In the early summer of 1914, Albert Einstein was about to start a prestigious new job as Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics.
The position was a big deal for the 35-year old Einstein– confirmation that he was one of the leading scientific minds in the world. And he was excited about what he would be able to achieve there.
But within weeks of Einstein's arrival, the German government canceled plans for the Institute; World War I had broken out, and all of Europe was gearing up for one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history.
The impact of the Great War was immeasurable.
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It cost the lives of 10 million people. It bankrupted entire nations.
The war ripped two major European powers off the map– the Austro Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire– and deposited them in the garbage can of history.
Austria-Hungary in particular boasted the second largest land mass in Europe, the third highest population, and one of the biggest economies. Plus it was a leading manufacturer of high-tech machinery.
Yet by the end of the war it would no longer exist.
World War I also played a major role in the emergence of communism in Russia through the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.
Plus it was also a critical factor in the astonishing rise of the Nazi party in Germany.
Without the Great War, Adolf Hitler would have been an obscure Austrian vagabond, and our world would be an entirely different place.
One of the most bizarre things about World War I was how predictable it was.
Tensions had been building in Europe for years, and the threat of war was deemed so likely that most major governments invested heavily in detailed war plans.
The most famous was Germany's "Schlieffen Plan", a military offensive strategy named after its architect, Count Alfred von Schlieffen.
To describe the Schlieffen Plan as "comprehensive" is a massive understatement.