In Einstein, History, and Other Passions
, Gerald Holton, a professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard University, dispels the idea that science is creatively inferior to the arts. By focusing on the life and work of Albert Einstein, Holton illustrates that the practical nature of science flows from the creative pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake. Holton reminds us that some of Einstein's greatest work was conducted at a time when he was madly in love and argues that scientists, like artists, are driven by a passion to explore and create. They do science, he says, not for prestige, but simply because they find it impossible not to.
From Publishers Weekly
Science has taken quite a beating in the last few years. Held responsible for everything from environmental destruction to moral decline, science and technology have fallen a long way from the exalted position they held in the earlier part of this century. Holton, a professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard, makes a strong argument in defense of science. Rejecting the "popular, hostile caricatures" of science as a logical, soulless, incomprehensible wasteland, Holton argues that science can't be adequately understood apart from the greater society and that the dichotomy between the arts and science is a false one. He presents Albert Einstein as a creative, life-affirming person, who was passionate about ideas and understanding life's mysteries. Einstein devoted his life to examining "conventional wisdom" and overturning it when it didn't account for the facts. Holton's Einstein is dynamic and personable, but, unfortunately, the same can't be said about every moment in this book. Holton reiterates several times that the field of science is not restricted to techno-wonks, but some readers are likely to be disheartened plugging through sentences like the following: "Purely as a mnemonic device, let me represent the event E under study as a point in a plane, within orthogonal coordinates, the horizontal of which indicates time." Still, those with a background in science or the sneaking suspicion that recent science-bashing is unfair, will find this book to be an intelligent defense of a great field of human endeavor.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.