Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Read more...
Widely considered the greatest genius of all time, Albert Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity and helped lead us into the atomic age. Yet in the final decades of his life, he was ignored by most working scientists, and his ideas were opposed by even his closest friends.
How did this happen? Einstein's imagination and self-confidence served him well when he was young. But when it came to the new field of quantum mechanics, the same traits undermined him. Bestselling biographer David Bodanis traces Einstein from the skeptical, erratic student to the world's most brilliant physicist--and then to the desolate, fallen-from-grace celebrity.
An intimate biography touching on the romances and rivalries of the celebrated physicist, as much as on his scientific goals, Einstein's Greatest Mistake reveals what we owe Einstein today--and how much more he might have achieved if not for his all-too-human flaws.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Writer and futurist Bodanis (Passionate Minds) imparts fresh insight into the genius—and failures—of the 20th century’s most celebrated scientist. Einstein learned early on to follow his own curiosity rather than his teachers, and Bodanis shows how Einstein’s close friendships with a few young scientists gave him a supportive sounding board for his ideas. Later, Einstein’s dull patent-inspector job gave him time to work out the basics of relativity. Trouble arose when astronomical observations suggested, in opposition to Einstein’s equations, that the universe was unchanging. To make his math agree, Einstein reluctantly added a fudge factor called the cosmological constant, only to regret it when later observations showed the universe really was expanding and his original math had been correct all along. That experience, Bodanis says, made the scientist “downright obdurate” about considering experimental results—exactly the wrong tactic to take as quantum mechanics became the new language of modern physics. Bodanis is sympathetic but realistic: Einstein’s stubbornness effectively ended his career, leaving him isolated and marginalized as the rest of physics moved forward. This provocative biography illuminates the human flaws that operate subtly in the shadows of scientific endeavor. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh. (Oct.)