In 1905, Albert Einstein submitted five papers for publication in Annalen der Physik, covering three topics: the photoelectric effect, brownian motion, and the special theory of relativity. Although diverse in subject matter, these contributions are landmarks in their field — and testament to Einstein's genius. To honour their centenary, 2005 has been designated ‘World Year of Physics’. Nature joins the celebrations with the publication of this special supplement.

We offer you a collection of essays and review articles inspired by the themes of Einstein's 1905 work: thermodynamics, quantum physics and, of course, relativity.

Looking forward, these themes are represented here in discussions of the fluctuation–dissipation theorem, quantum criticality and quantum optics, symmetry-breaking and the Higgs boson, and the frontiers of cosmology. But we also look back to the events of 1905 and the wider context of Einstein's annus mirabilis, and consider the distinctiveness and durability of his image. To round off the celebration, physicists including Steven Weinberg and Roger Penrose give their take on the ‘theory of everything’ that famously eluded Einstein.

And there's one more contribution to World Year of Physics that we would like to mention: in October 2005, Nature Publishing Group will launch Nature Physics, a new monthly journal. Alongside Nature, Nature Physics will publish research, commentary and analysis across the entire spectrum of physics, pure and applied.

We hope you enjoy ‘year of physics’!