donelle's book blog

book reviews on books I've read

Einstein: His Life and Universe

This book by biographer Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, succeeds in relating the story  the greatest mind of the twentieth century. Isaacson reveals that the source of Einstein’s genius lay with his profound curiosity and his willingness to oppose authority. Einstein’s quest to understand the world around him began while on his sickbed as a boy he sought to understand why the compass always pointed north. While Einstein is most famous for his Theory of Relativity, this Nobel laureate also became a poignant political activist. He opposed any form of dictatorship and was an avid pacifist until the rise of the Nazis. He renounced his German citizenship twice in his lifetime, the first time to avoid military service, and the second when he immigrated to the U.S. Although Einstein was offered the presidency of Israel, he did not support the formation of the Jewish state. believing that Israel’s nationalism, militarism, and the way it treated its Arab minority would get it into trouble. Instead, he proposed Americans simply allow more immigrants into the country.

Isaacson not only enlightens the reader about Einstein’s personal history, but he also explains relativity and Einstein’s other theories in layman’s terms. Of these, there were two notions I found most interesting. Apparently, Einstein did not win the Nobel prize for his Theory of Relativity, but rather for the notion that light is both a particle and a wave. Also, Einstein strove throughout his career to disprove quantum mechanics, instead questing for unified field theory, which he never succeeded in proving. Even on his death bed, he left a string of formulas, which he hoped would lead to the proof of his theory.

Einstein had five children amongst his two wives, three of natural birth with Mileva Maric and two adoptive with Elsa. Not only did he not pass on his genius to his progeny, but he had one child who was institutionalized for schizophrenia. Upon his death, Einstein’s body was cremated, save his head. The pathologist preserved his brain in formaldehyde and sent it off in pieces as scientists requested it for research, much to his family’s chagrin. Apparently, the portion of his brain responsible for math calculations was deeper than that in most brains, but it was otherwise unremarkable.


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This entry was posted on July 16, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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