Physics in Perspective

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 305–328 | Cite as

Einstein as Engineer:The Case of the Little Machine


I first discuss Albert Einstein’s practical and educational background in engineering and then his invention of his “little machine,” an electrostatic induction machine, while working in the Patent Office in Bern, Switzerland, between 1902 and 1909. He believed that it could be used as a voltage or potential multiplier in experiments to test his new theory of Brownian motion of 1905. I then discuss Einstein’s search for collaborators to produce it and the work that his friends Conrad and Paul Habicht, in particular, did in designing and testing it. Although the initial response to it was promising, it never became a success after Paul Habicht manufactured a few specimens of it beginning in 1912.Today only three specimens are known to exist; these are preserved at the Zürcher Hochschule Winterthur, Switzerland, in the Physics Institute of the University of Tübingen, Germany, and in the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden,The Netherlands.


Albert Einstein Hermann Anschütz-kaempfe Leo Szilard Wander Johannes de Haas Conrad Habicht Paul Habicht Willem Einthoven Zürcher Hochschule Winterthur University of Tübingen Museum Boerhaave Brownian motion potential multiplier electrostatic induction machine electrophoric principle electrical instruments 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum BoerhaaveLeidenThe Netherlands

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