The other day, I came across an amusing story about Albert Einstein. He and his wife were visiting the Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California, and several of the astronomers there were bragging about how powerful their telescope was. They said it could reveal the secret workings of the universe. Elsa, Einstein’s wife, laughed and said, “My husband does that on the back of an old envelope.”
Today, we think of scientists working in big laboratories with lots of expensive equipment. To make any meaningful scientific discoveries, we assume you first need a large budget, subsidized either by the Federal Government or a major corporation like Lockheed Martin or Kaiser Permanente. And yet Einstein required none of that. All his greatest contributions to science were made using nothing more than his mind—and apparently some old envelopes.
P.S.: I found this anecdote in a recent special edition of Time Magazine profiling Einstein. I highly recommend reading it. Einstein is a far more fascinating and complicated historical figure than popular culture has portrayed him to be.