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Einstein: His Life and Universe Paperback – May 13, 2008
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"Walter Isaacson has captured the complete Einstein. With an effortless style that belies a sharp attention to detail and scientific accuracy, Isaacson takes us on a soaring journey through the life, mind, and science of the man who changed our view of the universe." -- Brian Greene, Professor of Physics at Columbia and author of The Fabric of the Cosmos
"This book does an amazing job getting the science right and the man revealed." -- Sylvester James Gates, Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland
"This book will be widely and deservedly admired. It is excellently readable and combines the personal and the scientific aspects of Einstein's life in a graceful way." -- Gerald Holton, Professor of Physics at Harvard and author of Einstein, History, and Other Passions
"Once again Walter Isaacson has produced a most valuable biography of a great man about whom much has already been written. It helps that he has had access to important new material. He met the challenge of dealing with his subject as a human being and describing profound ideas in physics. His biography is a pleasure to read and makes the great physicist come alive." -- Murray Gell-Mann, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics and author of The Quark and the Jaguar
"With unmatched narrative skill, Isaacson has managed the extraordinary feat of preserving Einstein's monumental stature while at the same time bringing him to such vivid life that we come to feel as if he could be walking in our midst. This is a terrific work." -- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
"Isaacson's treatment of Einstein's scientific work is excellent: accurate, complete, and just the right level of detail for the general reader. Taking advantage of the wealth of recently uncovered historical material, he has produced the most readable biography of Einstein yet." -- A. Douglas Stone, Professor of Physics at Yale
"This is a brilliant intellectual tapestry -- and a great read. Skillfully weaving Einstein's revolutionary scientific achievements, his prolific political initiatives, his complex personal life, and his fascinating personality, Isaacson has transformed the transformer of the twentieth century into a beacon for the twenty-first century." -- Martin J. Sherwin, coauthor of American Prometheus:The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for biography
"I found so much to admire; there are many places where I just had to cheer what Isaacson had written." -- Dudley Herschbach, Professor of Science at Harvard
"Isaacson has written a crisp, engaging, and refreshing biography, one that beautifully masters the historical literature and offers many new insights into Einstein's work and life." -- Diana Kormos Buchwald, General Editor of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein
"Isaacson has admirably succeeded in weaving together the complex threads of Einstein's personal and scientific life to paint a superb portrait." -- Arthur I. Miller, author of Einstein, Picasso
About the Author
Walter Isaacson, University Professor of History at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN, and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Facebook: Walter Isaacson, Twitter: @WalterIsaacson
Top customer reviews
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"Einstein," is a book by Walter Isaacson who discusses Einstein's life in detail. It is very well written for the lay person and reveals many interesting sides of Einstein's life and works.
As a scientist, Albert Einstein was one of the most epic stars among all 20th-century scientific thinkers. The book brings Einstein's life and times into clear focus, delivering new information never seen by the public. This biography focuses closely on Einstein's personal life and the non-scientific circumstances of his very long and highly productive career.
The book is not a fast read, nor is it simple read, but shows Albert Einstein (1879-1955) to be a master genius. The book is a fascinating and well-written account by Mr. Isaacson, whose style is to write about people who are so stunning that we need to know what makes them that way.
Isaacson's book studies Einstein as a man, with his many imperfections, some bizarre, others just plain incredible. What I especially admired was the angle of description that Isaacson chose for this detailed portrait of Albert Einstein.
I give the book 5 Gold Stars, which was 24 Karat Gold cover-to-cover. A brilliant masterpiece.
Isaacson has won my vote: he's one of the best biographers of our time. Book after book, he captures the essence of these figures with respect and critical review. Einstein is a fascinating, flawed, and brilliant man. Isaacson adeptly weaves stories of scientific discovery with the trials and tribulations of marriages run amok. Einstein's temperament was extreme: kindness juxtaposed with coldness. Isaacson compares the two and leaves his focus on display for the reader.
I was exceptionally impressed by Einstein's political leanings and powerful statements. Here are a few that captured my attention:
"Blind respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."
'A new idea comes suddenly and in a rather intuitive way. But intuition is nothing but the outcome of earlier intellectual experience."
"People who live in a society, enjoy looking into each other's eyes, who share their troubles, who focus their efforts on what is important to them and find this joyful -- these people lead a full life."
"Use for yourself little, but give to others much."
Possibly one of the most popular scientists of our time. Most notable of his traits were his humility, compassion, independent thinking, introversion, pacifism, disdain for bourgeois consumption or ostentatious wealth, and a desire for social equality.
While his theories of special and general relativity will continue to elude me, one can still marvel at his thought making process.
I found it pivotal that Einstein met Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Jost Winteller, at a young age, who believed in encouraging students to visualize images. He also thought it important to nurture the “inner dignity” and individuality of each child. Jost Winteller gave Einstein the wings to take flight on a prosperous career.
Another fortunate encounter is with Marcel Grossman who lent Einstein, his maths notes while they were at Zurich Polytechnic and also offered him his first job. He later on provided the necessary Maths that Einstein needed to turn the special theory of relativity into a general theory.
Einstein's reading group, the Olympia academy, largely helped in shaping his thoughts towards the theories on relativity. They mostly read books that explored the intersection of science and philosophy.
Granted, Einstein's individual brilliance is something you see may be only once or twice in a century, but his story encompasses many more characters than popular account. Particularly, his life with Mileva Maric who mothered two of his children. Due to her first pregnancy, she found herself resigned to giving up her dream of being a scientific scholar. History continues to pay little regard to women who make it possible for men to pursue worthy careers.
While Einstein met Hendrik Lorentz quite later in his life, Lorentz influence on him was still very profound. He was the one father figure in Einstein's life. During Lorentz funeral Einstein mentioned with great sadness: "Whatever came from this supreme mind was as lucid and beautiful as a good work of art. He meant more to me personally than anybody else I have met in my lifetime."
It is also worth mentioning, the encounter between Niels Bohr and Einstein. To quote the social philosopher C. P. Snow: "No more profound intellectual debate has ever been conducted.”
Another important woman in Einstein's life, Helen Dukas, was one who was completely discreet, protective, loyal, and not threatening to Elsa. Helen Dukas came to work as Einstein’s secretary in 1928, when he was confined to bed with an inflamed heart. To quote George Dyson: "Her instincts were as infallible and straightforward as a magnetic compass. Although she could display a pleasant smile and lively directness with those she liked, she was generally austere, hard-boiled, and at times quite prickly."
During a later part of his life, Einstein became a closer friend, and a walking partner of the intensely introverted Kurt Gödel, a German-speaking mathematical logician from Brno and Vienna. Gödel wonderfully deliberated on the possibility of time travel basing on Einstein's theory of relativity.
Other significant events
It is also worth noting Einstein's role in the events that led up to the Manhattan Project and ultimately the construction of the atomic bomb. Einstein had contended that the only way to prevent an arms race of atomic weaponry was to bring about an internationalization of military power.
As a Jew who had grown up in Germany, Einstein was acutely sensitive racial discrimination. “The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me,” he wrote in an essay called “The Negro Question” for Pageant magazine. “I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.”
It was interesting to note that Einstein was once offered a position as President of Israel. He was “deeply moved” by the offer, Einstein said in his prepared response, and “at once saddened and ashamed” that he would not accept it. “All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official function,” he explained.
To imagine that Einstein accomplished what he did, in a world before the internet, leaves me in overwhelming awe. I have developed great admiration for the life he lived, and I dare say that it was a FULL life.
“Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle.”
“A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”
“The Jew who abandons his faith,” he once said, “is in a similar position to a snail that abandons his shell. He is still a snail.”
“I do not believe that the structure of the human brain is to be blamed for the fact that man cannot grasp infinity”