3 everyday inventions Einstein made possible
What did Albert Einstein invent?
Albert Einstein was not an inventor in the sense of da Vinci, Bell, or Edison.
Yet, he is recognized as one of the greatest physicists of all time and a genius for many.
This talented and fiercely independent mathematician and thinker changed how we see the universe through his theories and vision of physics.
In November 1915, Albert Einstein gave a series of lectures on his general theory of relativity at the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin.
It was the culmination of years of work, beginning with four groundbreaking papers in 1905:
- On his quantum theory of light (that light is a particle or photon);
- On the existence of atoms (the Brownian movement);
- On his theory of special relativity (that length and time are not fixed and depend on the observer's frame of reference);
- E=MC2 (that energy is linked to mass and the speed of light) on the equation for which he is most famous). A tiny particle of matter can create a vast quantity of energy, the basis of nuclear power.
Just think about it.
He published these papers when he was just 26.
Science would never be the same.
Ten years later, Einstein further shook the physics world by theorizing that space and time are dynamic and distorted, affecting how objects and light move.
This supposition was his general theory of relativity - his unified description of gravity.
(Find a plain-English primer on his main theories here.)
Three major inventions derived from Einstein's discoveries
But these theories weren't confined to the lab.
Since Einstein gave his lectures, what impact have his discoveries had on our everyday lives in the century?
1. Satnavs and Google Maps
It's hard to get lost because of GPS - it allows our satnavs (satellite navigation systems) and smartphone map apps to tell us the quickest route to the restaurant or the beach.
But if it weren't for Einstein's general theory of relativity, we wouldn't know to consider relativity's effects when synchronizing the network of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites orbiting the Earth.
This fact means their data would be filled with errors, making GPS more or less useless.
2. Your phone's clock
Most ISPs and mobile phone masts use GPS to set the time. And with each GPS satellite containing several atomic clocks, your computer and mobile phone clocks are ultra-accurate.
Without that accuracy, you'd probably be late (or early) for every meeting.
- What makes a supermarket's doors open automatically as you approach?
- Why do home security systems alert you to the presence of an intruder?
- How do smoke alarms detect fires?
Lasers are crucial to all these inventions and more.
Einstein's 1916 discovery of the physical principle was responsible for the light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation (the long-winded way of saying laser) that made these devices possible.
These are just three examples - virtually no corner of science and technology hasn't experienced the Einstein effect, from supercomputers and supernovas to nuclear weapons and the Big Bang.
And in our ever-more-digital world, what happens in the lab is never far from everyday life.
In the video below, stay with us and discover some amazing facts about this genius.
Re-evaluating Mileva Marić's contributions to Einstein's work
Albert Einstein's first wife was Mileva Marić.
They met while studying physics at the Polytechnic in Zurich, Switzerland, and married in 1903. Marić was also a physicist; evidence suggests she contributed significantly to Einstein's work. However, their marriage was tumultuous, and they eventually separated in 1914, with a divorce finalized in 1919.
The extent of Mileva Marić's contribution to Einstein's work is a matter of debate among historians of science.
Some evidence suggests that Marić collaborated with Einstein on his early papers and may have contributed to his theories of relativity.
For example, in the early 1900s, Einstein and Marić worked on a paper exploring the relationship between mass and energy. The document was written in Einstein's handwriting, but some researchers believe that Marić made significant contributions to the calculations and ideas presented in the paper.
There are also letters between Einstein and Marić that suggest they discussed physics and collaborated on other papers. In one letter, Einstein refers to "our work on relative motion," which some historians interpret as evidence of a joint project between the two.
However, there is also evidence that Marić's contributions to Einstein's work were overstated in some accounts. Some argue that the available evidence does not definitively prove that Marić made significant contributions to Einstein's theories of relativity.
Einstein's biography in a nutshell
Albert Einstein was a German-born physicist and one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century. He was born in Ulm, Germany, in 1879, and his contributions to theoretical physics have revolutionized our understanding of the universe.
In 1933, due to persecution by the Nazi regime and as a Jew, Einstein emigrated to the United States and renounced his German citizenship. He later became a naturalized US citizen in 1940.
Einstein passed away on April 18, 1955, at 76, due to complications related to an abdominal aortic aneurysm (Princeton, NJ, USA).
Einstein's legacy extends far beyond his scientific achievements. He was also a passionate advocate for peace and civil rights, using his platform to promote social justice causes and raise awareness about issues affecting humanity.
Einstein was also a skilled violinist and a prolific writer.
He published over 300 scientific papers and over 150 non-scientific works during his lifetime.
His work has profoundly impacted modern physics and influenced countless scientists, engineers, and thinkers.
So, if you're wondering, "What is Albert Einstein famous for?" it's his immense contributions to the field of physics and his theory of relativity which fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe.
Let's discover Albert Einstein: 22 surprising facts about Him.
More resources on Albert Einstein and some related topics
- Albert Einstein's biography in detail
- Einstein's legacy to astronomy and science
What Made Albert Einstein a Genius?
Some of Albert Einstein's inspiring quotes
What is relativity? (NBC News)
Curved spacetime (PBS video)
The practical Einstein: Einstein's patents and additional inventions
Indian Scientist's Experiment Challenges Einstein's Perception of Reality
Top 10 inventors of all time
Women created these 50 inventions