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Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance Paperback – October 1, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In his first book, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye humanized the formidable intellects who have probed the inner workings of the universe. With Einstein in Love, he takes on the most formidable intellect of all--and the result does justice to a complicated man and his equally complicated work. Overbye's narrative concentrates on the years between 1896 (when the 17-year-old Einstein arrived in Zurich to study physics) and 1919 (when he used measurements of light deflection during a solar eclipse to support his new theory of relativity thus beginning a reign as the 20th century's most famous scientist). It's no accident this period begins with Einstein meeting fellow student Mileva Maric, who would become his first wife, and closes with his second marriage. "Physics was not all Einstein's life," writes Overbye. "He lived on Earth with a belly and a heart." Accordingly, Einstein in Love depicts a young man who liked to hike, play the violin, flirt, and tell dirty jokes. Albert and Mileva had a child before they were married (Michelle Zackheim's popular 1999 book, Einstein's Daughter, attempted to unravel the mystery of Lieserl's fate), and the young father was as careless of convention in his dress and grooming as in his scientific work. Indeed, although Overbye nicely captures Einstein's personality, the real excitement comes in those chapters delineating his thought. The book effortlessly incorporates a capsule history of physics from the Greeks to the Victorians, both laying out the issues with which Einstein grappled and suggesting just why his solutions were so revolutionary. Even those with little grounding in science will easily grasp why Einstein's ideas made such an impact, not just on fellow physicists, but on a populace that at the dawn of the 20th century was ready to accept the demise of all the old certainties. As usual, Overbye's work is a model of science writing for the general reader; it's also a perceptive biography highlighting Einstein's most creative years. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Of the many recent and imminent books on Einstein, Overbye's (Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos) may have the most compelling title and most fulfilling approach. An accomplished science writer, Overbye, deputy science editor of the New York Times, tells the story of Einstein's early years, when he cultivated his image as the shaggy and sloppy, garrulous and brilliant bad boy of physics and committed himself to twin passions: revolutionizing our understanding of the universe, starting with light, gravity and time; and living the bohemian life with the woman he'd eventually marry, Mileva Maric, a superior mathematician in her own right. At first, it seemed that Mileva and Albert would make the world together, but Albert's passion for physics proved the stronger. As Einstein's fame grew and his theories - the development of which Overbye explains brilliantly - gained adherents, he escaped the drudgery of work in the patent office for a series of university appointments, while his wife and their children faded into the background. He took up with other women, which, as the reader learns, was even sadder than it may at first appear, because of all that Maric gave up to be with him, including their first child, Lieserl, born out of wedlock and sent away so that she wouldn't hinder Einstein's career. Overbye's aim - which he accomplishes with the precision of a scientist and the ear of a musician - is to portray Einstein the man, not the myth ("no picture of Einstein can be complete that does not explore both disparate strains of his life, both the sacred and the profane"). In the end, the reader may come to like Einstein less but appreciate his achievements even more. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141002212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141002217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,646,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Rummel on November 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Nine years may seem like a long time to wait for an encore. Overbye's 1991 "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos" was an instant classic - a scientific biography of a half-dozen of astronomy's most interesting characters. I've often lamented that this was Overbye's only book. Why couldn't someone capable of writing such a seamless blend of biography and popular science have a whole shelf of his own?
Dennis Overbye has answered that question with a resounding "patience, patience..." Overbye has indeed been busy. For the last several years, he has spent considerable time with a dozen or so scholars who are pouring over the Einstein papers - a vast repository of personal documents that had been tied up in legal limbo since Einstein's death in 1955. As this material is slowly and deliberately digested by scholars, a much more personal picture of the man is emerging - a portrait beautifully captured by Overbye in this effort.
Overbye's book "Einstein in Love" is a stunning follow-on to his earlier work, this one focusing on a single individual - the most famous scientist who ever lived. It fully captures his relationships with family and friends. Besso, Solovine, Habicht, Grossman, Mileva - his first wife and the mother of his 3 children - all come to life within these pages. Overbye documents the mysterious disappearance of his first child, the daughter Lieserl, but doesn't attempt to solve it.
There is no shortage of biographical and popular scientific books on Einstein and relativity. Overbye sets his latest effort apart from the pack with an unprecedented personal look into the life of the young Einstein as can only be achieved with the wealth of personal correspondence available in the Einstein papers. Overbye's writing style is almost poetic.
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By A Customer on December 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I think a biography of a scientist ought to give readers four things. First, it should explain the scientist's work and its significance. Second, it should place the scientist in the context of his times, presenting the problems with which the scientist struggled and his growing awareness of an answer. Third -- especially for a scientist as famous as Einstein -- it should humanize the subject, digging into the myths and popular perceptions to show us the soul beneath. And fourth, it should leave the nonspecialist wanting to learn more about the science. Dennis Overbye's Einstein in Love excels at all four objectives. If you know of Einstein from popular accounts, try this book. You'll learn the state of physics at the close of the 19th century, and you'll find Einstein wasn't quite the lone wolf he's often portrayed as. You'll discover a young genius living in, and ultimately shaping, interesting times. There's some excellent informal presentation of special and general relativity, and more important, you can follow along as Einstein struggles through two decades to formulate it all. But prepare for some disillusionment along the way, as Einstein's true love (physics) substitutes for lasting relationships with women, and with his children. Still, this nonspecialist left the book with an even greater appreciation for how Einstein transformed our lives. In fact, I'm so intrigued to understand that transformation fully, I may just go buy a book on tensor theory!
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Format: Hardcover
This book gave me a much more detailed and intimate look at Einstein's personal and intellectual life than anything else I've read, and it makes for a truly fascinating read. Overbye spent years poring through Einstein's letters and personal papers to research and write this book, and it shows.
There is a wealth of detail describing and chronicling Einstein's life as he struggled with the creation of the momentous scientific discoveries that were to make him famous, especially the long and difficult path to his final solution for the General Relativity problem. Along with this, you get a detailed look even into his personal day-to-day life, learning about his friends, scientific associates, and even his loves. Einstein is no longer a towering, remote intellect plumbing the depths and secrets of the universe in cloistered solitude; Overbye's account displays Einstein's very human side also, showing him to be a man of his times, often with Bohemian and avant-garde personal, social, and political ideas. For example, Overbye mentions how Einstein and his first wife, Mileva, had their first baby out of wedlock, and subsequently married. And the dark side of Einstein's personal life, the unhappy ending to his first marriage and his often careless dealings with the women in his life, don't escape Overbye's purview.
But don't be misled by the title, it's not just about Einstein's sometimes checkered love-life (although he did have more romantic dalliances than I would have expected); Overbye also does an excellent job of presenting Einstein's most important ideas, including a good explanation of the special and general theory of relativity.
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Format: Hardcover
The first comment that comes to mind about Einstein in Love is that Overbye can really write well; I find the prose to be much more enjoyable than that of any other Einstein book I am aware of. Overbye also does a good job of at least attempting to explain relativity to a lay reader, while also not ignoring the other important works of the young Einstein on Brownian motion, gravity, etc. I do find the title more than a little misleading, though - Einstein's marriages to Mileva and Elsa and his dalliances with others seem to have little connection at all with the progress of his scientific thought. I suspect that the title is little more than a device to capture attention and sell books. I also find it odd that the book just seems to end for no apparent reason around the time of his divorce from Mileva. Still, if you want a good read about a true genius and his early life and works, this is one of the better places to turn - just don't expect much "scientific romance," except for the beauty pouring out of Einstein's head.
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