HistoryScience

Albert Einstein's most important achievements

Changing the course of modern physics and challenging long-held views on space, time, and energy — it was all in a day’s work for legendary scientist Albert Einstein.

When it comes to life achievements, Albert Einstein takes the cake. From the theory of relativity to the iconic E=mc² formula to even a Nobel prize, here are some of Einstein’s most important achievements:

That famous E=mc²  equation

Blackboard with equations on it
Credit: JESHOOTS.COM/ Unsplash

E=mc² is a powerful part of Einstein’s suite of achievements. But while many have heard of this equation, few know what it means. In the equation, E is for energy, m is for mass, and c² is the speed of light, squared.

The essence is that while the grand total of energy and matter remains constant, the ratio is in constant flux, and the speed of light (the c²  part) represents the universal constant. In layman’s terms: Energy equals matter multiplied by the speed of light multiplied by itself.

As for the implications of this equation? Incredible things, like the idea that gravity can bend light or that it could be used to help figure out how much energy was released during a nuclear reaction.

The existence of atoms and molecules

Pink circle and purple attachments
Credit: Hal Gatewood/ Unsplash

Before Einstein’s time, a scientist named Robert Brown was checking out some grains of pollen under a microscope and found himself curious about how they were able to move without any obvious mechanisms causing the movement.

Later on, in the early 1900s, Einstein would solve this puzzle in a paper on the subject. In the paper, he referred to the movement of particles in liquid as “Brownian motion.”

In the paper, he shared what caused the movement: individual molecules of water. Atoms and molecules had long been suspected in the scientific sphere, but finally Einstein was able to prove it with his detailed explanation of Brownian motion. Later this served as clear and empirical evidence for the atomic theory.

The theory of relativity

Stamp featuring Albert Einstein
Credit: spatuletail/ Shutterstock.com

Typically, referring to Einstein’s theory of relativity actually lumps together two of his theories: general relativity and special relativity.

General relativity explains the laws of gravity and its relationship to other natural forces. It is all-encompassing of the cosmological and astrophysical realms.

Special relativity works to explain the absence of gravity and how it affects phenomena in the physical realm.

To say these theories were game changers would be an understatement. It upended long-held theories created by Sir Isaac Newton and introduced a whole new series of concepts about space and time.

In terms of physics, Einstein’s theories improved particle science and helped us predict phenomena in astronomy, including black holes and neutron stars.

The Nobel Prize (and more)

The Nobel Prize medal
Credit: Pe3k/ Shutterstock.com

In 1921, Albert Einstein was honored in an immense way when he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize was given for his contributions to theoretical physics and for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.

Of course, that wasn’t the only honor he received. In 1925, he was awarded the prestigious Copley Medal by the Royal Society, which is one of the oldest awards for scientific achievement in the world. He also received a variety of other accolades and awards, including the Max Planck Medal, the Franklin Medal, and in 1999, he was declared "TIME" magazine’s “Person of the Century.”

Talk about accomplished!

Albert Einstein in black and white
Credit: Jackie Ramirez/ Pixabay

Albert Einstein certainly was a busy bee. While the great scientist passed away in 1955 at the age of 76, his contributions and achievements continue to live on. Without his incredible work and discoveries, the world — and science — might be very different today.