Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein” as Want to Read:
Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,098 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Abraham Pais and Albert Einstein were friends and correspondents for the last nine years of Einstein's life. This definitive account of the life and work of the 20th century's most famous scientist draws on a wealth of previously unpublished papers and personal recollections.
Unknown Binding, 568 pages
Published November 1st 1983 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1982)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Subtle Is the Lord, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Subtle Is the Lord

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
|
Filter
Manny
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People seriously interested in the history of science
In this extremely impressive book, Abraham Pais, himself a good physicist who knew Einstein personally, sets out to write a comprehensive biography of the greatest scientist of modern times. The emphasis is very much on the science, and if you want details on who Einstein slept with you are advised to look elsewhere. I think that's absolutely right; most biographies of Lindsay Lohan are, for similar reasons, equally sketchy concerning her opinions on quantum mechanics.

The rest of this review is
...more
Erik
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really illuminating and surprisingly critical on two fronts. One, Pais is critical of Einstein himself and does not write the usual hagiography of the great man, but deals with him as a working scientist who made occasional errors as all humans do. The relativity "revolution" is put in perspective as a continuation of classical physics, by comparison with the true break with the past that was occurring in quantum theory. He is also aware that Einstein's opposition to quantum theory cannot be dis ...more
Simon Mcleish
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally published on my blog here in June 1998.

Subtle is the Lord... (the Einstein quote finishes "...but he is not malicious") is an excellent biography of Albert Einstein written by an eminent physicist. A fair knowledge of physics is necessary to read this, but reading a biography of Einstein which doesn't convey the work that he did is much less interesting to those who have such a knowledge.

Pais is not uncritical of Einstein. A major theme of his book is to answer the question of why, af
...more
William Mann
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is probably the BEST of all the Einstein biographies on the market. It is not only a bio of Einstein himself, but also of his science. With a combination of life story and physics Pais weaves a detailed tapestry of the history of the birth of modern Physics. This book is not for the faint of heart, it takes dedication and patience to work through. The result, wether you understand all the math or not, is a deeper understanding of Einstein's dedication to the pursuit of the greatest of mirac ...more
William Schram
Subtle is the Lord is a biography of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais. It brilliantly tells the story of Einstein and his development into a world-renowned Physicist. While covering his life, the book also covers the work that Einstein did in Physics. Starting with his youth and childhood, Subtle is the Lord addresses the theories of Einstein being bad in school by presenting his report card. Although it is true that Einstein didn’t particularly like the authoritative atmosphere of his school, he ...more
Arko
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The aspiration of truth is more precious than its assured possession”. Those were Albert Einstein’s words from his autobiographical note written about a month prior he took his last breath. The spirit with which he wrote bears the seed of the pursuit of an unified field theory from which all the attributes of the Nature will pop out. This is an active field of research in theoretical physics of our present time to search for a theory that unifies the quantum and the classical domains. Such were ...more
DJ
May 19, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: physicists interested in einstein's contributions to their field
Shelves: history
Non-physicists need not apply.

This book is an intensely thorough scientific biography of Einstein and is likely a great joy to any physicist interested watching the great man work.

However, if you're simply a pop-sci fan passing through the fascinating world of physics, don't stop to gawk here. You won't comprehend a thing. Instead, mosy on over to Walter Isaacson's 'Einstein: His Life and Dreams.'

I may return to this book later, once I've got some relativity and quantum theory under my belt, in
...more
Graham
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Hmmm... well I think this book should have been called:
" The SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE of Albert Einstein (with a tiny bit of context about his life)"

This is a book by a physicist, for physicists. (I am in no way a physicist.) To his credit, the author makes clear in the introduction that the purpose of the book is to cover Einstein's work, and he even highlights in the contents the (very few) sections in the book which deal with Einstein's life rather than work.

Despite knowing that, I made an att
...more
F Avery
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a saying from "A Brief History of Time" by Steven Hawking to the effect that "For every equation in the book the readership would be halved...". Clearly that doesn't hold in the limit, because by rough estimate this book has 300 or so equations, implying that even if the original readership with no equations were the entire earth's population of seven billion, as published it would be 7 X 10^9 X 2^(-300). So I could not have read the book, but I did.
I have advanced degrees in mathematics
...more
Peterajohnson59yahoo.com
Terrifically clear exposition of Einstein's development as a thinker....Not for those intimidated by equations; but from Brownian motion to Einstein-Bose condensate, one comes away with how his supple mind fit things together. Far more respectful of science - and the scientifically interested reader - than any of the other more superficial biographies of Einstein I've read...
Michael McEllin
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has been on my bookshelf for many years and has been read and reread several times.

OK, you probably need to be a physicist or a mathematician to really understand the technical detail, because this is quite definitely a history of the intellectual development of Einstein rather than a personal biography. For those able to cope with that it is by far the best history of Relativity and Einstein's love-hate relationship with quantum mechanics that is available.
Mohan
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not just a biography of Einstein but a detailed scientific exposition of his theories from mass energy equivalence to relativity to his thoughts on quantum mechanics. This biography is for physicists and for those who love physics.
Carlo Monilla
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
jhbjhj
Raymond
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the Chinese version.
Matt
A very in depth look at the history of Einstein's life work, with enough biography to provide context. This book is replete with the math and details of the theories of Einstein and his contemporaries. The problem is that unless you majored in physics or even studied at the graduate level, you aren't going to comprehend the details. Terms like Brownian motion, blackbody radiation, and covariance are not defined in the text. It is assumed that you have the background in physics to hang with the a ...more
Sharan Banagiri
Oct 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book, a one of a kind biography of Einstein. Pais was a physicist himself who personally knew both Einstein and Bohr, and made this unique biography of the science of Einstein. If you want to know more about the personal life of Einstein, look elsewhere for Pais only gives a faint sketch of it. On the other hand he delves into the science, the philosophy and the thinking of the man. Pais doesn't shy away from equations and leads he reader with the actual math Einstein and others wer ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Much of this book was way above my level of scientific/mathematical comprehension, but described in a manner through which I could understand the gist of Einstein's obsessions and moments of excitement. Occasional chapters in the book were purely biographical, and in them I was able to enjoy the details of his life without the clutter of formulæ. My knowledge of Einstein's history had been too vague, and I now feel much more informed about the man and the state of science in which he arose. This ...more
Daphnée Kwong Waye
Don't get me wrong: the book is interesting and rich. However, for someone who has barely touched science at school like me, at some point, I got lost. The language was clear and easy; the flow of reading was smooth but it was still too scientific for me. I believe this is what the author intended but sadly the book thus cannot reach out to the wide audience. However, I will probably refer to it and go back to it later. Maybe re-read it and then maybe my understanding of science and maths would ...more
Olga Chekeres
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without question, it's an outstanding biography, highly recommended to anyone related to physics.

To my personal taste, the structure of the book is a bit irritating: the author tries to follow the chronological order and at the same time to organize the story according to the scientific subjects on which Einstein was working during his life. Thus, if in the same period E. was working at several topics, the author treating separately each topic, has to describe several times the same personal ba
...more
Steve
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just starting. Looking for a nice easy book about Einstein to read? This ain't it. However, I think it is going to be worth the efforts.

Just finished. I won't pretend that I followed all the math, but I did gain an appreciation for the methods that were used both in mathmatics and seeking to derive the theories using both past advances and indeptedant thought. A very rewarding book and one that is extremely difficult to read. But very much worth the entire five stars.
Luís
Nov 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although being a very well written and informative biography, the book is mostly oriented to Physics lovers and enthusiasts as the author spends a great amount of time talking about physics and explaining the deductions, etc.
Ashish Jaituni
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
A very good biography on Einstein. For a long time and even today it is considered to be among the best biographies of Einstein. I read it a long long time ago in my early days as a student of Physics.
Yanni
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Given the genius of Einstein, I found this biography positively uninteresting and did not learn much about him or his works or thoughts that I already did not know.
Chris Backhouse
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't really a biography of Einstein, more a biography of his scientific output. Lots of hairy equations.
John
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much of the physics was beyond me, although I learned a lot in reading it.
Gabriel Iqbal
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Masterpiece... Roger Penrose himself is a physicist of great rapport. I am particularly interested in his works on consciousness... they are way ahead of conventional limitations.
Rik
Feb 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very nice, very detailled, very informative. Also a bit tough.
Nour Eddine
rated it it was amazing
Apr 20, 2018
Imants Vitols
rated it really liked it
Dec 25, 2016
Warren Tyler
rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Great Physicists: The Life and Times of Leading Physicists from Galileo to Hawking
  • The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell
  • The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom
  • Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory
  • Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics
  • Einstein: The Life and Times
  • Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton
  • Strange Beauty: Murray Gell-Mann and the Revolution in Twentieth-Century Physics
  • Wrinkles in Time
  • Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law
  • Relativity Visualized: The Gold Nugget of Relativity Books
  • Higher Speculations: Grand Theories and Failed Revolutions in Physics and Cosmology
  • No Ordinary Genius: The Illustrated Richard Feynman
  • Euler
  • Gravitation
  • نيوتن: مقدمة قصيرة جداً
  • Disturbing the Universe
  • God's Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding Universe

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
17 followers
Physicist and science historian.
More about Abraham Pais

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth
    $11.74 $1.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt
    $12.74 $2.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival
    $8.49 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • 1968: The Year That Rocked the World
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism
    $13.99 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays
    $17.99 $2.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99
“He had no need to push the everyday world away from him. He just stepped out of it whenever he wished.” 1 likes
“The ultimate unification of weak and electromagnetic interactions has probably not yet been achieved, but a solid beach-head appears to have been established in terms of local non-Abelian gauge theories with spontaneous symmetry breakdown. As a result, it is now widely believed that weak interactions are mediated by massive vector mesons. Current expectations are that such mesons will be observed within the decade. It is widely believed that strong interactions are also mediated by local non-Abelian gauge fields. Their symmetry is supposed to be unbroken so that the corresponding vector mesons are massless. The dynamics of these 'non-Abelian photons' are supposed to prohibit their creation as single free particles. The technical exploration of this theory is in its early stages.” 0 likes
More quotes…