I would put Albert Einstein among the 20 top people who have ever lived, in terms of their impact on our way of life. Kings, queens, and emperors have come and gone, without leaving a trace, but Einstein helped to create the world around us.
Time Magazine called him the Person of the Century—I would call him a Person for the Ages.
His work will live forever.
People sometimes ask, what has Einstein done for me lately?
The answer is: EVERYTHING.
Many of the marvels of science today can be traced back to some work of Einstein. For example, his theory of light and the photon has made possible the creation of solar cells, TV, lasers, GPS, and many of the miracles of modern electronics that we see around us. His special theory of relativity unlocked the secret of the stars; his equation E = mc squared is known even by school children. It has already given us nuclear energy, and one day fusion power may give us unlimited energy via this equation. His general theory of relativity has given us the Big Bang theory, black holes, gravity waves, and modern cosmology.
Crumbs from Einstein's table have generated scores of Nobel Prizes for other physicists (e.g., for gravity waves, for Bose-Einstein condensates, for the Big Bang theory, etc.) and continue to open new avenues for research even to this very day.
His uncompleted dream of a Theory of Everything is what drives the $13 billion Large Hadron Collider, the largest machine of science ever built by mankind. The LHC, in fact, just set an energy record last week by accelerating two beams of protons up to 3.5 teraelectronvolts (TeV), breaking its own record from last November.
His uncompleted dream also inspired scores of young would-be physicists, myself included. He was a role model to me when I was just a child and I owe a great deal to this great man.
People who knew him use one word to describe his personality: his humanity. His generosity, his engaging personality, his humility, his tireless work against ignorance and injustice, and his compassion helped to inspire everyone around him.