It’s no coincidence that the smartest man who ever lived–Albert Einstein, until someone proves otherwise–spent the last 22 years of his life in the United States. Pushed out of Germany by the Nazis, Einstein moved to the U.S. in 1933 and settled in Princeton, N.J., becoming a local fixture in the quaint college town. Like so many before and after, he saw America as a safe, humane harbor in a stormy world, one of the nobler aspects of our nation’s history. He became an American citizen and was active in social and political causes, especially civil rights. And 100 years on, Einstein’s rich legacy continues to inspire the nation’s best minds. In September, researchers at the California Institute of Technology–where Einstein was once a fellow–proved the existence of gravitational waves, a theory he had first framed exactly a century earlier, in 1915.
This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.