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Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter…

Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007)

by Walter Isaacson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 69 (next | show all)
This is an interesting biography of Einstein. Isaacson is a little starstruck. He also doesn't seem to really grasp the physics–which is pretty unfortunate considering it is mostly over a hundred years old by now. (Isaacson does try to explain the biggest ideas, and his explanations usually aren't terrible.) What bothered me most, though, is that there is little deep analysis of Einstein. Maybe Isaacson didn't feel qualified to make judgements himself, but he generally takes Einstein's words at face value, without trying to look for deeper patterns. This is especially problematic, for example, when Isaacson tries to explain how Einstein came up with his great ideas—he unskeptically uses quotes of Einstein from decades later. Einstein obviously changed a lot, particularly in his religious views, so I don't think Isaacson is justified here. Isaacson's theses (Einstein's breakthroughs were because of his nonconformity, compared to other physicists, and from his deep belief in the simplicity of nature) are disputable. I don't think Isaacson appreciates how much some of these ideas were "in the air" of the time, as scientists say. Somebody was going to discover them within a few years of Einstein. But Einstein got there first.

I still learned a lot about Einstein. His life, especially in his later years, was maybe less interesting than I had expected. Einstein was still dedicated to working in physics, but without significant successes. Sadly. I learned about his political work, though, for example his opposition to McCarthyism and his support for a supreme world power to guarantee peace (unification in . ( )
  breic | Feb 17, 2019 |
Wonderful. On the other hand, I think that even if my son had written the story of Einstein's life in a book, I would still believe that is a great book. ( )
  Ramonremires | Jan 14, 2019 |
Here's a chance to become more intimately acquainted with an exceptional life that straddles both world wars, a biography that introduces the reader to the histories of England, Germany, Switzerland, England, Israel, Italy and Japan in relation to both conflicts .

The pre & post war economies, businesses, and careers possible as described here seem a world away from today. Seeing them from the perspective of Einsteins life, his family's ups and downs , and the way they separate colleagues, couples, siblings, parents and children forces the reader to consider the wars as more than a VE Day vignette .

More than a history of 20th century physics, here is also an in depth look at the personalities who shaped the way we look at today's universe and the concepts they entertained, pursued, and developed.

This bio shows many of the false starts and might have beens as Einstein sought entrance at school, later tried and failed to gained teaching posts, and a gainful occupation. His romantic and family life were similarly a series of trial and error, pleasure and sorrow.

But, perhaps most remarkably here too is a celebration of music, a life that intersects with politics and academia, with loves great and small for sailing, tobacco, the comforts of home.

In the end it's images of small things like a knife in a lakeside cottage in Germany that I will remember about this remarkable man and his unusual life. ( )
  nkmunn | Nov 17, 2018 |
What a great book: so readable, even for a non-science, non-math person like me.

I loved that the pathologist at Princeton Hospital, who performed the autopsy on him (after death and before cremation) stole his brain, embalmed it, made slices of it, and randomly gave pieces away until he was in his 80s. All without permission from anyone. Dr. Harvey was a Quaker!!

Einstein had my sympathies throughout, for the most part. His relationship with women was nothing to be proud of, but his take on the new state of Israel showed sagacity. Without humane treatment if the Arabs who lived there, there would never be peace.

Another book that needs a reread! ( )
  kaulsu | Sep 29, 2018 |
This another book that I have a hard time reviewing. Isaacson is an outstanding writer who certainly knows how to tell a story. However, I was simply not gripped by this one. Even with the layman's breakdown, I still had a hard time following much of the science explanations dealing with Einstein and his ideas. Also, I did not care at all for Einstein the person. I felt he was condescending toward women and terrible to women closest to him. He never even met his first child and was distant and incredibly selfish in his attitude toward his other children. I know he did great things in science and was a cultural icon for his time, but I could not get past how little he cared for his family. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
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Moerdijk, HenkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving.
--Albert Einten, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930
To my father,
the nicest, smartest, and most moral man I know
First words
"I promise you four papers," the young patent examiner wrote his friend.
They even considered the unlikely possibility that the earth was the only thing at rest with respect to the ether, and that everything else in the cosmos was spinning around, including the other planets, the sun, the stars, and presumably poor Copernicus in his grave.
The leader of the group, Mrs. Randolph Frothingham (who, given this context, seemed as if her distinguished family name had been conjured up by Dickens), submitted a sixteen-page typed memo to the U.S. State Department detailing reasons to "refuse and withhold such passport visa to Professor Einstein."
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Quando, nel 1900, Lord Kelvin dichiarò che la fisica non aveva ormai "nulla di nuovo da scoprire", il mondo scientifico non sospettava che, di lì a pochi anni, gli articoli di un giovane impiegato dell'Ufficio brevetti di Berna, basati su esperimenti mentali, avrebbero rivoluzionato la scienza. Albert Einstein, il mite rifugiato in fuga dall'oppressione, con la sua aureola di capelli arruffati, gli occhi pensosi, la sua accattivante umanità e il suo limpido genio spicca come icona suprema del Novecento. Gli impulsi ribelli, la curiosità, le passioni e l'elegante distacco che permeano la sua produzione scientifica hanno dominato anche la vita affettiva e la dimensione politica dell'uomo Einstein. A un secolo di distanza dalle sue straordinarie scoperte risulta ancora stupefacente che un giovane studioso sia riuscito da solo a ridisegnare l'universo. Come funzionava la sua mente? Quanto influiva l'intuizione e quanto la logica nel suo modo di pensare? Che cosa fece di lui un genio? Walter Isaacson ci offre una biografia completa di Einstein, probabilmente lo scienziato più famoso e più amato di tutti i tempi, cercando di indagare lo stretto legame tra creatività e libertà che fece di un fisico teorico capace delle più complicate astrazioni un personaggio pubblico di grande carisma, impegnato a difendere la causa della pace e della giustizia sociale.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743264738, Hardcover)

As a scientist, Albert Einstein is undoubtedly the most epic among 20th-century thinkers. Albert Einstein as a man, however, has been a much harder portrait to paint, and what we know of him as a husband, father, and friend is fragmentary at best. With Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson (author of the bestselling biographies Benjamin Franklin and Kissinger) brings Einstein's experience of life, love, and intellectual discovery into brilliant focus. The book is the first biography to tackle Einstein's enormous volume of personal correspondence that heretofore had been sealed from the public, and it's hard to imagine another book that could do such a richly textured and complicated life as Einstein's the same thoughtful justice. Isaacson is a master of the form and this latest opus is at once arresting and wonderfully revelatory. --Anne Bartholomew

Read "The Light-Beam Rider," the first chapter of Walter Isaacson's Einstein: His Life and Universe. Five Questions for Walter Isaacson

Amazon.com: What kind of scientific education did you have to give yourself to be able to understand and explain Einstein's ideas?

Isaacson: I've always loved science, and I had a group of great physicists--such as Brian Greene, Lawrence Krauss, and Murray Gell-Mann--who tutored me, helped me learn the physics, and checked various versions of my book. I also learned the tensor calculus underlying general relativity, but tried to avoid spending too much time on it in the book. I wanted to capture the imaginative beauty of Einstein's scientific leaps, but I hope folks who want to delve more deeply into the science will read Einstein books by such scientists as Abraham Pais, Jeremy Bernstein, Brian Greene, and others.

Amazon.com: That Einstein was a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office when he revolutionized our understanding of the physical world has often been treated as ironic or even absurd. But you argue that in many ways his time there fostered his discoveries. Could you explain?

Isaacson: I think he was lucky to be at the patent office rather than serving as an acolyte in the academy trying to please senior professors and teach the conventional wisdom. As a patent examiner, he got to visualize the physical realities underlying scientific concepts. He had a boss who told him to question every premise and assumption. And as Peter Galison shows in Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps, many of the patent applications involved synchronizing clocks using signals that traveled at the speed of light. So with his office-mate Michele Besso as a sounding board, he was primed to make the leap to special relativity.

Amazon.com: That time in the patent office makes him sound far more like a practical scientist and tinkerer than the usual image of the wild-haired professor, and more like your previous biographical subject, the multitalented but eminently earthly Benjamin Franklin. Did you see connections between them?

Isaacson: I like writing about creativity, and that's what Franklin and Einstein shared. They also had great curiosity and imagination. But Franklin was a more practical man who was not very theoretical, and Einstein was the opposite in that regard.

Amazon.com: Of the many legends that have accumulated around Einstein, what did you find to be least true? Most true?

Isaacson: The least true legend is that he failed math as a schoolboy. He was actually great in math, because he could visualize equations. He knew they were nature's brushstrokes for painting her wonders. For example, he could look at Maxwell's equations and marvel at what it would be like to ride alongside a light wave, and he could look at Max Planck's equations about radiation and realize that Planck's constant meant that light was a particle as well as a wave. The most true legend is how rebellious and defiant of authority he was. You see it in his politics, his personal life, and his science.

Amazon.com: At Time and CNN and the Aspen Institute, you've worked with many of the leading thinkers and leaders of the day. Now that you've had the chance to get to know Einstein so well, did he remind you of anyone from our day who shares at least some of his remarkable qualities?

Isaacson: There are many creative scientists, most notably Stephen Hawking, who wrote the essay on Einstein as "Person of the Century" when I was editor of Time. In the world of technology, Steve Jobs has the same creative imagination and ability to think differently that distinguished Einstein, and Bill Gates has the same intellectual intensity. I wish I knew politicians who had the creativity and human instincts of Einstein, or for that matter the wise feel for our common values of Benjamin Franklin.

More to Explore

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Kissinger: A Biography
The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:50 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The first full biography of Albert Einstein since all of his papers have become available shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. Biographer Isaacson explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk--a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate--became the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals. These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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