, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 49–55 | Cite as

The questionable inventions of the clever Dr. Einstein

József Illy: The practical Einstein: Experiments, patents, inventions. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012, xiv+202pp, $60.00 HB
  • Alberto A. MartínezEmail author
Essay Review

For decades, Albert Einstein was portrayed as absorbed in theories, aloof of experiments and inventions. But in recent years, several books have tracked his activities in technological matters.

József Illy’s new book, The Practical Einstein, begins with Einstein’s musings on two topics. First, that in 1925 he discussed Anton Flettner’s fascinating invention: a ship that moved without sails or motor, but with “rotors,” two large cylindrical stacks standing on the hull, rolling, thus using air pressure to displace the ship. Second, that Einstein tried to explain why winding rivers in the northern hemisphere tend to erode mainly their right side. Interesting, but was there anything original in Einstein’s explanations? I did not find anything original in his account of Flettner’s ship. As for asymmetric erosion of riverbanks, in 1926 Einstein alluded to Coriolis forces, causing water to flow forth in a helical way, affected also by the different water speeds at surface and river bottom....


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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