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E=mc²: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  4,827 ratings  ·  272 reviews
E=mc2. Just about everyone has at least heard of Albert Einstein's formulation of 1905, which came into the world as something of an afterthought. But far fewer can explain his insightful linkage of energy to mass. David Bodanis offers an easily grasped gloss on the equation. Mass, he writes, "is simply the ultimate type of condensed or concentrated energy," whereas energy ...more
Kindle Edition, 362 pages
Published (first published 2000)
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It may not seem strange that I include a history book in my top 20...until you consider that the history book is not about a person--or a civilization--or an era. It is about an equation. E=mc2.

There are lots of biographies of Einstein, and I think the best may have just been published(I am currently reading "Einstein: His Life and Universe" by Walter Isaacson.)

But rather than write about the professor, Bodanis discusses each of the five elements of the equation. He also talks about the people
Riku Sayuj
A very well constructed story. Turned out to be of less scientific insight than I had hoped but was full of delightful historical factoids. Full review to follow.
Nov 20, 2009 Greg marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A customer at work:

"This title is so stupid, who knows that this would even mean, 'e equals mc two. How the hell am I supposed to know what this book is even about?"
Quick Version:

This book is a well laid out explanation of each part of the equation, its history, and its role in our universe.

Long Version:

The genesis of David Bodanis’ book was an interview he read in which actress Cameron Diaz expressed the desire-serious or in jest-to know what E=mc² really meant. Bodanis realized that the truth is that very few people have even a rudimentary knowledge of the usefulness of the world’s most famous equation; this book is his attempt to rectify that.

The format
A very entertaining read. The book is about some of the people and discoveries that made it possible for Einstein to come up with his famous equation. Then it discusses some of the ramifications of his famous formula. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I should state that I am not the sort of reader this author had in mind when he wrote this book. He cites actress Cameron Diaz saying that she would like to know what E=mc2 means. So not written for a PhD engineer. Still . . .

It should be possible to write a book that explains the science without simplifying to the point of misleading.

Without focusing on a small number of historical persons and giving them credit for advances that were not theirs

Without making some seem more like mystics than sc
I'm not quite sure why I keep going back to these history of science books, but I enjoy them. E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation is pretty much what it says. But if you're looking for just another Albert Einstein biography, author David Bodanis is mostly going to disappoint you here. It's more like a biography of the eponymous equation, examining each term (heck, even the equal sign) in great detail and giving a thorough accounts of the history of each piece and the impact it ...more
the gift
unique take on the memorable equation. do not know why some of the various stories seemed familiar, but then i do read a bit, i am interested in science, in cosmology, even if it is not like my math is good enough. easy read by focusing on biographical elements of each part of the equation, including some names i had heard before- du chatelet, voltaire, maxwell, hoyle etc- and some new, women mostly, who had been written out of scientific history. long sections to the end, future reading, notes, ...more
Susan from MD
The book is definitely for non-physicists and it takes a new approach to describing the equation, the Theory of Relativity (General and Special), and how the equation is applied. The first section takes each of the components of the equation and gives a brief history, often by way of a scientist who worked on that particular component. The next sections follow the "life" of the equation from its early days through current applications - from discussions of space-time to the atomic bomb to black ...more
Aug 16, 2012 rabbitprincess rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like science non-fiction
Recommended to rabbitprincess by: Go Review That Book!
* * * 1/2

How does one write the "biography" of an equation? Sure, it's "born" whenever the person invents it, but equations can't exactly grow up, marry and die, at least not in the way living things can. David Bodanis's approach to biography is to first explain each part of the equation (E, =, m, c2) and the scientific developments that led to these elements being used in common scientific parlance, and then to trace the history of the whole equation, from when Einstein first developed it to ho
It looks like I cannot get enough of Historical Science books. This is yet another book that surprised me. In this book, the Author presents History and the impact of Einstein's famous equation. He initially tries to give a decent historical account of how the equation came about.

The book has its downsides. I really felt the equation could have been explained in much more exciting way than the Author did. But, I did like the fact that the Author focused in great detail about making of the Atomi
Roshan B
This book includes the history behind the theory proposed by Albert Einstein in his miracle year, 1905. The different transcripts and citations help us to draw a conclusion that E=mc^2 came into existence due to thorough contributions from Einstein's predecessors. It was a team work spread over a period of two and half centuries. Sir Isaac Newton was the first one to initiate research in the domain, which was later carried forward by the Faradays and the Rutherfords. Albert Einstein was instrume ...more
Looking at other reviews of this book it's apparent that it allowed many of its readers to finally understand the famous equation. Apparently I'm either too stupid or too inquisitive, but my experience was quite different.

In my opinion this is mostly a history book, just like one could expect from its subtitle "A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation". It provides comprehensive historical background, spiced up with a lot of little known facts about people, whose work eventually contribu
Aleisha Z Coleman
I am having a hard time not being impressed with myself because this is the second book in the "hard" scientific realm that I have just adored (the first being "A Short History of Everything"). It had such an impressively daunting title that I couldn't have explained except that it has something to do with Einstein. However, I am confident that I could explain the basics of this equation after reading this book. In addition, it has motivated me to find out more of how this equation influenced hi ...more
Bodanis' new look at an old equation resulted in a surprisingly fantastic book. Not only did it trace the ancestry of E=mc2, but it provided the best biography of women in the early sciences that I have read to date. Through reading Bodanis' perspective on the collaboration of a theory that allowed us to understand how energy turns into matter and matter into energy, I came to unexpectedly love scientists Emilie du Châtelet, Cecilia Payne, and others in deeper way than before. Though I already l ...more
A very interesting, if not so technical, perspective on E=mc^2. I wished it had been more technical, but I am sure I can find plenty of other books out there. What I liked most about this book was that it was NOT another Einstein biography. The book actually focused very little on Einstein, rather exploring the achievements leading up to his discovery and the implications thereafter. I particularly enjoyed that and find it most enlightening. It was not, however, wholly linear, which tended to be ...more
A very accessible introduction to the ideas behind the equation that everyone knows, but very few actually understand. I love reading science books like this: light on the math and heavy on the anecdotes. Even though I'm familiar with a good deal of the content, and have read about it in a great deal more depth elsewhere, it's great to review such a complicated set of ideas in a new way and the premise (a chapter for each component of the equation) is really fun. It won't do much for the hardcor ...more
Evan Patchen
When most consider the scientific contributions of Albert Einstein, what often comes to mind is his famous 1905 equation, E=mc2, but the meaning of this powerful discovery is quite frequently lost on people. Though it is commonly known that E=mc2, quite possibly the “world’s most famous equation”, is of great importance, despite being short and easily readable, this equivalency is hardly understood by most people. In his work, E=mc2: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation, David Bodanis ...more
Rob Charpentier
In popular culture, Einstein’s name is synonymous with the word genius. His famous equation of E=mc2 is likewise equally known but admittedly little understood other than in a very fundamental sense. This book offers a chance for the layman to grasp the components of this famous theorem of Albert’s in a very novel and thoroughly entertaining manner.

Each component of this equation is broken down into individual histories, starting with an explanation of the concepts behind the symbol E, represent
Laura Walin
Jos tämä kirja olisi loppunut sivulle 230/379, olisin antanut sille neljä tähteä epäröimättä. Idea oli loistava, kertoakin yhtälön elämäkerta lähtien esivanhemmista (E, =, m, c ja 2), nuoruudesta, kukoistuksesta jne.Lisäksi teoksessa oli mielestäni erittäin hyvin osattu selittää ko. yhtälön merkitys tällaiselle maallikollekin, jolla on vertailupohjana kuitenkin melko paljon alan popularisoituja teoksia. Oivalsin jotain uutta.

Kirjan ongelmana on kuitenkin rakenne. Ensin epilogi "Mitä Einstein myö
it does explain the equation well, though the book is much more than that. 4 stars is a bit generous, I am rounding up. It uses the equation as a spring board for expansion of how the equation applies to both the creation of the bomb and how it applies to astronomical energy...
Cooper Carpenter
I thought this book was very enlightening, by the fact that the one was able to learn the history around some basic principles that are involved in the equation "E=mc^2" and how they have formulated. I found the connection between religion and new scientific theories in the 18th century a shock, such as the connection of magnetism and electricity by the theory that they both emit circular pluses instead of linear one, the basis of this theory being that people are holy and they work to complete ...more
Pongsak Sarapukdee
ไมใชเรืองของไอนไตนเพียงคนเดียว แตเปนเรืองราวของนักวิทยาศาสตรหลายๆคนทีมีสวนเกียวของกับสมการ E=mc2 ตังแตยุคแรกของการคิดคนจนถึงการนำไปใชงานอยางจริงจัง ...more
Angelina EVHS Cayabyab
This book is well written and very straightforward with describing the history behind the world's first equation, and what the equation simply means. The book starts from what made the author interested in making this scientific journalist book, to personal accounts of famous scientists/mathematicians behind the equation, to the biography of Albert Einstein (since he dedicated his life the most to find this equation; he believed to be the "simple equation for everything in life"), to the legacy ...more
Damien Walker
This is one of the better explorations of Einstein's work on mass-energy equivalence, especially if you're less interested in the maths and more interested in what E=mc2 actually means. It's very readable, assumes little prior knowledge and does a great job of exploring the meaning of each element of the equation - what are E, m and c? He even explains where = came from.

Bodanis writes well and does as good a job of visualising and explaining some pretty abstract concepts. He wanders a little at
History told like a story. If you like physics and history you will enjoy this book.
Dirk Dierickx
Dit is best wel een leuk book, als je geeky/nerdy genoeg bent tenminste.
Op de cover van mijn examplaar staat Einstein, dus zou je snel de fout kunnen maken dat dit over een biografie gaat van de bekenste geleerder aller tijden, maar niets is minder waar.
De subtitel 'Biografie van de bekenste formule' vat het helemaal samen. De formule wordt uit elkaar gehaald en naalde voor draadje besproken en uitgelegd. Zo krijgt elk element zijn geschiedenis en oorsprong. Ja, zelfs het gelijkheidsteken krijgt
Liked it very much-- fascinating work of history of science that is organized in a reader friendly way. The kind of book anyone interested in science would find helpful as it explains these concepts that some of us assume are beyond us in clear and grounded ways that allow you to enter and understand that world. It is the kind of writing one wishes there were more of, and that perhaps high school students should be reading so as to feel empowered, rather than being cowed or self selecting out (a ...more
Liu Zhen
Title: E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation
Author: David Bodanis
Pages: 337
Publisher: 0425181642 (ISBN13: 9780425181645)
E=mc2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation is by far, one of my favourite biography book. I have never read such an entertaining book where I felt such a passion towards science. I have always hated science in the past two years in high school. But this book really opens my eyes to the beauty of this simple equation with splendid stories and histo
Dennis Littrell
Bodanis, David. E=MC2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation (2000)
Vivid, readable and compelling

This is science history framed as a biography about Albert Einstein's famous equation, and an especially good read. Bodanis begins with Einstein in the Bern Patent Office in 1905, and then goes back in time to examine each of the elements in Einstein's equation in turn, starting with energy, followed by the equals sign, then mass, and then the speed of light (where I learned that the "c" i
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