books on Physical Science), in which the author imagined riding alongside electricity that was traveling inside a telegraph wire. Einstein then asked himself the question that would dominate his thinking for the next 10 years: What would a light beam look like if you could run alongside it? If light were a wave, then the light beam should appear stationary, like a frozen wave. Even as a child, though, he knew that stationary light waves had never been seen, so there was a paradox. Einstein also wrote his first “scientific paper” at that time (“The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields”).

Einstein’s education was disrupted by his father’s repeated failures at business. In 1894, after his company failed to get an important contract to electrify the city of Munich, Hermann Einstein moved to Milan, Italy, to work with a relative. Einstein was left at a boarding house in Munich and expected to finish his education. Alone, miserable, and repelled by the looming prospect of military duty when he turned 16, Einstein ran away six months later and landed on the doorstep of his surprised parents. His parents realized the enormous problems that he faced as a school dropout and draft dodger with no employable skills. His prospects did not look promising.

Fortunately, Einstein could apply directly to the Eidgenössische Polytechnische Schule (“Swiss Federal Polytechnic School”; in 1911, following expansion in 1909 to full university status, it was renamed the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, or “Swiss Federal Institute of Technology”) in Zürich without the equivalent of a high school diploma if he passed its stiff entrance examinations. His marks showed that he excelled in mathematics and physics, but he failed at French, chemistry, and biology. Because of his exceptional math scores, he was allowed into the polytechnic on the condition that he first finish his formal schooling. He went to a special high school run by Jost Winteler in Aarau, Switz., and graduated in 1896. He also renounced his German citizenship at that time. (He was stateless until 1901, when he was granted Swiss citizenship.) He became lifelong friends with the Winteler family, with whom he had been boarding. (Winteler’s daughter, Marie, was Einstein’s first love; Einstein’s sister Maja would eventually marry Winteler’s son Paul; and his close friend Michele Besso would marry their eldest daughter, Anna.)

Einstein would recall that his years in Zürich were some of the happiest years of his life. He met many students who would become loyal friends, such as Marcel Grossmann, a mathematician, and Besso, with whom he enjoyed lengthy conversations about space and time. He also met his future wife, Mileva Maric, a fellow physics student from Serbia.

Albert Einstein

Independent scholar and special relativity
After graduation in 1900, Einstein faced one of the greatest crises in his life. Because he studied advanced subjects on his own, he often cut classes; this earned him the animosity of some professors, especially Heinrich Weber. Unfortunately, Einstein asked Weber for a letter of recommendation. Einstein was subsequently turned down for every academic position that he applied to. He later wrote,

I would have found [a job] long ago if Weber had not played a dishonest game with me.

Meanwhile, Einstein’s relationship with Maric deepened, but his parents vehemently opposed the relationship. His mother especially objected to her Serbian background (Maric’s family was Eastern Orthodox Christian). Einstein defied his parents, however, and he and Maric even had a child, Lieserl, in January1902, whose fate is unknown. (It is commonly thought that she died of scarlet fever or was given up for adoption.)

In 1902 Einstein reached perhaps the lowest point in his life. He could not marry Maric and support a family without a job, and his father’s business went bankrupt. Desperate and unemployed, Einstein took lowly jobs tutoring children, but he was fired from even these jobs.

The turning point came later that year, when the father of his lifelong friend, Marcel Grossman, was able to recommend him for a position as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern. About then Einstein’s father became seriously ill and, just before he died, gave his blessing for his son to marry Maric. For years, Einstein would experience enormous sadness remembering that his father had died thinking him a failure.

With a small but steady income for the first time, Einstein felt confident enough to marry Maric, which he did on Jan. 6, 1903. Their children, Hans Albert and Eduard, were born in Bern in 1904 and 1910, respectively. In hindsight, Einstein’s job at the patent office was a blessing. He would quickly finish analyzing patent applications, leaving him time to daydream about the vision that had obsessed him since he was 16: What will happen if you race alongside a light beam? While at the polytechnic school he had studied Maxwell’s equations, which describe the nature of light, and discovered a fact unknown to James Clerk Maxwell himself—namely, that the speed of light remained the same no matter how fast one moved. This violated Newton’s laws of motion, however, because there is no absolute velocity in Isaac Newton’s theory. This insight led Einstein to formulate the principle of relativity: “the speed of light is a constant in any inertial frame (constantly moving frame).”

During 1905, often called Einstein’s “miracle year,” he published four papers in the Annalen der Physik, each of which would alter the course of modern physics:

1. Über einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunkt (“On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light”), in which Einstein applied the quantum theory to light in order to explain the photoelectric effect. If light occurs in tiny packets (later called photons), then it should knock out electrons in a metal in a precise way.2. Über die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Wärme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flüssigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen (“On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in Stationary Liquids Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat”), in which Einstein offered the first experimental proof of the existence of atoms. By analyzing the motion of tiny particles suspended in still water, called Brownian motion, he could calculate the size of the jostling atoms and Avogadro’s number (see Avogadro’s law).3. Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper (“On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”), in which Einstein laid out the mathematical theory of special relativity.4. Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig? (“Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”), submitted almost as an afterthought, which showed that relativity theory led to the equation E = mc2. This provided the first mechanism to explain the energy source of the Sun and other stars.
Einstein also submitted a paper in 1905 for his doctorate.

Other scientists, especially Henri Poincaré and Hendrik Lorentz, had pieces of the theory of special relativity, but Einstein was the first to assemble the whole theory together and to realize that it was a universal law of nature, not a curious figment of motion in the ether, as Poincaré and Lorentz had thought. (In one private letter to Mileva, Einstein referred to “our theory,” which has led some to speculate that she was a cofounder of relativity theory. However, Mileva had abandoned physics after twice failing her graduate exams, and there is no record of her involvement in developing relativity. In fact, in his 1905 paper, Einstein only credits his conversations with Besso in developing relativity.)

In the 19th century there were two pillars of physics: Newton’s laws of motion and Maxwell’s theory of light. Einstein was alone in realizing that they were in contradiction and that one of them must fall.

Albert Einstein

General relativity
At first Einstein’s 1905 papers were ignored by the physics community. This began to change after he received the attention of just one physicist, perhaps the most influential physicist of his generation, Max Planck, the founder of the quantum theory.

Soon, owing to Planck’s laudatory comments and to experiments that gradually confirmed his theories, Einstein was invited to lecture at international meetings, such as the Solvay Conferences, and he rose rapidly in the academic world. He was offered a series of positions at increasingly prestigious institutions, including the University of Zürich, the University of Prague, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and finally the University of Berlin, where he served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics from 1913 to 1933 (although the opening of the institute was delayed until 1917).

Even as his fame spread, Einstein’s marriage was falling apart. He was constantly on the road, speaking at international conferences, and lost in contemplation of relativity. The couple argued frequently about their children and their meager finances. Convinced that his marriage was doomed, Einstein began an affair with a cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, whom he later married. (Elsa was a first cousin on his mother’s side and a second cousin on his father’s side.) When he finally divorced Mileva in 1919, he agreed to give her the money he might receive if he ever won a Nobel Prize.

One of the deep thoughts that consumed Einstein from 1905 to 1915 was a crucial flaw in his own theory: it made no mention of gravitation or acceleration. His friend Paul Ehrenfest had noticed a curious fact. If a disk is spinning, its rim travels faster than its centre, and hence (by special relativity) metre sticks placed on its circumference should shrink. This meant that Euclidean plane geometry must fail for the disk. For the next 10 years, Einstein would be absorbed with formulating a theory of gravity in terms of the curvature of space-time. To Einstein, Newton’s gravitational force was actually a by-product of a deeper reality: the bending of the fabric of space and time.

In November 1915 Einstein finally completed the general theory of relativity, which he considered to be his masterpiece. In the summer of 1915, Einstein had given six two-hour lectures at the University of Göttingen that thoroughly explained general relativity, albeit with a few unfinished mathematical details. Much to Einstein’s consternation, the mathematician David Hilbert, who had organized the lectures at his university, then completed these details and submitted a paper in November on general relativity just five days before Einstein, as if the theory were his own. Later they patched up their differences and remained friends. Einstein would write to Hilbert,

I struggled against a resulting sense of bitterness, and I did so with complete success. I once more think of you in unclouded friendship, and would ask you to try to do likewise toward me.

Today physicists refer to the equations as the Einstein-Hilbert action, but the theory itself is attributed solely to Einstein.

Einstein was convinced that general relativity was correct because of its mathematical beauty and because it accurately predicted the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit around the Sun (see Mercury: Mercury in tests of relativity). His theory also predicted a measurable deflection of light around the Sun. As a consequence, he even offered to help fund an expedition to measure the deflection of starlight during an eclipse of the Sun.

Albert Einstein

Delayed confirmation
Einstein’s work was interrupted by World War I. A lifelong pacifist, he was only one of four intellectuals in Germany to sign a manifesto opposing Germany’s entry into war. Disgusted, he called nationalism “the measles of mankind.” He would write, “At such a time as this, one realizes what a sorry species of animal one belongs to.”

In the chaos unleashed after the war, in November 1918, radical students seized control of the University of Berlin and held the rector of the college and several professors hostage. Many feared that calling in the police to release the officials would result in a tragic confrontation. Einstein, because he was respected by both students and faculty, was the logical candidate to mediate this crisis. Together with Max Born, Einstein brokered a compromise that resolved it.

After the war, two expeditions were sent to test Einstein’s prediction of deflected starlight near the Sun. One set sail for the island of Principe, off the coast of West Africa, and the other to Sobral in northern Brazil in order to observe the solar eclipse of May 29, 1919. On Nov. 6, 1919, the results were announced in London at a joint meeting of the Royal Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.

Nobel laureate J.J. Thomson, president of the Royal Society, stated:

This result is not an isolated one, it is a whole continent of scientific ideas.…This is the most important result obtained in connection with the theory of gravitation since Newton’s day, and it is fitting that it should be announced at a meeting of the Society so closely connected with him.

The headline of The Times of London read, “Revolution in Science—New Theory of the Universe—Newton’s Ideas Overthrown—Momentous Pronouncement—Space ‘Warped.’” Almost immediately, Einstein became a world-renowned physicist, the successor to Isaac Newton.

Invitations came pouring in for him to speak around the world. In 1921 Einstein began the first of several world tours, visiting the United States, England, Japan, and France. Everywhere he went, the crowds numbered in the thousands. En route from Japan, he received word that he had received the Nobel Prize for Physics, but for the photoelectric effect rather than for his relativity theories. During his acceptance speech, Einstein startled the audience by speaking about relativity instead of the photoelectric effect.

Einstein also launched the new science of cosmology. His equations predicted that the universe is dynamic—expanding or contracting. This contradicted the prevailing view that the universe was static, so he reluctantly introduced a “cosmological term” to stabilize his model of the universe. In 1929 astronomer Edwin Hubble found that the universe was indeed expanding, thereby confirming Einstein’s earlier work. In 1930, in a visit to the Mount Wilson Observatory near Los Angeles, Einstein met with Hubble and declared the cosmological constant to be his “greatest blunder.” Recent satellite data, however, have shown that the cosmological constant is probably not zero but actually dominates the matter-energy content of the entire universe. Einstein’s “blunder” apparently determines the ultimate fate of the universe.

During that same visit to California, Einstein was asked to appear alongside the comic actor Charlie Chaplin during the Hollywood debut of the film City Lights. When they were mobbed by thousands, Chaplin remarked, “The people applaud me because everybody understands me, and they applaud you because no one understands you.” Einstein asked Chaplin, “What does it all mean?” Chaplin replied, “Nothing.”

Einstein also began correspondences with other influential thinkers during this period. He corresponded with Sigmund Freud (both of them had sons with mental problems) on whether war was intrinsic to humanity. He discussed with the Indian mystic Rabindranath Tagore the question of whether consciousness can affect existence. One journalist remarked,

It was interesting to see them together—Tagore, the poet with the head of a thinker, and Einstein, the thinker with the head of a poet. It seemed to an observer as though two planets were engaged in a chat.

Einstein also clarified his religious views, stating that he believed there was an “old one” who was the ultimate lawgiver. He wrote that he did not believe in a personal God that intervened in human affairs but instead believed in the God of the 17th-century Dutch Jewish philosopher Benedict de Spinoza—the God of harmony and beauty. His task, he believed, was to formulate a master theory that would allow him to “read the mind of God.” He would write,

I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages.…The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.

Albert Einstein

Coming to America
Inevitably, Einstein’s fame and the great success of his theories created a backlash. The rising Nazi movement found a convenient target in relativity, branding it “Jewish physics” and sponsoring conferences and book burnings to denounce Einstein and his theories. The Nazis enlisted other physicists, including Nobel laureates Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark, to denounce Einstein. One Hundred Authors Against Einstein was published in 1931. When asked to comment on this denunciation of relativity by so many scientists, Einstein replied that to defeat relativity one did not need the word of 100 scientists, just one fact.

In December 1932 Einstein decided to leave Germany forever (he would never go back). It became obvious to Einstein that his life was in danger. A Nazi organization published a magazine with Einstein’s picture and the caption “Not Yet Hanged” on the cover. There was even a price on his head. So great was the threat that Einstein split with his pacifist friends and said that it was justified to defend yourself with arms against Nazi aggression. To Einstein, pacifism was not an absolute concept but one that had to be re-examined depending on the magnitude of the threat.

Einstein settled at the newly formed Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, N.J., which soon became a mecca for physicists from around the world. Newspaper articles declared that the “pope of physics” had left Germany and that Princeton had become the new Vatican.

Albert Einstein

Personal sorrow
The 1930s were hard years for Einstein. His son Eduard was diagnosed with schizophrenia and suffered a mental breakdown in 1930. (Eduard would be institutionalized for the rest of his life.) Einstein’s close friend, physicist Paul Ehrenfest, who helped in the development of general relativity, committed suicide in 1933. And Einstein’s beloved wife, Elsa, died in 1936.

To his horror, during the late 1930s, physicists began seriously to consider whether his equation E = mc2 might make an atomic bomb possible. In 1920 Einstein himself had considered but eventually dismissed the possibility. However, he left it open if a method could be found to magnify the power of the atom. Then in 1938–39 Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann, Lise Meitner, and Otto Frisch showed that vast amounts of energy could be unleashed by the splitting of the uranium atom. The news electrified the physics community.

In July 1939 physicist Leo Szilard asked Einstein if he would write a letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt urging him to develop an atomic bomb. Following several translated drafts, Einstein signed a letter on August 2 that was delivered to Roosevelt by one of his economic advisers, Alexander Sachs, on October 11. Roosevelt wrote back on October 19, informing Einstein that he had organized the Uranium Committee to study the issue. (See primary source document: Einstein’s letter to President Roosevelt, 1939.)

Einstein was granted permanent residency in the United States in 1935 and became an American citizen in 1940, although he chose to retain his Swiss citizenship. During the war, Einstein’s colleagues were asked to journey to the desert town of Los Alamos, N.M., to develop the first atomic bomb for the Manhattan Project. Einstein, the man whose equation had set the whole effort into motion, was never asked to participate. Voluminous declassified Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files, numbering several thousand, reveal the reason: the U.S. government feared Einstein’s lifelong association with peace and socialist organizations. (FBI director J. Edgar Hoover went so far as to recommend that Einstein be kept out of America by the Alien Exclusion Act, but he was overruled by the U.S. State Department.) Instead, during the war Einstein was asked to help the U.S. Navy evaluate designs for future weapons systems. Einstein also helped the war effort by auctioning off priceless personal manuscripts. In particular, a handwritten copy of his 1905 paper on special relativity was sold for $6.5 million. It is now located in the Library of Congress.

Einstein was on vacation when he heard the news that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan. Almost immediately he was part of an international effort to try to bring the atomic bomb under control, forming the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists.

The physics community split on the question of whether to build a hydrogen bomb. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the atomic bomb project, was stripped of his security clearance for having suspected leftist associations. Einstein backed Oppenheimer and opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, instead calling for international controls on the spread of nuclear technology. Einstein also was increasingly drawn to antiwar activities and to advancing the civil rights of African Americans.

In 1952 David Ben-Gurion, Israeli’s premier, offered Einstein the post of president of Israel. Einstein, a prominent figure in the Zionist movement, respectfully declined.

Albert Einstein

Increasing professional isolation
Although Einstein continued to pioneer many key developments in the theory of general relativity—such as wormholes, higher dimensions, the possibility of time travel, the existence of black holes, and the creation of the universe—he was increasingly isolated from the rest of the physics community. Because of the huge strides made by quantum theory in unraveling the secrets of atoms and molecules, the majority of physicists were working on the quantum theory, not relativity. In fact, Einstein would engage in a series of historic private debates with Niels Bohr, originator of the Bohr atomic model. Through a series of sophisticated “thought experiments,” Einstein tried to find logical inconsistencies in the quantum theory, particularly its lack of a deterministic mechanism. Einstein would often say that “God does not play dice with the universe.”

In 1935 Einstein’s most celebrated attack on the quantum theory led to the EPR (Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) thought experiment. According to quantum theory, under certain circumstances two electrons separated by huge distances would have their properties linked, as if by an umbilical cord. Under these circumstances, if the properties of the first electron were measured, the state of the second electron would be known instantly—faster than the speed of light. This conclusion, Einstein claimed, clearly violated relativity. (Experiments conducted since then have confirmed that the quantum theory, rather than Einstein, was correct about the EPR experiment. In essence, what Einstein had actually shown was that quantum mechanics is nonlocal; i.e., random information can travel faster than light. This does not violate relativity, because the information is random and therefore useless.)

The other reason for Einstein’s increasing detachment from his colleagues was his obsession, beginning in 1925, with discovering a unified field theory—an all-embracing theory that would unify the forces of the universe, and thereby the laws of physics, into one framework. In his later years he stopped opposing the quantum theory and tried to incorporate it, along with light and gravity, into a larger unified field theory. Gradually Einstein became set in his ways. He rarely traveled far and confined himself to long walks around Princeton with close associates, whom he engaged in deep conversations about politics, religion, physics, and his unified field theory. In 1950 he published an article on his theory in Scientific American, but because it neglected the still-mysterious strong force, it was necessarily incomplete. When he died five years later of an aortic aneurysm, it was still unfinished.

In some sense, Einstein, instead of being a relic, may have been too far ahead of his time. The strong force, a major piece of any unified field theory, was still a total mystery in Einstein’s lifetime. Only in the 1970s and ’80s did physicists begin to unravel the secret of the strong force with the quark model. Nevertheless, Einstein’s work continues to win Nobel Prizes for succeeding physicists. In 1993 a Noble Prize was awarded to the discoverers of gravitation waves, predicted by Einstein. In 1995 a Nobel Prize was awarded to the discoverers of Bose-Einstein condensates (a new form of matter that can occur at extremely low temperatures). Known black holes now number in the thousands. New generations of space satellites have continued to verify the cosmology of Einstein. And many leading physicists are trying to finish Einstein’s ultimate dream of a “theory of everything.”

Michio Kaku

Encyclopaedia Britannica




Sir Alexander Fleming

Alexander Fleming

Scottish bacteriologist

born Aug. 6, 1881, Lochfield Farm, Darvel, Ayrshire, Scot.
died March 11, 1955, London, Eng.

Scottish bacteriologist best known for his discovery of penicillin. Fleming had a genius for technical ingenuity and original observation. His work on wound infection and lysozyme, an antibacterial enzyme found in tears and saliva, guaranteed him a place in the history of bacteriology. But it was his discovery of penicillin in 1928, which started the antibiotic revolution, that sealed his lasting reputation. Fleming was recognized for this achievement in 1945, when he received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Australian pathologist Howard Walter Florey and British biochemist Ernst Boris Chain, both of whom isolated and purified penicillin.

Education and early career
Fleming was the seventh of eight children of a Scottish hill farmer (third of four children from the farmer’s second wife). His country upbringing in southwestern Scotland sharpened his capacities for observation and appreciation of the natural world at an early age. He began his elementary schooling at Loudoun Moor and then moved on to a larger school at Darvel before enrolling in Kilmarnock Academy in 1894. In 1895 he moved to London to live with his elder brother Thomas (who worked as an oculist) and completed his basic education at Regent Street Polytechnic.

After working as a London shipping clerk, Fleming began his medical studies at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in 1901, funded by a scholarship and a legacy from his uncle. There he won the 1908 gold medal as top medical student at the University of London. At first he planned to become a surgeon, but a temporary position in the laboratories of the Inoculation Department at St. Mary’s Hospital persuaded him that his future lay in the new field of bacteriology. There he came under the influence of bacteriologist and immunologist Sir Almroth Edward Wright, whose ideas of vaccine therapy seemed to offer a revolutionary direction in medical treatment.

Between 1909 and 1914, Fleming established a successful private practice as a venereologist, and in 1915 he married Sarah Marion McElroy, an Irish nurse. Fleming’s son, Robert, born in 1924, followed his father into medicine. Fleming was one of the first doctors in Britain to administer arsphenamine (Salvarsan), a drug effective against syphilis that was discovered by German scientist Paul Ehrlich in 1910. During World War I, Fleming had a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked as a bacteriologist studying wound infections in a laboratory that Wright had set up in a military hospital housed in a casino in Boulogne, France. There he demonstrated that the use of strong antiseptics on wounds did more harm than good and recommended that the wounds simply be kept clean with a mild saline solution. Returning to St. Mary’s after the war, Fleming was promoted to assistant director of the Inoculation Department. Years later, in 1946, he succeeded Wright as principal of the department, which was renamed the Wright-Fleming Institute.

In November 1921 Fleming discovered lysozyme, an enzyme present in body fluids such as saliva and tears that has a mild antiseptic effect. This was the first of his major discoveries. It came about when he had a cold and a drop of his nasal mucus fell onto a culture plate of bacteria. Realizing that his mucus might have an effect on bacterial growth, he mixed the mucus into the culture and a few weeks later saw signs of the bacteria having been dissolved. Fleming’s study of lysozyme, which he considered his best work as a scientist, was a significant contribution to the understanding of how the body fights infection. Unfortunately, lysozyme had no effect on the most pathogenic bacteria.

Discovery of penicillin
On Sept. 3, 1928, shortly after his appointment as professor of bacteriology, Fleming noticed that a culture plate of Staphylococcus aureus he had been working on had become contaminated by a fungus. A mold, later identified as Penicillium notatum (also called P. chrysogenum), had inhibited the growth of the bacteria. He at first called the substance “mould juice” and then “penicillin,” after the mold that produced it. Fleming decided to investigate further, because he thought that he had found an enzyme more potent than lysozyme. In fact, it was not an enzyme but an antibiotic—one of the first to be discovered. By the time Fleming had established this, he was interested in penicillin for itself. Very much the lone researcher with an eye for the unusual, Fleming had the freedom to pursue anything that interested him. While this approach was ideal for taking advantage of a chance observation, the therapeutic development of penicillin required multidisciplinary teamwork. Fleming, working with two young researchers, failed to stabilize and purify penicillin. However, he did point out that penicillin had clinical potential, both as a topical antiseptic and as an injectable antibiotic, if it could be isolated and purified.

Penicillin eventually came into use during World War II as the result of the work of a team of scientists led by Howard Florey at the University of Oxford. Though Florey, his coworker Ernst Chain, and Fleming shared the 1945 Nobel Prize, their relationship was clouded due to the issue of who should gain the most credit for penicillin. Fleming’s role was emphasized by the press because of the romance of his chance discovery and his greater willingness to speak to journalists.

Fleming was knighted in 1944. In 1949 his first wife, who had changed her name to Sareen, died. In 1953, two years prior to his death, Fleming married Greek microbiologist Amalia Coutsouris-Voureka, who had been involved in the Greek resistance movement during World War II and had been Fleming’s colleague since 1946, when she enrolled at St. Mary’s Hospital on a scholarship. For the last decade of his life, Fleming was feted universally for his discovery of penicillin and acted as a world ambassador for medicine and science. Initially a shy, uncommunicative man and a poor lecturer, he blossomed under the attention he received, becoming one of the world’s best-known scientists.

Kevin Brown

Encyclopaedia Britannica


New technology also revolutionized the entertainment industry: Radio and 10 film sprung up as the dominant entertainment media.

10 Myrna Loy and William Powell,
film stars of the thirties

Myrna Loy and William Powell

A consumer and leisure-oriented culture that set new fashions developed. Daily newspapers, made possible through cost-efficient technology that facilitated the mass production of the printed word, courted the favor of a growing number of readers. Neon advertising and oversize billboards established a new aspect of consumer-orientated commercialization on the streets.

The entertainment industry with its 11 nightclubs and dance halls came to define a lifestyle associated with the mystique of the "Roaring Twenties."

11 The dancer Josephine Baker,
star of the interwar period, ca. 1930

see collection:

Josephine Baker

Vintage Photography Gallery (Retro)

Josephine Baker (June 3, 1906 – April 12, 1975) was an American expatriate entertainer and actress. She became a French citizen in 1937. Most noted as a singer, Baker also was a celebrated dancer in her early career. She was given the nicknames the "Bronze Venus" or the "Black Pearl", as well as the "Créole Goddess" in anglophone nations. In France, she has always been known as "La Baker".

Baker was the first African American female to star in a major motion picture, to integrate an American concert hall, and to become a world-famous entertainer. She is also noted for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (she was offered the leadership of the movement by Coretta Scott King in 1968 following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, but turned it down), for assisting the French Resistance during World War II and being the first American-born woman to receive the French military honor, the Croix de Guerre.

Josephine Baker



see also:

Pin-Up Art



12 Geography students survey
land, United States, 1920

Access to consumer goods and the spread of lifestyles through the media began to blur the lines between the middle class and the working class. The roles of the sexes began to change. The feminist movement achieved political emancipation: women's rights to vote and run for office were introduced in most of the industrial nations after 1918.

Women also increasingly 12 entered paid employment, although they often-remained blocked from positions of responsibility for a long time to come.

These changes took place primarily in the industrialized United States and Europe. Much of the rest of the world took little part in this revolution, sometimes even countering the modern Western lifestyle with more traditional cultural beliefs and practices.



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