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Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald W.…

Einstein: The Life and Times (1971)

by Ronald W. Clark

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Einstein was a remarkable man. I was aware of this and knew his reputation as a brilliant scientist who postulated the theory of reletivity.

But there was more to the man than this. There are three main things in his life he dedicated himself to. Science was his greatest love, followed by pacifisim, and Zionism.

WWI deeply affected Einstein. He saw his brother scientists turn their minds to creating better ways to kill their fellowmen and it disturbed him. After WWI he spent a great deal of time and effort arguing for mutal disarment and made speeches encouraging the men in Europe to refuse to serve in the military and if drafted to refuse to serve. There was a lot of support for this type of thinking in the years between the world wars and there was a great number of people who could not fathom another world war or even major military conflict ever taking place in Europe.

Einstein made speaches, lent his name to groups, and wrote in support of a pacivistic viewpoint. After the rise of Hiter, the dispelling of Jews from professional engagement in education and science in Germany, and the rise of military might in Germany Einstien changed his mind and believed that military service was appropriate and that Hiter and Germany had to be stopped using violence.

Most people know that he was somehow involved with the atomic bomb. He did not work directly on the project but he acted to initiate the project by sending a letter to president Roosevelt about the research that was going on that could produce a prodigious explosion bigger than any so far achieved. He was concerned that the Germany military might develop it first and gain a disturbing advantage over the allies. While he probably knew from conversations with scientists involved in the actual development of the bomb, and contributed some brain power to solving some issues, he did not participate directly nor was he given security clearence to do so.

In the years after WWII he sated he regretted sending the letter.

The persecution of the Jews in Germany drove Einstein to embrace his Jewish roots. One fact I found interesting was that as Jews were being driven from their educational posts in Germany books written by Jews, even those who had lived their whole lives in Germany and never learned Hewbrew had their books marked "translated from Hebrew" so that the German public would know that the ideas in the book were probably rubbish based on the race of the author.

Even before the war Einstein worked with other Jews in establishing Jewish higher education in what was to become Israel. He helped raise funds for the Jewish people there and later, for displaced German Jewish academics as they were being driven out of Germany.

At the passing of the first prime minister of Israel his name was suggested as a suitable replacement. He declined citing his age and health as good reasons for his action.

Einstein never stopped working on his scientific research. While his most earthmoving theory was postulated in his earlier age he continued thinking and proposing ideas about how the universe worked until he passed away.

You cannot understand Einstein unless you understand that a major part of what made him tick was his belief in the importance of the empowering of the individual when it comes to self education and actualization. Einstein had a terrible time in school at a younger age. The highly regimented classroom and typical German instruction methods were something he resented and spoke against for the rest of his life. His ability to come up with the theory of reletivity was related to his ability to think outside the box of conventional ways of looking at the universe. When it comes to discipline modern American schools are nothing like German schools. However, I wonder if he would disapprove of the cookie cutter approach we take to education? I suspect not.

A note on religion, it seems Einstein is quoted by everyone who is for, against, or unsure whether God exists. He commented on an accusation that he was a godless communist once and advised that he believed in God, a view he repeated on many occaisions, but later clarified that he did not have any sort of relationship with a personal God. He was a theist but it does not appear that there is evidience that would support an argument that he was a devout Christian, Catholic, Jew, or practicing member of another religion. I suppose because people view him as such a brilliant person that his opinion lends credibility to what you think about the existance of God if it agrees with what you believe.

I felt the author did a good job of not stooping to hagiography, did a decent job of explaining the theory of relativity in a way that allowed me to understand what he was talking about, and the significant effect that the theory had on the world of science. I felt like I understood to a decent degree the man behind the accomplishments and some of the things that made him tick. Overall this book was lengthy, seemed to cover the subject well, and seemed to maintain a good tone relating to the main character, and drew from many sources to create a picture of a brilliant life. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
He had some personal failings, but Albert Einstein has for most of my life been one of my most admired characters. This excellent biography, with 200+ photographs, is a fine look at his life, work and ideas. The science is clearly explained without mathematics (quite a trick for the Relativity Theory). A useful reference of the man who said that God does not play dice with the universe. It pleases me that his life and mine overlapped a little (he died a year after I was born. I don't know why that pleases me; it just does.) ( )
1 vote burnit99 | Jan 4, 2007 |
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"I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy."
Albert Einsten (quoted by Philipp Frank in "Einstein's Philosophy of Science,"
Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol. 21, No. 3, July 1949)
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The story of Albert Einstein, scientist, philosopher, and contemporary conscience, with all its impact and influence, would fit better within the walls of a library than between the covers of a single book.
The ife of Albert Einstein has a dramatic quality that does not rest exclusively on his theory of relativity.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038001159X, Mass Market Paperback)


Ronald W. Clark's definitive biography of Einstein, the Promethean figure of our age, goes behind the phenomenal intellect to reveal the human side of the legendary absent-minded professor who confidently claimed that space and time were not what they seemed. Here is the classic portrait of the scientist and the man: the boy growing up in the Swiss Alps, the young man caught in an unhappy first marriage, the passionate pacifist who agonized over making The Bomb, the indifferent Zionist asked to head the Israeli state, the physicist who believed in God.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This is the story of a German who hated the Germans, the pacifist who changed his mind, the ambivalent Zionist who was asked to head the Israeli state, and the physicist who believed in God. He was one of the greatest contradictions of our times.

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