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Eli Whitney's cotton gin.

Einstein, of course.

The cotton gin?!

Einstein: physics-trained, in Switzerland, married a physics classmate, learned electromagnetism from his father and uncle who were in the power generation business, taught physics, worked in the patent office, certainly a good place to be exposed to the froth of new ideas. Read the Isaacson biography.

The cotton gin was a simple device that solved a long-standing problem that nobody else thought of. It came out of nowhere.

Einstein, in 1905's "miracle year", was pretty much outside of the physics establishment (why he worked in the patent office).

He was soaked in advanced calculus from puberty. Not quite the same as skipping college.

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