In 1926, the renowned physicist Albert Einstein was invited to give a lecture at the Prussian Academy and, interestingly, chose the topic of river meandering.1 His son, the famed UC Berkeley Professor Hans A. Einstein, turned to river hydraulics after practicing several years as a structural engineer. We can surmise that the elder Einstein had a keen interest in meandering and encouraged his son to pursue a career in river hydraulics. In 1950, Professor Einstein made his mark in the nascent field of sedimentation engineering with his paper on bed-load transport, the forerunner to the methods that are now used in practice (Modified Einstein, 1955; Colby, 1957; and Colby, 1964).2

Einstein's discussion on the cause of meanders is characteristically insightful. His attribution of secondary currents to the Coriolis force was among the first. His explanation of how meanders form due to a balance between inertial and frictional forces in a direction perpendicular to the motion is masterful. Einstein's explanations have helped us come closer to unraveling the mysteries of river meandering.

1 Einstein, A., 1926. The cause of the formation of meanders in the courses of rivers and of the so-called Baer's Law. Read before the Prussian Academy, January 7, 1926. Published in Die Naturwissenschaften, Vol. 14. [English translation in "Ideas and Opinions," by Albert Einstein, Modern Library, 1994].
2 Einstein, H. A., 1950. "The bed-load function for sediment transportation in open channel flows." USDA Soil Conservation Service, Technical Bulletin No. 1026, Washington, D.C., September.
Meander on the Humea river, tributary of the Meta river, Meta department, Colombia

Meander on the Humea river, tributary of the Meta river, Meta department, Colombia.

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