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Einstein: His Life and Universe [Hardcover]

Walter Isaacson
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 10 2007
By the author of the acclaimed bestsellers Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs, this is the definitive biography of Albert Einstein.

How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book 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 mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, 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.

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From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed biographer Isaacson examines the remarkable life of "science's preeminent poster boy" in this lucid account (after 2003's Benjamin Franklin and 1992's Kissinger). Contrary to popular myth, the German-Jewish schoolboy Albert Einstein not only excelled in math, he mastered calculus before he was 15. Young Albert's dislike for rote learning, however, led him to compare his teachers to "drill sergeants." That antipathy was symptomatic of Einstein's love of individual and intellectual freedom, beliefs the author revisits as he relates his subject's life and work in the context of world and political events that shaped both, from WWI and II and their aftermath through the Cold War. Isaacson presents Einstein's research—his efforts to understand space and time, resulting in four extraordinary papers in 1905 that introduced the world to special relativity, and his later work on unified field theory—without equations and for the general reader. Isaacson focuses more on Einstein the man: charismatic and passionate, often careless about personal affairs; outspoken and unapologetic about his belief that no one should have to give up personal freedoms to support a state. Fifty years after his death, Isaacson reminds us why Einstein (1879–1955) remains one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th century. 500,000 firsr printing, 20-city author tour, first serial to Time; confirmed appearance on Good Morning America. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Isaacson--formerly the managing editor at Time magazine and head of CNN, currently CEO of the Aspen Institute--has written acclaimed biographies of Henry Kissinger and Benjamin Franklin. In his penetrating and magnificently nuanced biography of Albert Einstein, Isaacson elucidates Einstein's nonconformist and philosophical temperament and the particular nature of his genius within a richly textured social context, and he precisely explains Einstein's "astonishing, mysterious, and counterintuitive" scientific achievements and their epic consequences. Isaacson explores Einstein's valiant advocacy for peace and justice in view of the genocidal anti-Semitism that drove him from Germany and revels in Einstein's pithy humor and role as scientific superstar. Isaacson tells in full the anguished tale of Einstein's disastrous marriage to Mileva Mari? and his appalling missteps as a father, the private failings of a public humanist. But what distinguishes this extraordinarily encompassing and profoundly affecting biography most are Isaacson's empathic insights into painful paradoxes. Einstein believed in an ordered universe of "harmony and beauty," yet his discoveries revealed uncertainty, randomness, and chance. Einstein spent the second half of his life not only attempting to refute his own revolutionary findings but also witnessing the creation of potentially apocalyptic weapons that harnessed the diabolical powers he unveiled. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the better accounts out there July 8 2007
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
In this lengthy and epic biography, Isaacson presents the life of Albert Einstein - regarded by some as the person to represent the genius of the modern age - in all its multi-faceted complexities. First, Einstein is defined as a great mind who had the ability to think in the abstract in order to bring mankind closer to fathoming the truth of its existence. His revolutionary theories on relativity and light particles undoubtedly paved the way for nuclear age. Second, Einstein is shown to be a very humble person who always acknowledged his insignificance in relation to the universe he studied. There are countless examples of this very endearing quality throughout the book. Third, Isaacson's account gives ample coverage to Einstein's scientific and humanitarian achievements in such a way that the reader should have no trouble seeing how self-effacing he was when it came to receiving public recognition. Fourth, Isaacson deals with the controversial and private side of Einstein. This makes for fascinating reading because it forces the reader to weigh the public record on each of the critical incidents against Einstein's version. After wading into the enigmas of his personal life, I came to see him as a willing public figure who did not want to stay out of the public limelight when important issues needed to be resolved. Lastly, Isaacson does a competent job in placing Einstein and his works in the mainstream of history. His tireless search to make sense of the universe became the signature of his life. If you want to know how Einstein handled fascism, communism and the Cold War, the latter part of this story should hold you spell-bound. Marvellous read but be prepared to take your time and absorb a little bit of this man's wonderful and witty persona.
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5.0 out of 5 stars who touches this book... Sept. 28 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
somewhere in "leaves of grass" walt whitman declares, "who touches this book, touches a man" (or something pretty close, i'm too lazy to look up the exact quote). well, the same can be said of wi's biography of "einstein". as isaacson portrays it, einstein's life was filled with triumph and tragedy, some of which is widely known (his scientific achievement, for ex), other aspects of which less widely known (his relationship with his first wife and their 2 children); but whether writing about the public or private einstein, isaacson brings to the task a unique blend of scholarly objectivity and personal assesment. it's pretty obvious -- to this reader, at least -- that isaacson likes and admires einstein -- why else would he devote years to writing an 800 page biography?-- and by the end, the reader as well comes to like-- perhaps even more than like -- the bushy-haired genius who attended a black-tie dinner sans socks. but nothing i can say about this biography will do either its author or subject justice. it is a classic in its own right; my only regret was that it has a last page.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating and educational reading. Sept. 9 2013
By Vic
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Not only do you learn the fascinating facts concerning the nuances of this genious's life and thinking, but one gets a grasp on (as best as a non physicist can) some basic concepts in theoretical physics.
I enjoyed the book very much.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I studied physics in the 1960's and was totally fascinated. I relive my enthusiasm through Walter Isaacson's excellent biography.
He captures the essence of Einsteins's work(no mean feat) and also the man himself. What a powerful force he was for independent thinking and freedom as a social value. That appeals to all of us now - whatever political stripe. How prophetic he was even though considered naive by many. We were naive to think that war would solve anything. His view of God is totally modern. His humility in the face of nature's magnificent design is beautiful. There is a God but he does not help us win lotteries. He is concerned with bigger things. His design is everything - all follows from that.
His emphasis on experimental proof of his theories was exemplary and showed great confidence. He loved the music of Mozart and I believe that - like Mozart - his creativity was inspired by God. He admits that he was privileged to make these discoveries
He was chosen to reveal natures secrets - hence the humility. I don't know how that works.
Thank you Walter for your great work. I find it rejuvenating.
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