How Einstein Learned To Simplify The Complex

“Who else but a patent clerk could have discovered the theory of relativity? Who else could have distilled this simple central point from all the clutter of electromagnetism than someone whose job it was over and over to extract simplicity out of complexity.”

Here’s an interesting bit of Albert Einstein’s backstory I hadn’t heard before.

Due to his spotty university record, the only job he was able to land was as a clerk in the Swiss patent office. But it turns out that job taught him a crucial skill — how to simplify complex things.

During his seven years there, his job was to go through thousands of technical patent applications and for each one describe in a single sentence why the device would work or fail and why the patent should be granted or denied.

As this Farnam Street post explains, it wound up being the perfect training for later developing a simple theory culled from complicated science.