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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely outstanding - Once in a decade...
Nine years may seem like a long time to wait for an encore. Overbye's 1991 "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos" was an instant classic - a scientific biography of a half-dozen of astronomy's most interesting characters. I've often lamented that this was Overbye's only book. Why couldn't someone capable of writing such a seamless blend of biography and popular science...
Published on November 22, 2000 by John Rummel

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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretty boring book, purchase experience was good
This book starts off dry and doesn't really get anything going for about 100 pages. Boring book. The purchase experience was great though.
Published on March 31, 2010 by A. Badhwar


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely outstanding - Once in a decade..., November 22, 2000
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Nine years may seem like a long time to wait for an encore. Overbye's 1991 "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos" was an instant classic - a scientific biography of a half-dozen of astronomy's most interesting characters. I've often lamented that this was Overbye's only book. Why couldn't someone capable of writing such a seamless blend of biography and popular science have a whole shelf of his own?
Dennis Overbye has answered that question with a resounding "patience, patience..." Overbye has indeed been busy. For the last several years, he has spent considerable time with a dozen or so scholars who are pouring over the Einstein papers - a vast repository of personal documents that had been tied up in legal limbo since Einstein's death in 1955. As this material is slowly and deliberately digested by scholars, a much more personal picture of the man is emerging - a portrait beautifully captured by Overbye in this effort.
Overbye's book "Einstein in Love" is a stunning follow-on to his earlier work, this one focusing on a single individual - the most famous scientist who ever lived. It fully captures his relationships with family and friends. Besso, Solovine, Habicht, Grossman, Mileva - his first wife and the mother of his 3 children - all come to life within these pages. Overbye documents the mysterious disappearance of his first child, the daughter Lieserl, but doesn't attempt to solve it.
There is no shortage of biographical and popular scientific books on Einstein and relativity. Overbye sets his latest effort apart from the pack with an unprecedented personal look into the life of the young Einstein as can only be achieved with the wealth of personal correspondence available in the Einstein papers. Overbye's writing style is almost poetic. He has a way of turning a phrase and capturing the essence of a moment. I have read a great many of the above mentioned works on Einstein (as well as biographies of many other scientists) but have never felt so captivated by a story.
This book continues the slow process of eroding some enduring myths regarding Einstein. For instance, it is frequently noted that as a patent office clerk in Bern, Einstein was cut off from the scientific world, blissfully unaware of the work being done by physicists in Europe and the United States. To the contrary, Overbye notes that during his tenure in the patent office, Einstein was writing review articles for a German physics journal, summarizing the content of dozens of articles being published around the world. He also documents how Einstein almost certainly read the Michelson-Morley research while he was still a student at ETH under Weber, and was well aware of the precarious state of the "aether."
Overbye admits that this book is not strictly a biography. He begins the story during Einstein's college years and ends soon after the completion of the theory of general relativity and the confirmation by Eddington's eclipse observations. This is in part because the vast work of sorting through the Einstein papers is itself not yet far enough to permit further exploration, but surely more is to come.
And if that's not enough, Overbye doesn't gloss over the science. To the contrary, he has equal facility in explaining thorny physical concepts in language that any reasonably educated and interested person can understand. He doesn't attempt to explain relativity mathematically, but does a wonderful job of tracing the development of Einstein's thought over time, as played out in correspondence with his friends and scientific colleagues. In fact, he has woven the scientific and personal together in a way that is surprisingly smooth, given that almost a century has elapsed since some of the principle discoveries, not to mention that Einstein himself has been dead for nearly half that long.
This book will quickly take its place as one of the most important and popular works on the life of Albert Einstein, and one that should not be missed by any lover of science history.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Love of Physics, December 10, 2000
By A Customer
I think a biography of a scientist ought to give readers four things. First, it should explain the scientist's work and its significance. Second, it should place the scientist in the context of his times, presenting the problems with which the scientist struggled and his growing awareness of an answer. Third -- especially for a scientist as famous as Einstein -- it should humanize the subject, digging into the myths and popular perceptions to show us the soul beneath. And fourth, it should leave the nonspecialist wanting to learn more about the science. Dennis Overbye's Einstein in Love excels at all four objectives. If you know of Einstein from popular accounts, try this book. You'll learn the state of physics at the close of the 19th century, and you'll find Einstein wasn't quite the lone wolf he's often portrayed as. You'll discover a young genius living in, and ultimately shaping, interesting times. There's some excellent informal presentation of special and general relativity, and more important, you can follow along as Einstein struggles through two decades to formulate it all. But prepare for some disillusionment along the way, as Einstein's true love (physics) substitutes for lasting relationships with women, and with his children. Still, this nonspecialist left the book with an even greater appreciation for how Einstein transformed our lives. In fact, I'm so intrigued to understand that transformation fully, I may just go buy a book on tensor theory!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Romance of Many Dimensions, June 25, 2002
This book gave me a much more detailed and intimate look at Einstein's personal and intellectual life than anything else I've read, and it makes for a truly fascinating read. Overbye spent years poring through Einstein's letters and personal papers to research and write this book, and it shows.
There is a wealth of detail describing and chronicling Einstein's life as he struggled with the creation of the momentous scientific discoveries that were to make him famous, especially the long and difficult path to his final solution for the General Relativity problem. Along with this, you get a detailed look even into his personal day-to-day life, learning about his friends, scientific associates, and even his loves. Einstein is no longer a towering, remote intellect plumbing the depths and secrets of the universe in cloistered solitude; Overbye's account displays Einstein's very human side also, showing him to be a man of his times, often with Bohemian and avant-garde personal, social, and political ideas. For example, Overbye mentions how Einstein and his first wife, Mileva, had their first baby out of wedlock, and subsequently married. And the dark side of Einstein's personal life, the unhappy ending to his first marriage and his often careless dealings with the women in his life, don't escape Overbye's purview.
But don't be misled by the title, it's not just about Einstein's sometimes checkered love-life (although he did have more romantic dalliances than I would have expected); Overbye also does an excellent job of presenting Einstein's most important ideas, including a good explanation of the special and general theory of relativity.
And last but not least, Overbye is a fine writer whose prose flows and doesn't get in the way of the story, and who has a good command not only of the personal, but also the scientific side of Einstein's life. Altogether a well-written and fascinating book on a fascinating historical and scientific figure.
(P.S. Did anybody happen to notice the title of my review is the sub-title for Edwin Abbott's classic mathematical and social allegory, "Flatland, a Romance of Many Dimensions?" But it works equally well here as a segue into my review of Overbye's biography.)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging Account of the Man of the Century, July 16, 2001
The first comment that comes to mind about Einstein in Love is that Overbye can really write well; I find the prose to be much more enjoyable than that of any other Einstein book I am aware of. Overbye also does a good job of at least attempting to explain relativity to a lay reader, while also not ignoring the other important works of the young Einstein on Brownian motion, gravity, etc. I do find the title more than a little misleading, though - Einstein's marriages to Mileva and Elsa and his dalliances with others seem to have little connection at all with the progress of his scientific thought. I suspect that the title is little more than a device to capture attention and sell books. I also find it odd that the book just seems to end for no apparent reason around the time of his divorce from Mileva. Still, if you want a good read about a true genius and his early life and works, this is one of the better places to turn - just don't expect much "scientific romance," except for the beauty pouring out of Einstein's head.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Albert: The Romantic Physicist, April 5, 2005
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While separated from wife #1, Mileva, Albert wrote to her a completely one-sided contract of reconciliation (p 267). When she accepted his terms, he backed out because she didn't show proper appreciation for his "generous" offer. During this time, he was having an affair with Elsa (eventual 2nd wife), but this was muddied when he also fell in love with Elsa's daughter, Ilse. Being a little more wishy-washy in romance than he was in physics, he let the women work it out as to who he was going to marry! They decided on Elsa. Many years later, Elsa allowed him to carry on an affair twice a week with a certain woman as long as he remained chaste otherwise. As Albert wrote in a poem to a friend, "the upper half thinks and plans, but the lower half determines our fate."

Thanks to Overbye's superb research, we are presented with a history of Albert (as the author always calls him) directly from letters and documents mostly written by Einstein himself. Not by any means limited to his romantic life, we are treated to an in-depth discussion of how he worked his physics out. For example, far from isolated while a patent clerk in his miracle year of 1905, he was actively corresponding with several other physicists, editing scientific journals and conducting "think tanks" about theoretical physics with friends, including wife #1, Mileva. Most of his adult life, he conducted an active social life centered around these think tanks with revolving membership, sometimes involving entertaining others with his excellent violin playing, and frequently women. When he landed his first teaching job, he was unpleasantly surprised by the time and effort it took to compose a decent a comprehensible set of lectures. He toiled conscientiously over his talks, eventually becoming a sought after keynote speaker who would lecture two hours daily for several days at prestigious conventions about subjects involving aspects of relativity.

Overbye has written a brilliantly insightful book that brings into focus Albert's creative and unique approach to physics along with his sometimes "teen-ager in love" approach to romance. Scattered throughout the book are first hand looks at many famous scientists of the day, including other Nobel prize winners in their correspondence and first hand interactions with the charming Einstein. If I must criticize this book, it does seem to end rather abruptly, and covers the last 25 years of his life in very few pages. Perhaps another book is lurking in Overbye's mind for these years, for which there are undoubtedly volumes of more correspondence from the prolific Albert Einstein. A very enthusiastic 5 stars for this exhilarating read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A biography worthy of its subject, October 19, 2000
By A Customer
No one writes about science--and scientists--with more insight, poetry and passion than Dennis Overbye. I loved his previous book, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, and I love Einstein in Love. It succeeds gloriously both as scholarship and literature. By revealing the -all-too-human mortal behind the mythical genius, Overbye makes Einstein's achievements appear all the more miraculous.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An all-too-human genius, October 11, 2000
By A Customer
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In this book Overbye has adroitly blended Einstein's often-difficult personal relationships with the discoveries that made him the most celebrated scientist in a century during which there was no shortage of brilliant scientific minds. All in all, I found it one of the most engagingly-written and informative histories of science I've ever encountered.
One cannot read this work without wondering how the author was able to lay his hands on, and then digest, that mountain of material -- epistolary, journalistic, and geographic. It would appear that he read hundreds and hundreds of letters and visited every locale of importance to Einstein in the first four decades of his life.
I would recommend this book for anyone with an interest in knowing how scientific progress happens. Overbye's thoughfully-constructed and lucid explanations should, moreover, prove of particular value to those whose previous exposure to physics has left them with the desire for a fuller understanding of some of its more complex principles.
For me, not least among this work's plusses was that it attached names that had been little more than textbook entries -- Planck's constant, Wien's law, Bohr atom, Born-Haber cycle, and many others -- to real people. Einstein's universe did, after all, include real people.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply researched, engaging, and original!, April 27, 2001
By 
Irakli Loladze (Lincoln, NE United States) - See all my reviews
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This is an outstanding book. A New York Times science writer, Dennis Overbye had spent years researching Einstein's personal letters, traveling places Einstein lived, studied, worked and even climbed. Overbye combines the tremendous amount of research with his engaging writing style. His depiction of the early 1900s is so vivid and detailed that I could almost smell the streets of Zurich and Prague of that era and talk to Einstein's family and colleagues. Einstein fell in love with many women, but his greatest love - theoretical physics and search for the truth - are treated extensively as well. The book, of course, is not intended as an introduction to the theory of relativity. Nevertheless, Overbye's treatment of the theory is so captivating that it prompted me to search online for Einstein's 1905 paper translated into English (the first part of the paper does not require any math beyond the 8th grade, but its impeccable logic makes one dizzy because the classical understanding of the world is overturned). I highly recommend this book - one of the most intimate portraits of Einstein.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Winner, March 16, 2003
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Dennnis Overbye has been blessed with a unique talent - the ability to translated complex scientific theory into language that the thinking reader can understand. In "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos" we read about the theory and history of cosmology along with the personal travails of one scientist an the bitter infighting among all scientists. In this non-novel novel, we are immersed into the nascent world of relativity. From its theoretical origins [thinking outside the box] we are given a review of classical physics and the theories / illuminations of the greatest scientist of this age.
The scientific story advances within the framework of Einstein's personal life. It is rare that an individual can succeed in all areas of endeavor, be they love, work or play. One feels some disappointment with his personal travails and while he may appear cold or disloyal, many times great people sublimate their relationships to their passion.
Unlike other intellectuals whose personal lives were a total repudiation of the their professed ideology (Marx was an utter slackard, Hellman and Brecht were serial liars, Fuller switched positions with the wind, scolding the world when they began to ignore his newest mania), Einstein never tried to impose a social scheme on others. He loved quietly as one should and made his mistakes in private, again as one should. All in all, a successful work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Einstein in flesh, blood, heart and brain, October 8, 2000
By A Customer
This is one of the most elegant and thrilling science books I have ever read. Overbye explains the revolutionary physics of the early twentieth century so vividly and comprehensibly that I felt as though I were practically there at Einstein's kitchen table, listening as his ideas took shape, and as he thrashed them out with friends, colleagues, rivals, Mileva. "Einstein in Love" is a miracle, neither hagiography nor pathography. It is instead a work of art, because it is a work of truth, a nuanced portrait of a profoundly complicated, brilliant man whose thoughts transformed the world.
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Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance
Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance by Dennis Overbye (Paperback - October 1, 2001)
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