For the discovery of the physics phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), Felix Bloch and Edward Purcell were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1952. NMR has then been used in a wide range of fundamental studies in physics, and in the 1960s it also became an important analytical tool in chemistry. Based on novel concepts and advances in NMR instrumentation and informatics tools, exciting developments in the early 1970s laid the foundations for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is today a key technique in medical diagnosis, and for the use of NMR spectroscopy in modern structural biology. These achievements have been recognized by Nobel prizes to four scientists, and a fundamental understanding of their achievements is greatly helped by work of Albert Einstein in 1905. NMR thus is one of many research areas where the results of basic research during the first half of the 20th century provided the basis for technological breakthroughs in the second half of the 20th and into 21st century, which now support all branches of chemistry, structural biology, drug discovery and clinical diagnosis.