Wired News released an article on Albert Einstein marking the 100th anniversary of the release of some of his most influential work. In the bigger picture Albert Einstein was a true catalyst of change. It could be argued that all things will be discovered by someone at some point and that Albert Einstein was merely a random bridge to between what we did not know and what we would eventually know.
I believe that there is nothing random about his place in the discovery cycle. There have been many a thinker and inventor that started as unknown and remained as such. Stories abound of inventors arguing that they "were first". And then there are those selected few intellectuals whose names become household words. Galileo, Newton, Bell, etc.
These people come forth with their discoveries at exactly the time these discoveries need to be made within the context of what mankind can conceptualize and accept. These discoveries become the fuel for other thinkers/inventors so that within a generation we are working to exhaust every new avenue created through these new understandings. It could not be by chance that every time, at the exact right time, a new genius is uncovered.