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Who Got Einstein's Office? Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study Paperback – January 22, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 22, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201122782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201122787
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.9 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,198,045 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Regis "presents an absorbing, often amusing and scientifically demanding" study of the institute that housed 14 Nobel laureates et al. PW asserted that "this is a bravo biography of a fabulous home, sanctuary and study-hall for geniuses working at the extremes of thought." Illustrated.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Institutions, their personnel, and the projects of these individual are a fascinating subject. Regis has chosen to examine the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, defty following it and its faculty from germination to the present. He focuses on two of the four Institute schools, Mathematics and Natural Science, with little mention of the less famous schools of Historical Studies and Social Science. The scientific lives he narrates include revealing bits of personal information while concentrating on succinct and very readable explanations of their work and its relation to the larger scientific community. Topics range from transcendental numbers to cellular automata. Highly recommended. Michael D. Cramer, Virgina Polytechnica Inst. & State Univ. Lib., Blacksburg
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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The topics are either too many or too short, and run abruptly from one to the next.
V. Srinivasa Raghavan
Ed Regis' book is a nice account of the scientists and intellectuals associated with the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at Princeton.
Pichierri Fabio
You don't need to know a thing about math or physics to enjoy this fine portrait of a fascinating group of minds at work and play.
Former Rater

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Mayer Goldberg on August 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Who Got Einstein's Office offers an interesting look at Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study, the famous people that work(ed) there, as well as their work. The book seems to suggest that the tenured researchers at the Institute of Advanced Study have done their best work before they joined; That somehow at the Institute, they were isolated from a vibrant academic life, from contact with other researchers and students in their field, etc. As such, the book is definitely worth reading.
Having said that much, I feel that I should voice my indignation at the way the author depicted and presented one of the greatest lights of this century, the logician Kurt Goedel.
It's almost embarrassing to me to mention this, since Goedel's work -- profound and deep and beautiful, is what most people that remember Goedel at all remember him for. But Goedel apparently had some difficulties of an emotional and mental nature that effected his life -- from adolescence to adulthood, difficulties that the author, Ed Regis, finds the generousity to mock. In describing Goedel's relationship with his mother and the influence it had on his romantic life, Regis refers to Goedel as "Kurtele" -- a diminutive of Goedel's first name -- like turning a "Richard" into "little Dicky"... This is but an example. Regis goes to greater length to belittle Goedel and the appreciation of his work. This is beneath contempt. However bizzare and eccentric and troubled Goedel's life was, Goedel himself was its only victim. Goedel left the world precious gems of thought and changed the world of logic and mathematics forever. I think he deserves quite a bit more respect and compassion than Ed Regis afforded him.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Todd Trimble on March 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
This in my opinion is a poorly conceived and poorly edited work, and much of it is in very bad taste (as has been noted by a few reviewers already).

The basic narrative which underlies this book is the idea that the Institute and many of its illustrious theoretically-minded members, past and present, are blinded by a dogmatic, quasi-religious belief in Platonic idealism, and this threatens the continued creative vitality of the Institute. This is especially evident whenever Regis discusses the distinguished mathematicians of the place, who are more or less portrayed as bad guys throughout. But theoretical physicists also come in for plenty of scorn.

This theme is hammered and worn thin to the point of transparency, until it becomes clear that Regis has some sort of animus against "mainstream" theoreticians at the Institute. (Regis evidently likes some of the "mavericks", e.g., Freeman Dyson, Stephen Wolfram.) Read his portrayal -- more of a caricature really -- of a physics seminar talk given by Tim Morris (chapter 8), to get an idea. Followed by a rather tendentious description of the tenure of Carl Kaysen as Institute director, and what those dastardly Platonic mathematicians did to him. It goes on and on in that vein.

It's very tiresome, and it doesn't help that Regis has little understanding of or sympathy for the science he talks about. Numerous instances can be found throughout, but I'll give just one: his botched description of Planck's constant (he got the dimensions wrong). No writer who understood what he was writing about could make that mistake; it's on the order of writing E = m/c^2, the only difference being that Planck's constant is not so familiar to the general reader as Einstein's equation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book out of curiosity, got immediately engrossed, and it has been one of the few books I've read to completion recently. I then decided that I had to own my own copy.
Ed Regis manages to present a cross section of ground breaking 20th-century thinking in mathematics, physics and astrophysics via a series of mini biographies of the Institute for Advanced Study's most illustrious characters. Given the complexity of the subjects, the author did a splendid job of providing deep technical detail in a manner the uninitiated can grasp (oh sure, there are sections that might make ones eyes glaze over, but this makes the book more interesting for more advanced readers).
A great result of this book is that it whets the appetite to learn more about certain subjects, which will benefit new and used book sellers.
Lastly, the author strikes a balance between reverence for the Institute and its members, and candor in assessing their shortcomings.
Roger Benton
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
A very entertaining look at the history and personalities of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, at one time or another, home to 14 or more Nobel laureates. Learn how the Institute was created and how Einstein was recruited to be it's first member. Meet Godel, von Neumann, Dyson, Oppenheimer, Pauli, Witten and other luminaries up close and personal through their years at IAS, a place where these great minds have had no other duties or responsibilities than to explore new frontiers of thought and imagination. A very interesting look at the exotic, quirky, and sometimes downright nutty personalities of some of the greatest figures in science. A fast-paced read that I never found boring. Martin Gardner also gave it high praise.
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