What was Albert Einstein's main contribution to science?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Albert Einstein’s most important contribution to science was his development of the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905 and subsequent 1915 development of his Theory of General Relativity.  Einstein’s theories represented a monumental breakthrough in how scientists studied and understood natural phenomenon with regard to the universe beyond Earth’s atmosphere.  In brief, the theory of relativity helped astronomers and physicists to understand the movement of light in the vacuum of space, and the effects of gravity on the movement of light.  Einstein proved that the objects moving through space continued to move along the same straight line and that perceptions of those objects’ movement in a more circular or less-linear fashion was the product of the gravitational pull of massive objects, like planets, and the effects of the gravity caused by those massive objects influencing the movement of the transiting item.  Einstein’s theories provided their greatest contribution in understanding the way light travels through space.  As astronomical distances are measured in terms of the speed of light – in effect, how far light travels in a calendar year – Einstein’s discoveries facilitated major advances in how scientists understand the universe.

While Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity are considered his most important contributions to science, his theories had a more controversial ramification.  Through mathematical calculations, Einstein developed one of the most important and far-reaching formulas in history.  By determining that the mass of an object, when multiplied by the speed of light times itself (or, squared), the result was the production of energy.  As the speed of light is constant, and the solution is energy, then the key to his equation was the understanding of the relationship of mass to speed.  When the precise volume of mass was subjected to the almost incomprehensible speeds required for the equation to work, the result was energy.  The practical application of Einstein’s equation, E=mc2, was in the understanding of atomic physics, which lead, of course, to the development of atomic weaponry.