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Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007)

von Walter Isaacson

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4,507841,931 (4.16)148
The first full biography of Albert Einstein since all of his papers have become available shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. Biographer Isaacson explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk--a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate--became the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals. These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.--From publisher description.… (mehr)
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Einstein was that rare beast, a celebrity scientist. Isaacson captured the personality - the loner who cared about humanity. Einstein was what we instinctively think of when we hear the phrase absent-minded professor. This book is a social history, who did what when. Lots of detail and insights into actions. We learn of Einstein's early rejection of conformity and obedience to authority. He sees the downsides of German society and moves to the more hospitable Switzerland taking Swiss citizenship and avoiding German conscription. He also sees the strength of German science but that attracts him only for a while. While we see him as the eminent mathematics professor we learn his shortcomings both as a mathematician and professor were things that limited him throughout life. While we think of him in conjunction with Princeton University, he actually came to the Institute of Advanced Studies because it required no teaching. Yes he championed Israel but grew less enamored when it became clear Jews and Arabs were not able to resolve differences. He was a socialist, a pacifist, war resister and passionate one-worlder. He understood the need to defeat Hitler and nationalism enough to overcome his passions and advise Roosevelt to build the atom bomb. He had no interest in working on the project. For him knowing the truth was more important than demonstrating it. He was a theoretical physicist and disdained experiments which he felt just proved him correct which he already knew. For some this was arrogance and lead to the end of relationships. Fortunately his unassuming nature was what most people saw. Another side of Einstein which I learned from reading this book was his numerous relationships with women. His violin and smile was infectious. He was clearly given lots of slack.

More important was learning the later half of Einstein's life was in a sense totally unproductive. His major achievements came early in his career. His paper on relativity was published in 1905. The last half of his life was spent poking holes at quantum physics. He was constantly saying "God does not play dice." This was directly aimed at quantum physics which depended on probabilities. He desperately wanted to find a general theory which would unify both gravity and the world of electrons. He felt he was uniquely positioned to work on this as he was already famous and had no need to publish. Younger men had their careers to think about and could not waste time on unpublishable dead ends. So he dreamed on, never finding that unifying equation.

There was one aspect of this book which I found wanting. While we learned much about Einstein's life and were taken through several of the thought experiments he investigated one aspect of his life is virtually unexplored in this book. We learn that Einstein was constantly working on equations with pencil and paper, the tools of his trade. But we never explore those equations. I would have loved to see what each of the terms were contributing but that was not in this book. I didn't read through all the footnotes. Perhaps someone has already written that book. If not looks like there's an opportunity. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Jul 23, 2021 |
Adult nonfiction/Biography. pretty interesting, just really f*ing long. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Isaacson does an absolutely wonderful job at introducing us to one of the most scientifically gifted and pacifistic souls to have lived.

Einstein was truly an inspiring human being, ardent in his belief of internationalism and his distaste for nationalism. He was kind-hearted, compassionate, and caring to the whole of the human race; at the same time he could be detached and austere when it came to his family. He would stand aloof from the pains of personal relationships and would prefer instead the comforts of solitude, where he would lose himself in scientific reverie.

Working as a Swiss Patent Office clerk afforded him a quiet environment in which he had time to dive into his equations and ponder his thought experiments. His annus mirabilis came in 1905, when he released five papers that would upend both Newtonian physics and scientific dogma on its ear.

For the rest of his life he spoke out against war and preached the importance of peace and understanding. He struggled to concede with the uncertainties and randomness of quantum physics and believed until his death that there existed an overall uniformity in the cosmos. God, he said multiple times, didn't play dice. He searched in vain for a unified field theory that unfortunately never came to fruition.

I found this book to be mentally stimulating. Isaacson does a great job at explaining General and Special Relativity. It did take me a couple of slow re-readings of his explanations and a handful of Youtube videos to grasp the concept. I can comfortably say I have a very (very!) basic understanding. How Einstein was able to formulate these theories is astounding. You can't help but aspire to emulate him. A wonderful soul he was. I wish I could've met him.

A highly recommended read. ( )
1 abstimmen ProfessorEX | Apr 15, 2021 |
Enjoyable. Some parts were a slog for me, esp. some of the early years and the early years of marriage. But, it generally gained steam as it went along. Provided some good insights into the man and his work. ( )
  tgraettinger | Nov 30, 2020 |
Baseando-se em cartas e documentos inéditos revela um génio simples e afável.Albert Einstein é um dos maiores ícones da nossa era: o amável refugiado da opressão de cabelo emaranhado, olhos cintilantes, benevolência sedutora e inteligência extraordinária cuja face se tornou um símbolo, e o nome um sinónimo  de genialidade. Desde a infância, foi um rebelde e um inconformista. O seu carácter, a sua criatividade e a sua imaginação interligavam-se e orientaram-lhe a vida e a ciência. Nesta primeira biografia completa desde que todos os textos de Einstein ficaram disponíveis, Walter Issacson mostra-nos não só como a sua mente funciona, mas apresenta-nos também uma maravilhosa e distinta descrição dos mistérios do universo que ele descobriu - e do autêntico ser humano por detrás dos mesmos. Einstein pôs em causa conhecimentos convencionais e maravilhou-se com mistérios que outros consideravam mundanos, o que esteve na origem do seu sucesso, levando-o a abraçar uma moral e uma política baseadas no respeito pela liberdade de espírito e pela individualidade. Rejeitava a tirania e via na tolerância uma condição necessária a qualquer sociedade criativa. Tudo isto o ajudou a converter-se num rebelde que reverenciava a harmonia da natureza, apresentando uma mistura exacta de imaginação e sabedoria capaz de transformar a nossa compreensão do universo.Brilhantemente redigido e irresistivelmente acessível, Einstein: a sua vida e universo é um retrato.
  LuisFragaSilva | Nov 8, 2020 |
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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Walter IsaacsonHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Moerdijk, HenkÜbersetzerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving.
--Albert Einten, in a letter to his son Eduard, February 5, 1930
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To my father,
the nicest, smartest, and most moral man I know
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"I promise you four papers," the young patent examiner wrote his friend.
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They even considered the unlikely possibility that the earth was the only thing at rest with respect to the ether, and that everything else in the cosmos was spinning around, including the other planets, the sun, the stars, and presumably poor Copernicus in his grave.
The leader of the group, Mrs. Randolph Frothingham (who, given this context, seemed as if her distinguished family name had been conjured up by Dickens), submitted a sixteen-page typed memo to the U.S. State Department detailing reasons to "refuse and withhold such passport visa to Professor Einstein."
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The first full biography of Albert Einstein since all of his papers have become available shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. Biographer Isaacson explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk--a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn't get a teaching job or a doctorate--became the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals. These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.--From publisher description.

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