Jennifer Nelson's Reviews > Einstein: His Life and Universe

Einstein by Walter Isaacson
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's review
Nov 30, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: ny-times-bestseller-list, biography, famous-scientists-project, 2015-books
Read from January 22 to March 10, 2015

Why did you start this book?
A while ago I compiled a list of scientist biographies that I wanted to read. Einstein was one of the first scientists I thought of and this particular biography is one that I have wanted to read for a long time. So I started reading Einstein: His Life and Universe with great anticipation.

Why did you finish this book?
Einstein's life was truly a fascinating one and, although the science part of this book sometimes left me in the dust, his personal life was so intriguing that it was not a chore to get to the end.

What did you like?
Walter Isaacson has produced a truly masterful biography. It is elegant, detailed, insightful, balanced, and quietly beautiful at times. Although I had a hard time understanding the parts that described Einstein's scientific discoveries, I could see that the author put much work into making these parts readable and understandable for the layman.

I really did enjoy reading about this amazing man, so interesting and full of contradictions. He was shy and somewhat reserved, yet good at keeping crowds and reporters entertained. He was very loving and kind in theory, but in practice he could be quite uncaring (particularly to his family). He was an ardent pacifist but completely changed his mind when Hitler came on to the stage of the world. He loved the company of great intellects but found the most contentment being married to a down-to-earth, practical, mother-hen type woman (his second wife), who managed his affairs and made sure he ate (and had absolutely no interest in the theory of relativity). He was religious but dispensed with organized religion. He loved his children deeply but rarely spent time with them. He was definitely not a conventional man. But, what an impact he had on our world. His insatiable curiosity, his amazing focusing abilities, his deep desire to understand how the world worked, his tenacity in the face of adversity - all of these qualities played a role in his revolutionary scientific discoveries that forever changed how humans view the world around them.

It was very sad to read about Einstein's understanding of God - he believed in God but never understood the love God has for us and the personal interaction we can have with God.

What did you not like?
It was not enjoyable to read about Einstein's relationship with his first wife and all of the problems they went through. It was shocking to read about his selfishness and coldness towards her and his children. I also did not like reading about his flings with different women over the years. Marriage was not a sacred thing to him and he seemed to have no qualms searching for love outside of its bonds. Also, some of the science did start to get quite mind-boggling and obscure for me and I really had to grin and bear it through those sections.

There is some talk of Einstein's moral dalliances and perhaps a tiny bit of language.

Would you recommend?
I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Einstein or in his scientific discoveries. It is an excellent read.

"To punish me for my contempt of authority, fate has made me an authority myself."

"Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in fact, religious."

"Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the law of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naïve."

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

"Use for yourself little, but give to others much."

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Reading Progress

01/22/2015 marked as: currently-reading
03/25/2015 marked as: read

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