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Einstein's Miraculous Year: Five Papers That Changed the Face of Physics

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691059389
ISBN-10: 0691059381
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The anno mirabilis was 1905, when an obscure patent examiner published several papers. This volume consists of translations of Einstein's revolutionary papers that year, with introductions by physicist Roger Penrose and others that explain why these papers are among the most important scientific documents of this century--if not all time. As a group they are notable for bridging mechanical theories of physics--particles whizzing around--and the relativistic view. In the former category, Einstein figured out the sizes of molecules, and that their bombardments kept microscopic particles in motion, both mysterious matters hitherto. The relativity papers announce the two things everyone knows about Einstein besides his iconic appearance, that energy and mass are equivalent and that time is not absolute. That the soul of this book is Ph.D.-level mathematics doesn't disqualify it from public libraries: mightn't some wunderkind of the future fondly remember in her memoirs the day she discovered Einstein's actual equations in the stacks? Gilbert Taylor


"In these excellent new translations of Einstein's papers, the economy and freshness of Einstein's style come through with undiminished force. . . . To re-read these papers is to relive perhaps the most dramatic year in the history of physics."--Werner Israel, Physics World.

"Read this beautifully translated and edited collection and enjoy an encounter with one of the greatest minds at work and five of the greatest physics papers of [the twentieth] century."--David C. Cassidy, American Journal of Physics

"I find myself thrilled by these papers. Why? Because through the original choice of words and arguments, through the simple but profound ideas and thought processes . . . I have been able to gaze into the mind of this great scientist in a way that no distillation or restatement or commentary would allow. In these papers one can see an enormously gifted human being grappling with the nature of the world."--Alan Lightman, Atlantic Monthly

"Drawing heavily on his subject's autobiographical reflections about the relationship between thought and language in his struggles to understand deep physical problems, Stachel paints a not-unfamiliar picture of Einstein as a solitary genius whose driving ideas were entirely his own."--David E. Rowe, Times Higher Education Supplement

"John Stachel devotes several pages to rebutting recent claims that Einstein's first wife, Mileva Maric, co-authored the 1905 papers. . . . [R]elativity and the quantum revolution sprang from the subtle gray matter of Einstein's brain alone."--PD Smith, The Guardian

"Einstein's Miraculous Year provides a well-considered look back at the seminal ideas that eventually helped make Einstein a household name. . . . [I]t's never too late to take a closer look at the century-old work that revolutionized [physics]."--Ryan Wyatt, Planetarian


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691059381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691059389
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,254,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was born in Germany and became an American citizen in 1940. A world-famous theoretical physicist, he was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics and is renowned for his Theory of Relativity. In addition to his scientific work, Einstein was an influential humanist who spoke widely about politics, ethics, and social causes. After leaving Europe, Einstein taught at Princeton University. His theories were instrumental in shaping the atomic age.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I am a nonscientist, general reader, but have read many popular accounts of special relativity. I have always felt shortchanged, though, just at the point where things get most interesting. I think that is because the real physics does lie in the equations, and verbal metaphors fall short. For me, here, for the first time, I see where the science is: just beyond the metaphors. Although I do not follow all the math by any means, so it is partly like listening to a foreign language, I recognized enough of the concepts to get a glimmer: and it is stunning. Here is Einstein himself, deriving E=mc2 in paper 4; so briefly, so lucidly (although another reader from California seems to have missed it). Paper 3 on special relativity is, even to this nonscientist, dazzling.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a compilation of five important papers including Albert Einstein's dissertation, all published in Annalen der Physik the year 1905. The papers are;

(1) "A new determination of molecular dimensions". Which is Einstein's dissertation.

(2) On the motion of Small particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat. This is what is referred to as Brownian Motion.

(3) On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies. This is what is referred to as the special theory of relativity. This paper is to some degree a synthesis of work done by H.A. Lorentz and Henri Poincare, which is common in science (and Lorentz is given his fair due).

(4) Does the Inertia of a Body Depend on Its Energy Content? This is essentially E = mc² and is an extension of the aforementioned paper.

(5) On a heuristic Point of View Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light. This is his paper on the photo electric effect and the quantum hypothesis. This is what Einstein got his Nobel price for. However, both (2) and (3) above are often considered to be Nobel Prize work.

The way I see it, these papers are of great historical value and it is awesome to be able to read the originals. However, I do not recommend this book as a good introduction to any of this material. As an engineering physics student I encountered most of the content of these papers in a more complete and clearer format. For example, the special theory of relativity is explained better in many text books on physics. Remember these papers are research papers not educational texts. That does not mean that I endorse the many non-mathematical popularizations of the topic that often end up misleading the reader.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a retired physicist I have taken great interest in the history of science, especially the times around the turn of the twentieth century when so many new ideas were put forward which have the basis of quantum mechanics and our current thinking from cosmology to quarks. This little volume is recommended either for bedtime reading or more serious study. The personal history reveals aspects previously unknown to me and the five papers themselves, in their original form, demonstrate Einstein's wonderful insightfulness and ability to make use of every aspect of a problem. Tney are a bit heavy going in themselves, and the mathematics is not for everyone, but what else would one expect from a distillation of so much into so relatively few words. I recommend this book to both the scintist and the layman who seeks a better understanding of these momentous mental leaps.
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I purchased this book so that I could read Einstein's 1905 papers (in English translations). The book gives you these (actually instead of the paper written from his thesis, the book provides the thesis itself), and much more. The book starts with a short, interesting, forward by Roger Penrose, which puts these papers in the context of previous and contemporaneous physics. There is then a lengthy (70 page) new introduction to this centenary edition of the book. This introduction provides interesting historical information about Einstein's life and the development of these 1905 papers, particularly with regard to the charge (clearly refuted in this introduction) that Einstein's wife Mileva was an unsigned co-author of these 1905 papers (or the perhaps the real author). Then there is the original 25-page introduction that provides more information regarding the development of these 1905 papers. Following this are the papers themselves, each of which is preceded by a technical discussion of the paper. Finally, there are editor's notes following each paper that correct mistakes and help explain a few points.

The material that is provided in addition to the papers actually occupies more pages than the papers themselves and is definitely a very welcome addition. In fact, I think that they are a primary reason to get his book. Einstein's papers, while generally quite short are not the easiest to follow (at least I found this to be the case), so the notes preceding and following each paper defiantly helped me understand the papers and the context in which they were written. This is happily a case where I got much more than I had expected.

I highly recommend this book to those interested in Einstein, the history of science and the development of his physics. A reader will find some prior understanding of physics to be very helpful, but there is enough general historical material to make the book interesting to those without such a background.
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