Albert Einstein is perhaps the most recognizable figure of modern times. In 1999 Time magazine picked him as its “Person of the Century,” and in the public mind he certainly stands as the iconic scientist. He is generally pictured as an otherworldly genius, inhabiting a cosmic realm far above the mundane affairs of ordinary life, and in some ways he was. Yet when Einstein hit on his most famous and revolutionary idea, his Theory of Relativity, in 1905, he was working as a patent examiner at the Swiss Federal Patent Office in Bern, spending his days scrutinizing the designs of electrical machinery.
Austin’s moonlight towers have long been a distinctive part of the city’s landscape, their lights casting a gentle glow on the streets 150 feet below. Though Austin’s fifteen surviving towers are now the last of their kind, this form of street lighting was once common across the United States. Many cities erected tower lights in the 1880s and 1890s and Austin’s system was modeled closely on Detroit’s, then the most extensive in the world.