Einstein’s theory of relativity put his name in the history books, but he made a tidy living out of his earlier inventions—namely his refrigerator.
He collected royalties on this with a co-inventor while working on better-known stuff, like the Manhattan Project. The beauty of this fridge is that it has no moving parts, and requires nothing more than a heat source. It is believed that Einstein acted as a consultant to Leo Szilard, who probably did the heavy lifting, but they filed the patent together.
Why make a refrigerator? The two men read about another model that leaked toxic fumes through a broken seal, killing a family in Berlin.
Source: EDN Network
2. Expandable (and Sleeveless) Jacket
This is a pretty strange invention for a guy who didn’t even wear socks, but we suppose genius works in mysterious ways.
It had an adjustable waist for those days after you’ve had a fantastic Sunday brunch, but it also had an odd feature: it lacked sleeves. In this way it looked liked more like a vest worn under formal jackets, rarely seen in present-day workplaces. You can still see people wearing them in television shows like Mad Men and Downton Abby.
“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.” Fair enough!
Source: From the Grapevine
3. Gyroscopic Compass
What began as testimony for a patent dispute turned into a partnership to invent compasses still sold today. Einstein was frequently called upon to settle patent disputes because he understood the specifics quite well. In fact, he worked at the Swiss Patent Office early in his career.
He developed a close relationship with Dr. Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe, and together they developed the design for a compass that most of us would still recognize today. Einstein’s name doesn’t appear on the patents, but letters exchanged between himself and Dr. Anschütz-Kaempfe indicate that it would not have happened without this meeting of the minds.
Source: The Einstein Website
4. Self-Adjusting Camera
Sort of like Ja Rule making a hit music video, it seems Einstein invented a lot of stuff side-by-side with other engineers. He filed the patent for the self-adjusting camera alongside Dr. Gustav Bucky.
Einstein and Buckys’ patent for a “light intensity self-adjusting camera” could alter the amount of light coming into the device, which was quite the clever contraption in its day. Modern cameras use a different mechanism, but this one was considered an efficient piece of equipment at the time.
Source: Science News
5. Hearing Aid
Ah, another joint invention from our favorite mad scientist—and there’s a wonderful human story behind it.
A professional musician had lost the ability to hear, but—wait for it—this musician is also said to have known Einstein. The Big E got to work on a solution with Rudolf Goldschmidt (a mutual acquaintance of the musician), and they earned a patent for their troubles.
Sometimes doing the right thing can have big rewards.
Source: American Physics Society
6. Self-Correcting Environmental Measurement
Say that five-times-fast. Einstein patented this device with Dr. Gustav Bucky as a means to measure environmental data without the need to make manual calculations at length after recording it. Researchers who wished to record, say, humidity, could do so while also accounting for wind speeds.
Imagine trying to measure the temperature every summer without having a tool to factor in humidity. Yes, the thought terrifies us too. Thank Einstein and Bucky for tackling this one decades ago.
Source: The Practical Einstein by József Illy
7. Airplane Horizon Indicator
We hear that flying an airplane at high speeds can be disorienting. That’s not surprising, given the absence of landmarks.
Einstein developed a horizon indicator to solve this problem, incorporating a gyroscope to account for a plane’s twisting and turning in mid-air. Unfortunately, a much older patent was filed by a John Morrison, and it had a similar application. Morrison incorporated a mirror to show the pilot the celestial bodies (stars and planets, in English), which is pretty cool.
But there was a crucial difference: Morrison’s invention was intended for occasional reference, whereas Einstein’s idea was for continuous operation.
Ultimately, Bucky and Einstein decided not to move forward with the idea because they couldn’t find partners to join them in creating commercial applications for the horizon indicator.
Source: The Practical Einstein by József Illy
8. Measuring Electricity in Liquid
Much like his horizon indicator, this invention has been left to the footnotes of history largely due to a weak commercial interest.
He invented what he called his “Little Machine” to measure small amounts of electricity within liquid in 1908.More interesting was that this invention operated on the assumption of electricity’s atomistic constitution, a view not widely held at the time. Sadly, many people in his network seemed uninterested in helping to build the Little Machine, either.