top of page
The Annus Mirabilis Papers

Albert Einstein is a name that has become synonymous with ‘genius’, yet many people do not actually know what it is that was considered revolutionary for his time. One such revolutionary work of his is known as the Annus Mirabilis Papers, or Miracle Year Papers. Within the year of 1905 alone, Albert Einstein was able to settle scientific debates that had been going on for many years along while fundamentally changing our understanding of physics.

As a young child, Albert Einstein would often teach himself mathematics at a pace that allowed him to finish learning Calculus at the age of 15. Due to his disdain for school and grades, he dropped out of college and ended up as a Swiss patent clerk. During this time, he would often discuss the current forefronts of physics with peers for fun. However, this would all change in the year of 1905.

March 1905

During the late 19th century, a physicist named Heinrich Hertz observed a phenomenon where sparks arose from metal sheets when ultraviolet light was shone onto it; this was known as the photoelectric effect. Many people at the time had the common perception that light had been a wave ever since Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch physicist, and astronomer during the Scientific Revolution, proposed the idea. In March of 1905, Albert Einstein would publish a paper explaining the phenomena through a concept called the wave-particle duality of light. He explained that light is made up of singular particles called photons, but that the flow of these particles forms waves that have momentum without mass. This momentum allowed for the light to knock off electrons from the metal. Albert Einstein’s explanation of the photoelectric effect would go on to help the understanding of the quantum nature of light along with its wave-particle duality.

May 1905

Another battle amongst scientists at the time was about the existence of atoms. The concept of the atom was first brought up by a Greek philosopher named Democritus. He stated that an object could be cut in half repeatedly until it reached some sort of indivisible unit. This unit was given the name atomos, the Greek word for indivisible. Over time, other scientists elaborated on this concept and drew models of how atoms may look like. However, their existence had yet to be proven. Albert Einstein would tackle this issue by observing a strange jiggly motion exhibited by pollen grains in water. Known as Brownian motion, Albert Einstein concluded that only the existence of atoms, which he proposed collided with the pollen grains, could be causing this jiggly motion. With this discovery, the argument of whether atoms existed was then put to rest.

June 1905

One of the greatest problems in physics was a flaw that disallowed two famous physics principles to be both true at the same time. The first was Galilean relativity which stated that absolute motion could not be defined and the second was the electromagnetic theory which stated that absolute motion could be defined. Albert Einstein spent time thinking about this issue until he came up with a possible solution. This theory utilized two postulates, or assumptions, that guided Einstein’s exploration of the topic. These postulates were that all frames of reference were subject to the same laws of physics and that the speed of light in a vacuum is always constant. With the postulates, Albert Einstein figured that time and space were relative to observers. All of these concepts were gathered into the theory of special relativity, applied only in certain scenarios where the reference frames were not accelerating. The theory provides the basis for a more general theory (also discovered by Einstein) along with an accurate understanding of motion.

September 1905

After publishing the theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein analyzed other implications that branched from his theory. When examining the relationship between mass and energy, he soon realized that his theory allowed for the two to be related. This relation would be known as the famous equation, E=mc², where E stands for energy, m stands for mass, and c stands for the constant of the speed of light. Although only applicable to stationary objects, this equation would go on to become arguably the most famous equation of all time. 


Within 1905, young Albert Einstein was able to revolutionize all of physics. Starting out as a random person working in a patent office, he published papers about light’s properties, the existence of atoms, the constancy of the speed of light, and the relation between mass and energy. Einstein would then go on to make even more earth-shattering discoveries such as his general theory of relativity which described gravity as a geometrical property of space-time. Any aspiring physicist would be thrilled to have even a single discovery worth the same caliber as these ones. What would take someone a potential lifetime to discover, Albert Einstein was able to publish four theorems in one year, now known as the Annus Mirabilis Papers.

bottom of page