How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality.Read more...
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More About Einstein by Walter IsaacsonOverviewBy the author of the acclaimed bestseller Benjamin Franklin, this is the first full biography of Albert Einstein since all of his papers have become available.
How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk -- a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate -- became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.
Einstein, the joyous nonconformist, is Isaacson's latest subject
It is redundant to say that Albert Einstein is the world's most famous scientist. Merely stating his name is sufficient to make the point. T-shirts, posters, action figures and innumerable books all bear witness to the hold he exerts on society 52 years after his death. He is still quoted at lengthoften out of contextand his ideas are still hotly debated both inside and outside the world of science. But as with any celebrity, fiction and fact are so intertwined that our view of the man is clouded by myth. In Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson parts the clouds.
Best-selling author Isaacson, a former managing editor of Time and CEO of CNN, established his credentials as a biographer with Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003). The first writer to have full access to all of Einstein's papers, including newly released personal letters, Isaacson clearly put his access to good use. Einstein is superbly assembled and remarkably readable. Both the genius and the man shine through on nearly every page. And some of the most remarkable aspects of the man were his apparent contradictions: A young revolutionary who spent his mature years defending old ideas. A non-practicing Jew and fervent Zionist. A pacifist who encouraged the development of the atom bomb. An irreligious man and despiser of atheism.
Einstein's relationship with the world was defined by his rebellious nature, a near hatred of authority that alienated his university professors, causing them to refuse to provide references; he had to accept a position in the Swiss patent office rather than academe. This fierce independence also made him a difficult man to live with. His romances were troubled and his marriages were subservient to his quest for scientific discovery. As Isaacson notes, "Personal relationships involve nature's most mysterious forces." It is clear from Einstein's life that the secret to love remained as elusive to him as a unified field theory.
First and foremost, Einstein was a scientist, a career well-suited to a nonconformist. Isaacson details each momentous contribution of the archetypal absent-minded professor. In the "miracle year" of 1905, Einstein published four papers so revolutionary that physics has not yet recovered. The most famous was his theory of special relativity, the result of a flash of insight followed by exhaustive work. But Einstein did not work in a vacuum. He read voraciously in physics and philosophy and communicated with anyone who had something worthwhile to say, whether he agreed with them or not. As Einstein himself said, "intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience."
When his discoveries gave birth to the probabilistic weirdness of quantum mechanics, Einstein rebelled again, this time defending the old ideas of determinism and objective reality. The old man's humanity seemed to depend on the belief that God would not let a roll of the dice dictate the course of His creation. Niels Bohr, champion of quantum mechanics and Einstein's friend, loved to chide his more famous colleague for his certainty, once remarking, "Einstein, stop telling God what to do!"
Einstein is, as its subtitle declares, a summation of the great man's life and his universe, his foibles and his discoveries. It is well worth an allocation of the reader's time and space.
Chris Scott writes from Nashville.