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

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  4,050 ratings  ·  250 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...more
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.
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.
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?"
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...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...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
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...
Pongsak Sarapukdee
ไม่ใช่เรื่องของไอน์ไตน์เพียงคนเดียว แต่เป็นเรื่องราวของนักวิทยาศาสตร์หลายๆคนที่มีส่วนเกี่ยวของกับสมการ E=mc2 ตั้งแต่ยุคแรกของการคิดค้นจนถึงการนำไปใช้งานอย่างจริงจัง
History told like a story. If you like physics and history you will enjoy this book.
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...more
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...more

Había oído hablar bastantes veces de este libro, y finalmente lo encontré barato. Y no saben cuánto me alegro. David Bodanis [DB] justifica en el prólogo el porqué de un libro como éste: En una reunión de amigos, todos ellos “de letras”, surgió el tema de conversación de E=mc2, y DB, curioso, preguntó si todos conocían esta ecuación. ¡Por supuesto que sí! ¡Es una ecuación famosísima de Einstein! ¿Y sabéis qué significa? Ah, ni idea. DB utilizó esta excusa para profundizar en todo lo relacionado

Not too long ago I was under the false impression that I hated science. I was one of thoooose kids in school, the “science sucks, it’s too static, too hard, takes away life’s mysteries, etc,” but really that was just me keeping my head in the sand and not being educated. I’ve taken it on myself to read as much about science as I can to fill gaps in my knowledge. The more I study science, the more I am convinced that it adds to the poetry of life by providing another perspective in this great mys...more
David Plunkett
I picked "A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation" for my Goodreads project. I believe the Author's purpose in this novel was to present facts about the creation of Einstein's Equation, E=MC Squared, and the events leading to the making of the Atomic Bomb. The theme of this story was to give the reader information as to how Einstein's Famous Equation was created. This novel also presented knowledgeable facts as to why Einstein created this equation. The Author used the style of narration...more
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
This is not a bad read, but it has some major flaws.

For one, this book is aimed at kindergartners.

Fay Weldon , in an ebullient blurb, claims that by reading this book she achieved an understanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity “by osmosis”. I’m afraid my brain does not work that way. For me, insight is based on facts, concepts and reasoning. And some concepts are not easy, and some sophisticated reasoning is sometimes necessary to "get" a difficult theory. In principle, all of this can be e...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
For the ones, who look under the surface

I always hated to learn and calculate the formulas for physics and mathematics in school. So why would I deal with it in my free time?

This is a book about the world’s most famous equation that nearly everyone can recite, but almost no one can explain it correctly and comprehensibly. David Bodanis explains us much more than the origins and consequences of Einstein’s discovery that mass and energy are interchangeable, and that energy equals mass times the sp...more
Emily Ann Meyer
This was an increadibly engaging, abosorbing, and fully readable book for so esoteric a subject.

The author broke down each element of the equation devoting a chapter to E (and how scientists found that energy is energy, is energy regardless of the form it takes - and also the wave rather than linear concept thereof) a chapter to = (yes the equals sign), a chapter to m basically getting into the laws of conservation of matter, a chapter to c (the constant of the speed of light - put it in terms...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...more
I loved loved LOVED this book. It took the two types of books that I adore and combined them wonderfully. The author took the most famous scientific equation in the world and gave us its biography. For Einstein to muse that mass and energy were interchangeable was a mind-blowing discovery that CHANGED THE WAY WE SEE THE WORLD. But as every creative genius knows, they are standing on the shoulders of those that came and discovered before them ~ all so that they might catch a glimpse more.

This bo...more
I'd give this a 3.5. I found the beginning to be a little slow, but once the book moved more into people's lives and the rush for the A-bomb things really picked up. One thing to note is the enthusiasm of the author. I never expected to see so many exclamation points in a book about science, but maybe that's just because I lack imagination. While at times Bodanis seems to lay it on a little thick, there are parts of the book in which I genuinely shared his enthusiasm. Learning about the practica...more
I just sat at Dean & Deluca reading this through. It was a book I had stolen from a guest (not very nice, I know, but I had to read it once I saw the title. I'm working on a new art piece based partly on physics.) It is a really interesting book on the history of the science behind the equation and then how it has been used since. It's partly a little lesson in physics for us non-scientist types. (I do seem to know a lot of physicists so it's useful information for parties.) And a little hea...more
May 21, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Imaginative types
Shelves: nonfiction
This book made me fall in love with physics all over again. Much like spinning together a crazy plot or fairy tale, scientists must think "out-of-the-box" in order to take a theory to the next level. You kind of feel lighter than air as you read about their thought process.

I loved picturing Einstein at his home with his newborn son on his knee, plotting how light affects the conversion from mass to energy. There is something fantastic about equations--the way all the pieces fit together is quit...more
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