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7 Eureka Moments of Famous Engineers and Scientists

“Eureka! Eureka! Eureka!”

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Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments!

As engineers, there is no greater joy when we find that moment of finding out something so significant, or finally having that great idea or sudden discovery. It’s an ultimate feeling of fulfillment and you can’t help but be ecstatic when you have your own moment of genius. In one way or another, we all had that ‘Eureka’ moment.

Literally means “I have found it” in Greek, ‘Eureka’ was famously coined by Archimedes after discovering the core principle of buoyancy in his bathtub. A Eureka moment, for most of us modern engineers, is what we live for now in the midst of modern technology.

Famous engineers and scientists have their own fair share of Eureka moments too but were merely underrated. It didn’t need to be moments where they have shouted Eureka, but this is how they got to the idea of many important principles which now have great impact in science and engineering:


Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

The bathing experience that enabled the principle of buoyancy. Source: Wikimedia

It took a bathing experience for Archimedes to find out the principle behind the law of buoyancy. At his home in Syracuse, Archimedes noticed the rising of the water as a consequence after stepping into the bathtub. This is where he finally understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of his submerged leg, thus the Archimedes’ Law of Buoyancy. This moment of genius paved the way to precisely measure the volume of irregular objects.

Isaac Newton

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Newton and the apple. Source: BBC
Newton and the apple. Source: BBC

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Another famous Eureka moment is that of Newton’s upon the fall of an apple from a tree. If it wasn’t for a plague that had closed the University of Cambridge in England, Isaac Newton wouldn’t have that moment in his family’s estate in Lincolnshire. His realization came in when he was strolling around the farm and noticed that an apple fell down instead of remaining suspended in the air. This experience of Newton pave way in the development of the theory of universal gravitation.

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Albert Einstein

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Source: LA Opera

Unlike Archimedes and Newton who got their important discoveries through an experience, Albert Einstein had his own Eureka moment while working in his patent office in Bern, Switzerland. The founding idea of the general theory of relativity sort of just hit him according to his own account. When he was supposed to work on patents, his mind wandered on the idea of a man who is falling who would not feel any weight. He was struck hard with the idea eventually proving links between motion and gravity. He began his masterwork in the general theory of relativity and finished through its mathematical details in a span of eight years.

Nikola Tesla

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Source: Tesla Society

Arguably the greatest electrical engineer of all time, Nikola Tesla found solid ground of his achievements upon seeing the demonstration of a direct current (DC) circuit. From there, he drew curiosity on how it can be improved. One day he went for a walk, and the breakthrough just hit him. He used his walking stick in drawing a picture to explain how alternating current (AC) would work to his walking partner. Since then, Tesla is widely credited for the AC generation system which is comprised of a motor and a transformer.

Dmitri Mendeleev

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments


Dmitri Mendeleev is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the Periodic Table of Elements. A Russian aristocrat and academic, Mendeleev already invested his time in the basic elements of the universe but everything is still at random. He couldn’t figure out how to arrange these elements. Until one night, Mendeleev fell asleep with chamber music playing in the background and had a dream. In his dream, he had a vision of the basic elements of the universe flowing together just like the progression of a musical sequence. Right after he woke up, he noted down every element in his dream in order, which is now the reference of chemistry majors and chemical engineers alike called the Periodic Table.

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Niels Bohr

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Source: Nobel

Another revolutionary idea that is founded from a dream is that of Niels Bohr. Despite his doctorate in physics, Bohr couldn’t understand the framework of an atom which he had focused on studying, at least while he was awake. In his sleep, Bohr visualized a nucleus of the atom with the electrons spinning around it, just as the planets do around the sun. This dream had urged Bohr to work on this structure in his laboratory and soon formed the Bohr model of the atom. This model shows the atom as a small, positively charged nucleus surrounded by electrons that travel in circular orbits around the nucleus. The structure is pretty much like that of the solar system but with attraction provided by electrostatic forces instead of gravity.

Elias Howe

Famous engineers and scientists light bulb moments

Source: Wikimedia

The sewing machine that we have now wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the dream that Elias Howe had. Initially, Howe had the idea of a machine that consisted of a needle that would go through the material. He tried using a needle with a sharp point at both ends and an eye in the middle, but the idea didn’t work. Until one night, in a dream, Howe realized that the needle should have the hole near the tip. Howe, in his mind during deep slumber, was taken as a prisoner by a group of savages who danced around him and had spears with a hole near the tip. He got the inspiration from that dream and re-modelled his invention to the present sewing machine.

Are you waiting for your own Eureka moment? Learning from these geniuses, it’s time to take a stroll in the park, or maybe just sit there in your office and wait for the idea to hit you. Another option, probably the easiest in the bunch, is just go to sleep and hope the revolutionary dream will play in your subconscious mind.


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Suad Alkhoury

Suad Alkhoury Speaks French, Arabic and English fluently. TV Host at GineersNow TV. Social media geek. Based in Dubai & Beirut. Follow me on Linkedin


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