John S. Rigden in Science & Spirit:
In 1918, following the end of the Great War, people were emotionally exhausted and desperately wanted the world to make sense. In Berlin, a physicist working quietly, using only the power of his mind, predicted a subtle behavior of nature. When his prediction—that starlight would be deflected as it grazed the edge of the sun—was proven correct in 1919, the world welcomed the news, and Einstein became a celebrity.
In the decades that followed, physicists were regarded as heroes. During World War II, they developed radar, which won the war, and the atomic bomb, which ended the war. Throughout much of the twentieth century, physicists commanded the lion’s share of media attention as they identified the basic building blocks of matter, invented the transistor and the laser, probed the eerie consequences of quantum mechanics, and uncovered evidence about how the universe began.
Over the last thirty years, however, physics has been nudged from the spotlight by the life sciences, which were transformed by the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA in 1953…