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, in particular.
Just think about it.
He published these papers when he was just 26.
Science would never be the same.
Ten years later, Einstein shook the physics world even further 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.
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 these days because of GPS - it's what 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 take relativity's effects into account 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, the clocks on your computer and mobile phone 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 - there's virtually no corner of science and technology that 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.
Stay with us and discover some amazing facts about this genius in the video below.
Let's discover Albert Einstein: 22 surprising facts about him.
More resources on Albert Einstein and some related topics
- Albert Einstein's biography
- 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
Top 10 inventors of all time
Mileva Einstein-Maric: Einstein's first wife - A woman in science
Women created these 50 inventions.