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Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein Hardcover – September 23, 1982

ISBN-13: 978-0198539070 ISBN-10: 019853907X Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"A monument to sound scholarship and graceful style.... Accurate, witty, and clear as brook water, it is a work against which future scientific biographies will be measured.... Anyone with an interest in Einstein should give this splendid book a try."--The New York Times Book Review

"A coherent account of almost everything of scientific significance that Einstein did.... Unique and indispensable."--Science

"Particularly valuable as the first thorough study in one accessible volume of all of Einstein's major contributions to science.... Remarkably clear as well as authoritative."--The New York Review of Books

"A sympathetic but clear-eyed view of his life and work...examined mainly in his own plentiful papers, supplemented by a remarkably wide list of unusual sources.... A fine book."--Scientific American

"An outstanding biography of Albert Einstein that one finds oneself reading with sheer pleasure."--Physics Today

"The best biography of Einstein."--Jim Holt, The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

About the Author:
Abraham Pais is Detlev W. Bronk Professor at the Rockefeller University and winner of the J.R. Oppenheimer Memorial Prize for 1979. He is also the author of Inward Bound and Niels Bohr's Times, In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (September 23, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019853907X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198539070
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #582,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By GPK on December 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is a very good *scientific* biography of Einstein. This is both its strength and weakness. It is a strength because the author is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject, and therefore I couldn't think of a better book than this one. However, to appreciate the ins and outs of the scientific work of Einstein, you need to be a scientist yourself, or at least be very interested in the subject, because Pais does not avoid technical discussions. Not at all.
Therefore, for people without knowledge on this level, the book is not so accessible (I think), which may lead to disappointments. However, for this group of readers there is also good news: the author has organized the book into two interwoven 'sections': a part that is purely biographical and contains no technical discussions, and a technical part. The two parts are easily recognizable in the table of contents. This makes the book interesting and useful for a broad public.
Summarizing: this high quality book makes no light reading, but it is worth the effort, and the money.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Subtle is the Lord is a scholarly biography that tries to illuminate both the life and work of Albert Einstein. There is none of the sensationalism here of some other recent biographies. The picture that emerges is of a complex character who defies the iconic images - either of the absent-minded professor, or the man whose work laid the foundations for the atomic bomb - and whose interests and concerns ranged far beyond the abstruse theoretical physics that made him celebrated even in his own lifetime. It is a fascinating story, and one which left me as ever wondering as to the origins of such singular genius. Pais does not spare the reader the details of Einstein's scientific achievements, and inevitably that means that without a degree in physics or mathematics large sections of the book would be hard going indeed. With some familiarity with the physics though, this is a comprehensive and inspiring account of some of the great scientific revolutions of the century.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ANDREJS JANSONS on August 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautifully written book. I have been intrigued by the personality of Albert Einstein since my childhood (when I saw a postage stamp with his portrait and the famous equation "E=mc^2"), and I always wanted to know what exactly has made him so famous. During my school years I loved to read books about physics, and always enjoyed lessons of physics in school. By that time I thought that I have really good grasp of physics, but still it seemed strange to me why, when the special theory of relativity was explained well enough in many accessible books, the general theory was only mentioned as "the greatest achievement of human mind", but it was never explained in detail, only some of its consequences, like the precession of Mercury's orbit or starlight bending by the Sun, were described, but nobody explained from where these 43" or 1,75" came from ! When in 1989 I bought this book, I enjoyed reading about the details of Einstein's biography, but I was quite shocked that most of the equations in the part about the general relativity were completely beyond my understanding. This fact had been irritating me for a number of years, until in 2002 I have decided to take the plunge and try to learn the general relativity properly. This has been a tough going and took almost two years, but by the end I could really understand what the terms, like the metric tensor, Christoffel symbols or R^i_jkl do really mean, or why R_ij-(1/2)*g_ij*R=k*T_ij, and I was also absolutely stunned by the beauty of this theory. This prompted me not only to read lots of other books about the relativity (MTW, Weinberg, Wald, Hawking & Ellis and many others), but also to learn the classical electrodynamics, quantum mechanics, and now I'm trying to learn the quantum field theory - all this thanks to this excellent book !
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kumar on July 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
that is what Einstein had to say, when in 1921 he was confronted with rumours that a non-zero aether drift had been discovered by Dayton Miller, a one-time junior of Albert Michaelson. When asked what he meant by this, he remarked "Nature hides her secrets because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse". He is also said to have opined that he had "not for a moment taken [Miller's results] seriously". That was the kind of faith that Albert Einstein had in the laws of Nature that he discovered...a deep faith not capable of rational foundation..
Albert Einstein...the man...the philosopher...the scientist...the physicist...the humanist...the much has already been written about this one extraordinary human being, that you can be forgiven for grimacing when you see this book and thinking, 'oh, no ! not another one in this never-ending craze'...but think again...this is THE definitive scientific biography of Herr Professor Einstein, coming as it is from a physicist who was close to this great man towards the end of his life. Abraham Pais does a superb job of presenting the state of physics before Einstein, how he changed that and how it has evolved since his times. Science was Einstein's life, his devotion, his refuge, and his source of detachment...Science was his religion...In order to understand the man, then, it is necessary to follow his scientific ways of thinking and doing...and that is what the book precisely does...
One more thing...this is not a layman's book...if you have only a little idea of physics, and are averse to mathematical details, then look elsewhere...this is not for you...
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