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Last Updated: Friday, 21 January, 2005, 17:42 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Albert Einstein (main picture), with Peter Sutcliffe, Elizabeth Jagger, Clive Owen and Salman Rushdie.

Albert Einstein

This year has been branded Einstein Year in Britain and Ireland, as it marks both the 50th anniversary of Einstein's death and the 100th anniversary of his annus mirabilis. In 1905, he shook the scientific world with five papers that changed the way we think about the universe. His theories still form the basis of modern physics.

Albert Einstein's face is iconic, one of the most identifiable of the 20th Century. It defines that "mad professor look" so beloved of 1960s horror or sci-fi movies.

Yet, the face we all know and love belonged to an old man whose best work had been done decades ago when he was a dapper youngster of 26.

Those who knew him say he was nothing like the scientist stereotype, neither absent-minded nor other worldly.

An undoubted genius, he dropped out of school and failed his university entrance exam. He moved from his native Germany to Switzerland where he took up citizenship.

By now, he had developed a reputation as a ladies man and fathered an illegitimate child with one of his fellow students, Mileva. They later married and had two more sons.

It was while he was working as a clerk in the Berne patent office that he transformed physics.

Einstein in 1921
Einstein was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1921
It wasn't a case of experimenting in a laboratory and exclaiming Eureka; it was sheer brainpower exercised on numerous mountain walks. Einstein came up with theories for others to test.

Einstein confirmed the existence of atoms and molecules without needing to actually see them for himself.

With his famous equation E=mc˛, he showed that even the smallest amounts of matter have the potential to release huge amounts of energy. He redefined the relationship between energy and mass. This theory helped pave the way for atomic weapons, much to Einstein's chagrin.

He concluded also that light can be a particle as well as a wave, contradicting the accepted "truth" that light is a continuous wave.

Albert Einstein's best-known works are his theories on relativity. His special relativity work centred on the speed of light; that it is always constant and nothing can exceed it. Time, he deemed, is not a constant. It can speed up or slow down depending on the speed you are travelling.


The theory of general relativity, published a decade later, was his apotheosis. The universe, he proved mathematically, sits in an all-encompassing four-dimensional matrix called spacetime. Matter and energy distort spacetime, curving it around them.

He concluded that gravity is due to the bending of time and space by massive objects. His theory was proved soon afterwards when astronomers measured the bending of starlight around the sun during a solar eclipse.

In his private life, meanwhile, Einstein had divorced Mileva and formed a close relationship with his cousin Elsa and her two daughters from a failed marriage.

It emerged from private papers recently released that he suggested to Elsa and to her elder daughter Ilse, that he should marry one or the other; it was up to them. Elsa took up the offer, though she died in 1936.

The mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb
Einstein's theories led to the atomic bomb
Einstein took up US citizenship in 1940 after he'd moved to Princeton University where he was given free rein to develop and discover new theories. Unfortunately, they came to nothing.

The interpretation by scientists such as Heisenberg, Bohr and Schrodinger that there was a fundamental unpredictability to the laws of the universe - known as quantum mechanics - was anathema to Einstein.

He believed that everything could be described mathematically and never retreated from his belief that "God does not play dice". His views, though, became outdated.

Up to the very day he died, Einstein was working on what has become known as the theory of everything - his attempt to extend his relativity theories and unite the known forces of the universe.

This would prove the quantum mechanics wrong, he thought. He failed, though others like Stephen Hawking have taken up the baton, albeit using quantum theory.

Despite the misgivings about much of his later work, there remains no doubt that Albert Einstein was one of the great minds of the 20th Century, relatively speaking, of course.

Row: Peter Sutcliffe
Peter Sutcliffe

MPs in Britain have criticised a government decision to allow Peter Sutcliffe, better known as the Yorkshire Ripper, out of hospital to visit the site where his father's ashes were scattered. The 58 year-old murdered 13 women in England 25 years ago and had been barred from attending the funeral. He was driven from Broadmoor top-security hospital to Arnside in Cumbria to stand by the spot where the ashes were placed.

Elizabeth Jagger: High-street icon
Elizabeth Jagger

As her father, Sir Mick, picked up a Golden Globe, Elizabeth Jagger was unveiled as the new face of high-street fashion chain, Mango. The 20 year-old has been chosen to represent the Spanish company because, it says, she "embodies the ideal of the urban, independent and cosmopolitan woman that we want to dress". Sir Mick will probably be hoping that his daughter's career is not a jumping jack flash in the pan.

Award :Clive Owen
Clive Owen

Clive Owen took another step towards stardom by winning a Golden Globe award for best supporting actor in the film, Closer. Coupled with a Bafta nomination, he's now a serious contender for an Oscar. Owen appeared in London's West End production of Closer, in which he played the lead role. And rumours abound that he's being lined up to don the tuxedo of one of cinema's best-known heroes, James Bond.

Salman Rushdie: Fatwa remains
Salman Rushdie

The death threat made in Iran 16 years ago against author Salman Rushdie has been reaffirmed by the country's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Rushdie, who now lives in New York, went into hiding for several years after the fatwa was issued over the alleged blasphemy of his book, The Satanic Verses. British officials say that although in practice the fatwa stays in force, the crucial factor is that it's no longer endorsed by the Iranian government.

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy


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