I just finished listening to this comprehensive compendium of the life of the great physicist. This was another Audible listen—a 22-hour listen—and t...moreI just finished listening to this comprehensive compendium of the life of the great physicist. This was another Audible listen—a 22-hour listen—and the reader was the same as for the book John Adams.
Isaacson does a fine job between informing the listener of Einstein's many accomplishments in the realm of physics and giving us pertinent biographical details and analysis of his choices in life. I highly recommend this book for its lucid coverage of the physics involved in a nonmathematical format.
Einstein is most famous for his special and general theory of relativity. And rightly so. But his contributions to physics are legion. Indeed, he did not even win his Nobel Prize for relativity but rather for his explanation of the photoelectric effect which was his application of quantum mechanics to the interaction between light and conductive metals.
Einstein is the only scientist other than Sir Isaac Newton to have what has been termed an annus mirablis—a year of prodigious intellectual output. In one year he came up with special relativity, explained Brownian motion, and wrote a paper on the photoelectric effect.
The book traces his rise to world renown; the discrimination he had to endure as virulent antisemitism raged in Europe; his evolving political views and nuanced take on pacifism; his eventual emigration and renunciation of his German citizenship; his pitiful relationship with his son Eduard who died in an asylum; his strict belief in determinism and uneasiness with quantum mechanics, the field he helped to create; and his failed first marriage to Mileva Marić.
Einstein's many flaws are revealed. He was not faithful in either of his marriages nor was he emotionally close to many around him. He erected a psychological bulwark that few could penetrated. He could, however, display sharp emotions at times. I couldn't help but laugh at this note that he sent his first wife when they were on the verge of divorce:
A. You will see to it that: 1. My clothes and laundry are kept in good order; 2. I will be served three meals regularly in my room; 3. My bedroom and study are kept tidy, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B. You will relinquish all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Particularly, you will forgo my: 1. Staying at home with you; 2. Going out and traveling with you.
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me: 1. You will not expect any tenderness from me, nor will you offer any suggestions to me; 2. You will stop talking to me about something if I request it; 3. You will leave my bedroom or study without any back talk if I request it.
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.
I'm sure if any of us had our lives scrutinized as intensely as Einstein, historians and biographers could dig up more than a few embarrassing notes and tidbits.