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Einstein: His Life and Universe

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Einstein was a rebel and nonconformist from boyhood days, and these character traits drove both his life and his science. In this narrative, Walter Isaacson explains how his mind worked and the mysteries of the universe that he discovered.

675 pages, Hardcover

First published April 10, 2007

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About the author

Walter Isaacson

96 books16.6k followers
Walter Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of Time. He is the author of 'Leonardo da Vinci; The Innovators; Steve Jobs; Einstein: His Life and Universe; Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. Visit him at Isaacson.Tulane.edu and on Twitter at @WalterIsaacson

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,301 reviews
Profile Image for Laurel.
404 reviews193 followers
August 14, 2008
I decided to read this book primarily because of my fiance's interest in Einstein's life and theories. I thought it might help me to actually have a somewhat intelligent reply on the rare occasion he starts talking physics (don't tell him I said so, but he is much smarter than I am). :)

I felt a bit daunted by the length of it at first (700 pages, or 22 hours on 18 CDs), but the book is engrossing from the start. The periodic and quite detailed descriptions of Einstein's theories and research were a bit (okay, maybe way) over my head at times, but that didn't in any way damper my enjoyment of the book. When I did understand the physics, I found it all rather fascinating. I especially enjoyed learning the details of Einstein's life, relationships, struggles and philosophies. In fact, much to my surprise, there were times I had trouble putting this book down. Isaacson creates a vivid and engaging portrait of who Einstein was as a whole -- both the brilliant and the quirky -- and gives us a wonderful glimpse into how this man's amazing mind led to some of the most incredible scientific discoveries in history. Very well-written and meticulously researched.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
October 26, 2021
Einstein : His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson

How did Einstein's mind work?

What made him a genius?

Isaacson's biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality.

A very detailed and exciting story about the greatest scientist of all time, with whom only Sir Newton himself can possibly be compared. E = mc2

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نهم ماه ژوئن سال2011میلادی

عنوان: زندگی و جهان اینشتین؛ نویسنده: والتر ایساکسن؛ برگردان: علی بهفروز؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، دانشگاه تهران، سال1389، در700ص، فروست انتشارات دانشگاه تهران، شماره3084، چاپ دوم سال1393؛ در704ص؛ شابک9789640360514؛ موضوع: اینشتین، آلبرت، از سال1879میلادی تا سال1955م.؛ فیزیکدانان، سرگذشتنامه، نسبیت، نظریه میدان واحد از نویسندگان آلمانی تبار ایالات متجده آمریکا - سده 20م

نظریه‌ پرداز بزرگ نسبیت بودند و تئوری
E = mc2
را ارائه دادند که پیامد آن دانشمندان فیزیک، به انرژی هسته ای دست یافتند

چگونه ذهن ایشان کار میکرد؟ چه چیزی ایشان را به یک نابغه بدل کرد؟ بیوگرافی «والتر ایساکسن» نشان میدهد، که چگونه توانایی خیا�� علمی او، از طبیعت سرکش شخصیتش، به ناگهان ظهور کرده؛ داستانی از ارتباط میان نوآوری و آزادی است؛ نویسنده ی کتاب «اینشتین» در تازه ترین نامه های شخصی منتشر شده از ایشان، در ذهن خالق کیهان، کاوش میکنند، کسی که رازهای اتم و جهان میشکافد، از پژوهش های ایشان درباره ی دانش مرسوم، و حیرت کردن درباره ی رازهایی مینویسند، که دیگران به عنوان یک امر دنیوی با آن برخورد میکردند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 06/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 03/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Diane.
1,081 reviews2,717 followers
February 1, 2015
One of my favorite picture books that I saved from childhood is called Albert Einstein by Ibi Lepscky. It's the story of Albert as a child, showing him as quiet and absentminded, and preferring to play the violin rather than roughhouse with other boys in the neighborhood. It also tells the story of when Albert had a fever and had to stay in bed, his father gave him a compass. Albert became fascinated by the needle and asked so many thoughtful questions about the magnetic fields and the poles of the earth that his father, who could not answer them all, realized how smart his son was.

"Albert was indeed a child different from all others. His gaze, which everyone thought to be absentminded, really reflected a very busy mind, a mind that was exploring places where nobody else could follow. It was the mind of a genius."

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My mother, who was a mathematics professor and who was quite smart herself, gave me this book and frequently read it with me. It inspired in me a deep awe for Albert Einstein, one that has carried through to adulthood.

Walter Isaacson seems to have the same reverence for Einstein — there is an underlying fondness and admiration in this biography. "His tale encompasses the vast sweep of modern science, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the emission of photons to the expansion of the cosmos. A century after his great triumphs, we are still living in Einstein's universe ... His fingerprints are all over today's technologies. Photoelectric cells and lasers, nuclear power and fiber optics, space travel, and even semiconductors all trace back to his theories. He signed the letter to Franklin Roosevelt warning that it may be possible to build an atom bomb, and the letters of his famed equation relating energy to mass hover in our minds when we picture the resulting mushroom cloud."

At more than 600 pages, the book covers Einstein's entire life, with an emphasis on his "miracle year" of 1905, and his activities during both world wars. There isn't a lot about his childhood in Germany, but I was happy to see there was some truth in the story of his father bringing him a compass when he was sick in bed.

He later recalled being so excited as he examined its mysterious powers that he trembled and grew cold. The fact that the magnetic needle behaved as if influenced by some hidden force field, rather than through the more familiar mechanical method involving touch or contact, produced a sense of wonder that motivated him throughout his life. "I can still remember that this experience made a deep and lasting impression on me ... Something deeply hidden had to be behind things."

After being mesmerized by the compass needle's fealty to an unseen field, Einstein would develop a lifelong devotion to field theories as a way to describe nature.

Now before I wax too rhapsodic about this book, I need to warn my fellow readers that there is some serious physics-speak in here. I was listening to this on audio (read by the wonderful actor Edward Herrmann) and the chapters that discussed Einstein's scientific theories were difficult to follow. Fortunately, those confusing sections did not overwhelm the book, and there were plenty of interesting biographical details to share. Here are some of my favorites:

"Among the many surprising things about the life of Albert Einstein was the trouble he had getting an academic job. Indeed, it would be an astonishing nine years after his graduation from the Zurich Polytechnic in 1900 — and four years after the miracle year in which he not only upended physics but also finally got a doctoral dissertation accepted — before he would be offered a job as a junior professor."

Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, had a daughter named Lieserl, who was born out of wedlock and was purportedly given up for adoption. "Einstein did not tell his mother, sister, or any of his friends about the birth of Lieserl. In fact, there is no indication that he ever told them about her. Never once did he publicly speak of her or acknowledge that she even existed. No mention of her survives in any correspondence, except for a few letters between Einstein and Maric, and these were suppressed and hidden until 1986, when scholars and the editors of his papers were completely surprised to learn of Lieserl's existence." [It is not known what happened to Lieserl.]

The old line that Einstein did his best work when he was working as a Swiss patent clerk is true. "He soon learned that he could work on the patent applications so quickly that it left time for him to sneak in his own scientific thinking during the day. 'I was able to do a full day's work in only two or three hours ... The remaining part of the day, I would work on my own ideas ... Whenever anybody would come by, I would cram my notes into my desk drawer and pretend to work on my office work.'"

"Einstein's 1905 burst of creativity was astonishing. He had devised a revolutionary quantum theory of light, helped prove the existence of atoms, explained Brownian motion, upended the concept of space and time, and produced what would become science's best known equation. But many people seemed not to notice at first. According to his sister, Einstein had hoped that his flurry of essays in a preeminent journal would lift him from the obscurity of a third-class patent examiner and provide some academic recognition, perhaps even an academic job. 'But he was bitterly disappointed,' she noted. 'Icy silence followed the publication.'" [He soon got his fame and recognition.]

With the outbreak of war, Einstein had become, for the first time, an outspoken public figure, advocating internationalism, European federalism, and resistance to militarism ... The chain reaction that pushed Europe into war in August 1914 inflamed the patriotic pride of the Prussians and, in an equal and opposite reaction, the visceral pacifism of Einstein, a man so gentle and averse to conflict that he even disliked playing chess. "Europe in its madness has now embarked on something incredibly preposterous ... At such times one sees to what deplorable breed of brutes we belong."

Throughout his life, Einstein would sometimes appear aloof toward his sons, especially Eduard, who suffered from increasingly severe mental illness as he grew older. But when they were young, he tended to be a good father. "When my mother was busy around the house, father would put aside his work and watch over us for hours, bouncing us on his knee," Hans Albert later recalled. "I remember he would tell us stories — and he often played the violin in an effort to keep us quiet."

Einstein's first marriage was an unhappy one, and to convince Mileva to divorce him, he promised her his money from the Nobel Prize, which he was convinced he would someday win. She finally agreed to a divorce settlement, and Einstein was awarded the Nobel in 1921.

Einstein's theory of relativity burst into the consciousness of a world that was weary of war and yearning for triumph of human transcendence. Almost a year to the day after the end of the brutal fighting, here was an announcement that the theory of a German Jew had been proven correct by an English Quaker [Arthur Eddington]. "Scientists belonging to two warring nations had collaborated again!" exulted the physicist Leopold Infeld. "It seemed the beginning of a new era."

Einstein's second wife was a cousin he had known since childhood, Elsa Einstein. He wrote her passionate letters, saying: "I have to have someone to love, otherwise life is miserable. And this someone is you."

The rise of German anti-Semitism after World War I produced a counterreaction in Einstein: it made him identify more strongly with his Jewish heritage and community ... Eventually, Einstein came around to the cause [of Zionism]. "I am, as a human being, an opponent of nationalism," he declared. "But as a Jew, I am from today a supporter of the Zionist effort."

Einstein was visiting the United States when Hitler took power, and he realized he could not return to his home country. "Because of Hitler, I don't dare step on German soil."

What happened in Germany in 1933 was not just a brutality perpetrated by thuggish leaders and abetted by ignorant mobs. It was also, as Einstein described, "the utter failure of the so-called intellectual aristocracy." Einstein and other Jews were ousted from what had been among the world's greatest citadels of open-minded inquiry, and those who remained did little to resist.

Einstein eventually settled in Princeton, New Jersey, and would spend the rest of his life there. He was given a corner office in a university hall, and was asked what equipment he needed. "A desk or table, a chair, paper and pencils. Oh yes, and a large wastebasket, so I can throw away all my mistakes."

[At Princeton] Einstein soon acquired an image, which grew into a near legend but was nevertheless based on reality, of being a kindly and gentle professor, distracted at times but unfailingly sweet, who wandered about lost in thought, helped children with their homework, and rarely combed his hair or wore socks. "I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don't have to," he told a neighbor.

Occasionally, he would take rambling walks on his own, which could be dicey. One day someone called the Institute and asked to speak to a particular dean. When his secretary said that the dean wasn't available, the caller hesitantly asked for Einstein's home address. That was not possible to give out, he was informed. The caller's voice then dropped to a whisper. "Please don't tell anybody," he said, "but I am Dr. Einstein, I'm on my way home, and I've forgotten where my house is."

When he first arrived in Princeton, Einstein had been impressed that America was, or could be, a land free of the rigid class hierarchies and servility in Europe. But what grew to impress him more — and what made him fundamentally such a good American but also a controversial one — was the country's tolerance of free thought, free speech, and nonconformist beliefs. That had been a touchstone of his science, and now it was a touchstone of his citizenship.

In one of his most revealing remarks about himself, Einstein lamented, "To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself."

[After learning that the Nazis has raided his house in Germany, he made a prescient comment.] "If and when war comes, Hitler will realize the harm he has done Germany by driving out the Jewish scientists."

Einstein later regretted his role in the development of nuclear weapons. "Had I known that the Germans would not have succeeded in producing an atomic bomb, I never would have lifted a finger."

At the end of the 1940s, when it was becoming clear to him that the effort to control nuclear weaponry would fail, Einstein was asked what the next war would look like. "I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth — rocks."

 photo cfb9776e-ee0f-4bf7-9e09-6fc1311ae529_zpswfyjmi2y.jpg
Einstein walking on Princeton's campus

There are so many more interesting stories and details in this book, and I went through dozens of Post-Its to mark passages. This is the second book by Walter Isaacson I've read, the other being Steve Jobs, and he is a talented writer and biographer. I especially appreciate his skill at weaving quotes and anecdotes into the narrative. For example, this is a typically elegant and amusing paragraph from Isaacson:

Einstein's new marriage was different from his first. It was not romantic or passionate. From the start, he and Elsa had separate bedrooms at opposite ends of their rambling Berlin apartment. Nor was it intellectual. Understanding relativity, she later said, "is not necessary for my happiness."

Even though I listened to an audiobook, I was happy I had requested a print copy from the library to peruse, because the book is filled with charming photographs of Einstein. His eyes could positively twinkle, and that shock of hair was rarely tamed. I really enjoyed most of this book, and if I had been more studious and applied myself, I probably could have made better sense of the heavy chapters on physics. But there is a reason I ended up in the humanities and not the sciences, and I shall continue to admire Mr. Einstein's work from a distance.

Favorite Quotes:
"When I am judging a theory, I ask myself whether, if I were God, I would have arranged the world in such a way."

"I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious."
Profile Image for Luís.
1,941 reviews605 followers
July 22, 2022
A superb biography of Albert Einstein! Walter Isaacson paints the portrait of this inescapable rebel genius who cannot analyze private and public lives without each other.
Rich illustrations, personal Einstein documents, unpublished information! Great sensitivity. Fascinating!
Profile Image for Lori.
308 reviews99 followers
March 31, 2019
In 1935, a rabbi in Princeton showed him a clipping of the Ripley’s column with the headline “Greatest Living Mathematician Failed in Mathematics.” Einstein laughed. “I never failed in mathematics,” he replied correctly. “Before I was fifteen I had mastered differential and integral calculus.”

In fact, he was a wonderful student, at least intellectually. In primary school, he was at the top of his class. “Yesterday Albert got his grades,” his mother reported to an aunt when he was 7. “Once again he was ranked first.” At the gymnasium, he disliked the mechanical learning of languages such as Latin and Greek, a problem exacerbated by what he later said was his “bad memory for words and texts.” But even in these courses, Einstein consistently got top grades. Years later, when Einstein celebrated his fiftieth birthday and there were stories about how poorly the great genius had fared at the gymnasium, the school’s current principal made a point of publishing a letter revealing how good his grades actually were.


I don’t believe you need to understand the science to enjoy the book. It would probably add to your enjoyment. I always fell like the floor is starting to ripple with the space-time continuum when I go over these theories. And, appreciated the biochemist, Chaim Weizmann, quote.
Asked upon their arrival whether he understood the theory, Weizmann gave a delightful reply: “During the crossing, Einstein explained his theory to me every day, and by the time we arrived I was fully convinced that he really understands it.”

As well as, the one from a Princeton student who attended a lecture during Einstein’s 1921 U.S. tour.
”I sat in the balcony, but he talked right over my head anyway.”

Profile Image for brian   .
248 reviews3,118 followers
October 27, 2012
here's a letter a young einstein wrote to his pal.
the 1st paragraph: more waugh than egghead, eh?
and that 2nd paragraph?
those 'papers'?
"a modification of the theory of space and time"?
holy shit.

Dear Habicht,

Such a solemn air of silence has descended between us that I almost feel as if I am committing a sacrilege when I break it now with some inconsequential babble. So, what are you up to, you frozen whale, you smoked, dried, canned piece of soul? Why have you still not sent me your dissertation? Don't you know that I am one of the 1.5 fellows who would read it with interest and pleasure, you wretched man? I promise you four papers in return.

The first deals with radiation and the energy properties of light and is very revolutionary, as you will see if you send me your work first. The second paper is a determination of the true sizes of atoms. The third proves that bodies on the order of magnitude 1/1000 mm, suspended in liquids, must already perform an observable random motion that is produced by thermal motion. The fourth paper is only a rough draft at this point, and is an electrodynamics of moving bodies which employs a modification of the theory of space and time.

and later in life he wrote this gorgeousness:

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

just for fun, let's compare/contrast with:

I very seriously doubt that Einstein himself really knows what he is driving at. The outcome of this doubt and befogged speculation about time and space is a cloak beneath which hides the ghastly apparition of atheism. - Cardinal William Henry O'Connell

and later, witnessing the rise of hitler, albert shot off this email to FDR:

Hey Frank,

c-squared ya dipshit, c-squared!
That's a whole lotta motherfuckin' bango django.
so we should figure out how to bake that cake
before the other guys do and blow out our candles, yo!


the last one, not really.
but it's a close approximation.
388 reviews
June 15, 2009
My brother-in-law recommended this biography in 2007. It is one of the most incredible books I’ve read in a long time. There are eleven pages of sources alone! This book is meticulously researched, beautifully written, fascinating, inspiring, and wonderful on every level. It’s 551 pages long, and I so did not want this book to end!

Isaacson immerses us in a detailed, in depth probing of Einstein’s life – personal, intellectual, scientific, political, and cultural - against a backdrop of the history of the time – 1879-1955. Extensive quotations from Einstein’s correspondence, essays, and personal papers lend the richness of authenticity. Explanations of scientific theories are clear and restated many, many times in different ways. They seem comprehensible as one reads them, though I would be hard-pressed to explain any of Einstein’s “thought experiments,” theories, or the revolutionary nature of theoretical physics in my own words now.

Einstein believed deeply in intellectual freedom and he was a nonconformist first and foremost.

The author’s words speak for themselves:

"For the remaining ten years of his life, his passion for advocating a unified governing structure for the globe would rival that for finding a unified field theory that could govern all the forces of nature. Although distinct in most ways, both quests reflected his instincts for transcendent order. In addition, both would display Einstein’s willingness to be a nonconformist, to be serenely secure in challenging prevailing attitudes." (p. 488)

"Admittedly, he was a somewhat contrarian citizen. But in that regard he was in the tradition of some venerable strands in the fabric of American character: fiercely protective of individual liberties, often cranky about government interference, distrustful of great concentrations of wealth, and a believer in the idealistic internationalism that gained favor among American intellectuals after both of the great wars of twentieth century." (p. 506)

I feel as if I should re-read this book in order to copy down the many brilliant quotes from Albert Einstein’s letters and talks.

In a letter to his son, Eduard, in 1930 he wrote, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” I LOVE that!

Advice offered to his step-daughters in 1922 on how to live a moral life: “Use for yourself little, but give to others much.” (p. 393)

In response to an interviewer’s question about how Einstein got his ideas he said, “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” (p. 387)

When asked if he believed in immortality he stated, “No. And one life is enough for me.” (p. 387) !

From his credo “What I Believe” written in 1930:
"….The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man." (p. 387)

Read this book and fall in love with this extraordinarily inspiring mensch!

Profile Image for B Schrodinger.
305 reviews672 followers
March 28, 2016
So I 've had a love/hate with Einstein for a few years now. I recognised the great work that he did regarding General and Special Relativity, the Photoelectric Effect and Brownian Motion - brilliant stuff.

But why does Einstein get wheeled out for every portrayal of a great scientist? Why does everyone feel the need to quote the guy regarding religion, education, happiness, sociology....everything? This really annoyed me - and I guess it still does.

In an education lecture a few weeks ago the lecturer gave an Einstein quote on learning. And it immediately got my hackles up. Did Einstein even teach? I guess as an academic he must have taught someone. And I had to look it up. It seems his undergrad degree was in physics and education. Ok, maybe an education quote might be legit from this guy.

So this prompted my to pull this volume from my to-read bookshelf (might be bigger than this, shhhhh) and open it up. And damn did I learn a lot about the details of his life. The book was for most part engaging and fascinating. It helped fill in a lot of details on what I already knew about the events in physics and chemistry from the late 19th to mid 20th century.

Non-science people: I found this very accessible - not too much jargon at all. But the wonderful Diane said there was a bit of ultra-tough physics in here, however nothing you couldn't skip.

So, how do I stand on Einstein quotes now? Well I'm more open to appropriate ones. The guy was very intelligent in matters of physics and math. So make it rain with equations and thought experiments.
Teaching quotes: although he did undergrad education, he was later renowned for being a shit boring teacher. No- fail on the education front.
Any other quotes: although he was intelligent in other subjects, he was no genius in them. Quit it with the psychology, sociology quotes.

Actually, the guy spent most of his life trying to refute quantum mechanics. And look at it now. God plays so much dice that Las Vegas is embarrassed.
Profile Image for نورة.
670 reviews650 followers
August 11, 2017
لدي عادة سيئة مع قراءة السير :( أنني سرعان ما أألفها وأعيش معها حتى تكون جزءا من يومي وصديقا لا أستطيع الفكاك منه :(
حتى إذا وصلت لمرحلة النهاية أصابني الحزن على فقد صاحب السيرة وكأنني فقدت حبيبا أو قريبا، ولعل أكثر بيت ينطبق علي في سرعة الألفة والتمسك الشديد بالمألوف قول المتنبي: خلقت ألوفا لو رجعت إلى الصبا .. لفارقت شيبي موجع القلب باكيا!
حسنا سأحاول تجاوز مرحلة الحزن الآن إلى مرحلة رثاء صاحبنا العبقري "آينشتاين" ولعل سر سيرته الذاتية التي همست لنا به هو أن اينشتاين لم يكن شخصا عظيما أو كاملا أو إنسانا خاليا من العيوب، لقد كان إنسانا فحسب .. يأكل الطعام ويحب ويكره وينام ويعتقد وينتمي، يحمل أخلاقيات الناس العامة الود ، التواضع ، الخوف ..إلخ
لم يكن أسطورة على صعيد حياته الشخصية فهو قد عشق أكثر من امرأة كالكثير من الرجال :) ومارس الأبوة بشكل تقليدي عارض ابنه في زواجه من امرأة تكبره ، وتعامل معه كأي أب ترك مهمة التربية لأمه حتى إذا كبر الولد وأراد الاستقلال حان وقت أبيه للتدخل :)، ومارس حياته كسائر الناس، بل إنه كان أبطأ قليلا في مرحلة طفولته ففي تعلمه الكلام كان أبطأ من أقرانه حينها، إذن يا سادة ما النقطة الجوهرية التي جعلت اينشتاين يفوق أقرانه؟ ما العلامة الفارقة التي جعلته ينال جائزة نوبل ويكتشف أخطر الاكتشافات الفيزيائية ويحدث ثورة في علم الفي��ياء؟
ببساطة إنها عدة نقاط كان اينشتاين يعطيها اهتمامه سأضعها في مراجعتي بين قوسين : (الخيال) حيث كان الخيال مسرحه لإجراء تجاربه ومعين أفكاره الذي لا ينضب، (الفضول) وقد أجاب حينما سئل عن كيف يعمل عقله: لست موهوبا، إنما أنا فضولي متحمس :)! ، (الثورية) تجربة الخروج عن المألوف واستخدام طرق جديدة، وهذه الأخيرة التي جعلته يصل لنظرية النسبية هي التي بمعارضتها فيما بعد جعلته يقف أمام نظرية الكم! وهذه المرحلة بالفعل تستحق الدراسة ، في هذه المرحلة تغير اينشتاين من اينشتاين الثوري الذي لم يبال بالتقاليد والطرق الكلاسيكية إلى اينشتاين الذي يعارض مبدأ الخروج عن القواعد والطرق التقليدية ، ولا أدري هل السر كما ذكره الباحث هو تغير الظروف الخارجية له ساهمت في تغير طرق تفكيره؟ ففي مرحلة النسبية كان شابا لا يخشى شيئا لا تهمه الأنظمة آنذاك يكره المدارس النظامية، والآن أصبح رجلا له شأن يدرس النظر��ات له منصب مرموق في بيئة تحترمه فأصبح الخروج عن المألوف يخيفه؟؟ إنها مرحلة بالفعل تستحق الدراسة ويمكن أن تعمم على كل أحد ليس فقط اينشتاين فدور الظروف في اللعب في طرق معرفتنا للحقائق دور خطير!
(العزلة) وإن كان ضمن مجموعة من الناس ! وهي صفة مهمة جدا لم يكد يعرف رجل نال مجدا في أمر ما إلا وللعزلة في حياته مكان! والعزلة أقصدها بنوعيها العزلة مع الذات، أو مع من يشاطرونك الهم والفكر حتى تكاد تكون باجتماعك معهم وكأنك تحادث نفسك! وكلاهما مهمتان وكلاهما مما أغبط عليه العلماء حين يرزقون به، فالانغماس في الاحتفالات الاجتماعية واللقاءات والمجاملات التي تفرضها تلك الاجتماعات تستنزف طاقتك، والعزلة ضرورية لشحن هذه الطاقة بالضبط كحاجة الأجهزة الالكترونية لذلك، ومن حق أي إنسان الحصول عليها، كما أنها الوسيلة المثلى للمراجعة والتمحيص، للخيال والاستكشاف..
وعلى ذكر الغبطة هنالك أوقات بالفعل غبطت اينشتاين لحصوله عليها، لحظات تشترى بماء العينين، منها تلك اللحظة التي يحق لي أن أدعوها بالنشوة بل بذروة النشوة حينما وصل إلى معرفة النظرية النسبية قائلا : وجدتها وجدتها!
إنها لحظة للتاريخ! لحظة فرح طفولية لا يضاهيها أي شعور!
ومن أبرز الصفات التي تميز بها هو ذلك الشعور بأنه لم يكبر، شعور الطفل الذي رعاه في داخله بينما نحن قتلناه ظانين بأنه يجب أن يموت لأننا نضجنا! صفة بعد قراءتي لسيرة اينشتاين سأسعى لغرسها وريها في داخلي، شعور (الدهشة الطفولية) الذي يجعلك تنظر للكون من حولك باستعظام، الشمس، النجوم، الكواكب، أنت نفسك، كل شيء هنا يدعوك للدهشة والتعجب، يجب أن لا تتوقف عن ذلك! لأن اينشتاين لم يتوقف عنه! ولأن نيوتن قبله بتساؤله البسيط: لماذا سقطت التفاحة؟ ساهم في بناء سلم عظيم لا زال العلماء يتسلقون عليه . دع عنك استخفاف من حولك بسخافة أسئلتك و(لا تتوقف عن التساؤل ، الدهشة ، الفضول .. لا تتوقف)!
وعلى ذكر من توقفوا هنا أذكر مثالا بسيطا على رجل سبق اينشتاين في محاولة فهم النظرية النسبية هو "بوانكاريه" لكن تمسكه الشديد بالتقاليد في الفيزياء جعله يتوقف حين كان على شفا الوصول لفهم النتائج الكاملة للنظرية، (الجرأة) يا سادة هي من جعلت اينشتاين علما وبوانكاريه نكرة حينما ورد على مسامعك قطبت جبينك محاولا معرفة من يكون ؟!
لفت نظري جدا الجانب الرقيق من اينشتاين، كان مسالما متواضعا لم يكن غريبا كغيره من العلماء، توقعت أن يكون كغيره من العلماء الذين غالبا ما تجد لديهم صفات غريبة أو طرق عيش عجيبة، نعم كان يميل للفوضوية وكان يميل للبساطة ولا يحب التمسك بالتقاليد في لبسه وطريقة عيشه ولكن كم منا يشارك اينشتاين في هذه الصفات ؟
كان رقيقا جدا لكنه يحاول أن يحيط نفسه بالشوك عن طريق مزحاته وشخصيته المرحة، بينما تخفي هذه الشخصية المرحة في داخلها شخصا رقيقا يكره العنف والصراع حتى أنه كان يكره لعبة الشطرنج لقيامها على هذا المبدأ! وإني لأضحك الآن كيف لرجل بهذه الرقة ساهم -دون أن يخطط لذلك- في القضاء على ملايين الناس عن طريق قنبلة ذرية كانت مبنية على نظرياته! إنها الحياة يا سادة يتجلى سرها في أن إرادتك مقيدة محدودة، تظن أنك بعلمك ستملك الكون وعلمك هذا قد يسيطر عليك، يتلاعب بك، يسير هو إلى حيث شاء رغما عن إرادتك، فلا أنت تملكه ولا أحد يملكه سوى الواحد القهار!
شرود اينشتاين كان أبرز خصائصه، ولا عجب فأنا فقط لأني قمت بقراءة سيرته لعدة أيام أصبت بالشرود! أن أصاحب هذا العبقري بتساؤلاته ونظرياته هذا لا يجعل عقلي يهدأ، أصبحت لا أرى الأشياء كما هي، والمصيبة وهذه مصيبة تحل على القراء حينما يكونون مستغرقين في قراءة كتاب ما فيحل عليهم ضيف طارئ ، أو ظرف عاجل يقطعهم عن قراءة الكتاب، وهذا ما حدث لي -وليته حدث معي وأنا بصحبة أحد غير اينشتاين :)- أن جسدي كان بين الضيوف وعقلي هائم ما بين نظرية الكم وتعقيداتها ، والنظرية النسبية وفرضياتها، أصبحت أرى كل ما في المجلس ذرات وأوتار وموجات وأرقام !:) أصابني الذهول والتشتت وعدم التركيز فيما يقولون، فعلا لأن عالم الفيزياء عالم مدهش يسحرك فيجعلك لا تعود ترى الدنيا كما يراها الناس، وهذا هو سرها وهو السر الذي جعل اينشتاين لا يتوقف عن (التشتت والشرود)، فهي الحالة الأبدية الطبيعية التي ينبغي أن تصاحب عالم الفيزياء!
هنالك نقطة مهمة يجب أن أشير إليها قبل أن تقرر اقتناء الكتاب، وهي أن الكتاب نعم هو سيرة ذاتية لاينشتاين، لكن مادامت السيرة سيرة اينشتاين فيجب أن تضع في حسبانك أنها سيرة ذاتية للفيزياء نفسه! حيث أبو الفيزياء -اينشتاين- كان أحد أوجه عملة الفيزياء فما حدث من ثورات وتغيرات في مجال الفيزياء صاحبت حياته أيضا، فإن كان غرضك من الاستمتاع بسيرته الذاتية هو التركيز على حياته الحياة الخاصة فقط دون التعمق في النظريات الفيزيائية والعلمية فليس هذا الكتاب بغيتك، في الحقيقة الكتاب كما استعرض لنا حياة اينشتاين فهو كذلك مر على مراحل وصوله لنظرياته ومراحل تطورها والنقاشات التي حصلت عقبها والمؤتمرات والندوات حولها لذا فسيرة اينشتاين هنا مربوطة ربطا لا ينفك بعلم الفيزياء .

في الختام يجب أن أختم بهذا الحوار الأسطوري، إن قيل لي إذن ما الغاية العظمى؟ ما الهدف الأسمى الذي يكفيني الوصول إليه وإن كان بغير المرور على ما مر عليه العظماء مثل اينشتاين فسأقول لك أن اينشتاين بعد ما توصل إليه لم يزدد إلا يقينا بحقيقة راسخة، إيمانك بها يكفيك، أوردها كما أوردها الصحفي كالتالي:
- هل تؤمن بالله؟
-"أنا لست ملحداً" "المشكلة هنا كبيرة جدّاً على عقولنا المحدودة. إننا في موقف طفل صغير يواجه مكتبة ضخمة مليئة بالكتب بالعديد من اللغات. يعرف الطفل أنّ أحداً -ولا بدّ- قد قام بكتابة تلك الكتب. إنه لا يعرف كيف. إنه لا يعرف اللغات التي كتبت بها. يشتبه الطفل بشكل ما بنظام غامض في ترتيب هذه الكتب لكنه لا يعرف ما هو. هذا، كما يبدو لي، هو موقف أكثر الكائنات البشرية حتى تجاه الله. نرى الكون مرتباً بشكل رائع ونطيع قوانين محددة لكننا لا نكاد نفهم هذه القوانين."
-هل هذا مفهوم يهودي عن الله؟
-"أنا من المؤمنين بالقضاء والقدر ، ولا أؤمن بالإرادة الحرة في حين يؤمن بها اليهود مثلما يؤمنون بأن الإنسان يشكل حياته ، وأنا أرفض هذه العقيدة ، وأنا لست يهوديا فيما يتعلق بهذا الأمر"

إنه لمن المضحك يا سادة أن يأتي صعلوك يدعي العلم وباسم العلم ينفي الإله! كلما ازددت علما كلما ازددت يقينا بوجود الله، وكلما تعرفت على إبداعات الخالق أكثر كلما توصلت إلى أن مفاهيم شريعته لا مفر منها، القضاء والقدر ، توحيد الربوبية ... إلخ كلها حقائق والعلم لا يزيدك إلا إيمانا بحقيقتها!
إذن كما يقولون : كل الطرق تؤدي إلى روما، نقول:
كل الطرق تؤدي إلى الخالق !

فسبحان من سوى الكون ، وسبحان من برأ مخلوقات أعطاها العلم ، وسبحان من خص أحد خلقه الذي يدعى "اينشتاين" بهذا القدر من العبقرية ! فإذا كان ذلك كله ما هو إلا بعض إبداعاته فكيف به هو وأي عظمة يتجلى بها سبحانه؟!
Profile Image for Ian.
763 reviews65 followers
June 12, 2021
I decided to read this partly on the strength of another of the author’s biographies, that of Steve Jobs, which I read before joining GR and which I thought was fascinating. I was hoping this book would be as good but in the event I didn’t enjoy it as much. Looking at the other ratings, I seem to be in a minority, but I can only give my honest reaction.

I imagine most people interested enough to read a biography of Einstein will already be aware of his annus mirabilis of 1905, when he published a series of groundbreaking papers, each of which was hugely significant in the history of physics. He followed up about a decade later with his Theory of General Relativity. Physicists might find the book’s treatment of this period to be a bit thin, but I think Walter Isaacson was being careful not to get too deep into concepts that many of his readers would struggle to understand, and I count myself amongst that number. What I hadn’t known was that in subsequent decades Einstein became something of a scientific conservative who was unwilling to accept Quantum Mechanics, even though he acknowledged the evidence in favour of it. He also acknowledged that his later-life resistance to new concepts may have been a result of aging, and the general rule that older minds are less open to new ideas.

I’ve mentioned in other reviews that when reading a biography, I look for one that is both well-researched and well-balanced, and that is exactly what the author provides. Einstein’s personality, his family relations and his political beliefs are covered as well as his scientific work. One interesting feature was the extraordinary pop-star level of adulation he received in the 1920s during visits to the USA. One (pre-Nazi) German consul described it as “mass hysteria”. Isaacson suggests, with some justification I think, that Einstein’s appearance may have contributed to this.

“If he did not have that electrified halo of hair and those piercing eyes, would he still have become science’s preeminent poster boy?"

I also couldn’t stop laughing when Isaacson described how, when Einstein visited Washington DC in 1921:

“For reasons fathomable only by those who live in that capital, the Senate decided to debate the theory of relativity.”

Despite its merits, I have to say that I didn’t find the book the quickest read. Partly that was down to its length – 553 pages without the notes, but I also never found myself being drawn into reading about Einstein, and mostly read the book feeling quite detached. That was in contrast to my previous experience of Isaacson’s book about Steve Jobs. On the plus side, I do know a lot more about Einstein now.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
December 6, 2020
The book wasn’t amazing, but the man certainly was. Don’t get me wrong; I really liked the book, and it is one I would recommend to all those readers who want to meet an intelligent, wonderful, honest, humble person. I am not calling him great for what he did for science, but for the kind of person he was. He will appeal to those of you who like non-conformists, people with imagination and curiosity. He is one of those few adults who manage to keep alive a child’s delight in the world around them.

Now there is a lot of physics in this book, and there are sections that went over my head. This annoyed me. Although it is not a criticism of the author, but rather a criticism of myself, IF the author had managed to make clear for me more of the scientific theories, I would have to call the book amazing. General and special relativity, gravitation and quantum mechanics they do all belong in this book, they should not be removed. I understand more than when I began, but I have far to go. Einstein saw and figured out his answers to the questions he was trying to solve through “thought experiments“. He would imagine a physical happening in his head, be it an elevator in free-fall or a bug crawling around a branch, and he would ask himself what would happen and how does the bug see the world around him. These thought experiments are Einstein’s, not the author's, and they are the easiest way to understand the laws of physics which Einstein discovered.

Others criticize how Einstein treated his family. He was who he was, and I don’t see him as worse than anybody else. He did love his family. All people do not express love in the same way.

Is there humor in the book? Yes, mostly in some of the things Einstein said.

You get history too. McCarthyism and Stalinism and Nazism. What role did he play? What was his role exactly in the development of atomic weapons, and more importantly how did he see the world afterwards. He thought there should be a world organization that controlled all atomic weapons. Was he naïve? Could this have ever worked? All of this is discussed.

Religion is discussed too. According to Einstein, it is the absence of miracles that proves the existence of divine providence. It is the laws of nature that so magnificently explain the world around us and that inspire awe. His belief in science was very close to his religiosity. They are one and the same thing.

Einstein in a nutshell: creativity and imagination and curiosity require non-conformity which requires the nurturing of free minds which requires tolerance and finally humility. Einstein was a kind, unpretentious, humble man. I really, really liked this book. I wish I could speak with Einstein himself. Even though he was great he would have talked to me. He was never showy or saw himself as the extraordinary person that he was.

Another interesting question: was he in his soul German or Swiss or American? I mean, in spirit. Or was he a citizen of the world?

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Edward Herrmann. The narration was clear and at a perfect speed. The science sections were hard. For those of you who are reading this to better understand physics, maybe it is better to read the paper book, where it is easier to stop and THINK! Oh, I forgot to say this – when Einstein got the Nobel Prize, which by the way was not for relativity, he explained his scientific theories over and over. When asked if others understood, most admitted they didn’t. This made me feel a lot better when I found myself becoming confused. I read the book to meet the man, and I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Andrej Karpathy.
110 reviews3,649 followers
December 28, 2015
This was my second read of an Einstein biography, this time by Isaacson. Coming from Isaacson, the book is well-written and seemed very thoroughly researched. Overall a great read, but if I had to complain my biggest issue is that the emphasis was not allocated very well. For instance, a huge portion of the book is devoted to Einstein’s personal life, reading through his correspondence with his love interests. It’s interesting for a while, but after some point I thought we were intruding a little too much, and that it was stretched out and uninformative. Conversely, some very interesting portions of his life are under-represented. In one chapter he publishes his streak of 1905 papers, and in what feels like a few pages later he is a scientific celebrity. This period, where the community is discovering and processing him as a person from nowhere who made sudden and large contributions is among the most interesting, and very sparsely covered. There could have also been much more space for his works’ retrospectives - how do scientists today see his theories, in what ways was he right or wrong based on our current understanding of physics? This book was written in 2007 but so few of these interesting retrospectives are present that it may have as well been published in 1955. I thought this was a huge missed opportunity.

A few more fun parts of the book I enjoyed:

- Einstein did not describe himself as atheist and in fact frowned on them. Instead, he subscribed to something similar to Spinoza’s god - an abstract, pantheistic, impersonal god. I think I mostly self-identified as an atheist until now but I’ve been swayed to Einstein’s view by this book, as it was nicely presented by Walter Isaacson with help of original texts by Einstein.
- Einstein strongly disliked nationalism, and thought of himself as a citizen of the world. An interesting view, expanded on nicely in the book.
- I liked the anecdotes surrounding Einstein’s Nobel prize. Most people felt strongly that he should get one, but the situation was more politically charged than may seem at a first glance. In the end, Einstein received the Nobel for photoelectric effect, not for his much more impactful theory of general relativity.
- The book goes into quite a lot of detail on how Einstein was rejected by almost every single academic institution prior to his 1905 papers. Luckily, it turns out that a patent office is not a bad place for an academic tenure.
- The book goes into quite a bit of fun details about the massive Einstein hysteria in the public. A scientific celebrity of that scale is quite singular in our history - it was relatively unprecedented back then, and we also haven’t seen quite the same phenomenon since. I wish we did.
- It was also fun to think about Einstein’s stubborn refusal to accept Quantum Mechanics despite mounting evidence throughout his life (“He does not play dice”). The irony is that many established senior scientists were on the defense of the old order when Einstein first formulated GR, and now here he was much later (as an established senior scientist) stubbornly defending the old order in face of attacks from QM. This irony was not lost on Einstein at all either, but he still refused to correct for this persistently observed bias across history. As a scientist, I hereby resolve to overcompensate in accepting new paradigms once I’m older :)

I developed a new appreciation for Einstein after reading the book, and there were plenty of fun parts and anecdotes that made this quite worth the read.
Profile Image for أبو يوسف .
121 reviews42 followers
July 13, 2012
من أجمل وأروع السير الذاتية التي قرأتها , تعلمت واستفدت منها الكثير.
على الرغم من حجم الكتاب الكبير واسترساله في المسائل الفيزيائية إلا أن الكاتب نجح في شد انتباهي حتى النهاية.

العبقرية.. وقيود المجتمع

فهد عامر الاحمدي

* حين نصف شخصاً بانه مبدع فماذا نعني بذلك!؟

في الغالب نقصد انه خرج بشيء جديد وغريب لم يستطرق من قبل. وحين يخرج المرء بشيء جديد فانه في الغالب يخالف واقعاً معتاداً وطريقة اعترف بها الجميع.

والابداع ليس صعبا لدرجة ان اجيالا تولد وتموت ولم يظهر فيها مبدع واحد.. ولكن المشكلة ان معظمنا يخشى الخروج على عادات المجتمع ومخالفة المألوف والصراخ بأعلى صوته "أنا لدي طريقة جديدة"!!

لا يوجد شعب اذكى من شعب ولا أمة أفضل من أمة، ولكن تتفاوت المجتمعات في تشجيع او كبت الافكار الجديدة. في المجتمعات العربية يسيطر "المعتاد" و"المفروض" على 99.999من تصرفات الافراد، اما في الغرب فيمكن لاي شخص مخالفة الواقع والخروج عن المأل��ف بدون ان يثير حفيظة احد.

المجتمع بطبعه يتصرف بروح القطيع فيعارض غير المألوف ويثور ضد الافكار الجديدة.. اما ردود فعله فتنطلق من (وجدنا آباءنا كذلك يفعلون) بدون اي تحليل او تقييم منطقي للأفكار المطروحة. المجتمعات البشرية لا تعترف بالعبقرية والابداع بقدر ما تعترف بالسحر والجنون (ما اتى الذين من قبلهم من رسول الا قالوا ساحر او مجنون)!!

* ولكن رغم كل هذه القيود قد يبرز (مجنون ما) يخالف المألوف ويكسر المعتاد ولا يخشى المواجهة، شخص بهذه الصفات يكون مهيأ بنسبة 99% لبلوغ قمة العبقرية فما تبقى ليس اكثر من تشغيل جمجمة نملك مثلها!

وقد يتمرد المرء على قيود مجتمعه لاسباب كثيرة.. فقد يكون مضطهدا ، وقد يكون ضمن اقلية (وهو السر في تفوق الاقليات اليهودية ضمن المجتمعات الكبيرة) وقد تكون لتربيته دور في تمرده، وقد يكون غير سوي نفسيا، وقد يكون غيورا ومتألما لما يراه، وقد يكون ببساطة مريضا ويعاني باستمرار!.. فالمرض (كمثال) ظرف قهري يتطلب استحداث اساليب جديدة في العيش والتعامل والتفكير.. وحين يصاب المرء بمرض دائم يفكر بشكل اعمق ولا يعبأ كثيرا لما يفرضه المجتمع ويقوله الناس. المريض مهيأ اكثر لالتقاط الالهام في الخلوة وبلورة الابداع من المعاناة.. هنري ماتيس مثلا بدأ حياته كمحام متواضع في باريس. ولكنه اصيب بالتهاب دائم في الزائدة جعله طريح الفراش. وفي ظل معاناته ووحدته اكتشف موهبته في الرسم فأصبحت الفرشاة رفيق حياته.. الطريف ان الزائدة الدودية يمكن حاليا ازالتها بعملية لا تستغرق نصف ساعة. ولكنها لو اتيحت لماتيس لكسبنا محاميا وخسرنا مدرسة جديدة في الفن المعاصر!!

* قد يكون الخلط بين العبقرية والجنون له اساس من الصحة، فالمعاناة النفسية والجسدية تنقلب في الافراد العاديين الى دافع للتفوق واثبات الذات (وهو ما قالت عنه العرب: كل ذي عاهة جبار!!).

بيتهوفن مثلا، رغم انه اعظم موسيقي في التاريخ الا انه كان يعاني من الصمم، وشومان (اعظم عازف بيانو) كانت يده اليمنى مشلولة، والمعري كان اعمى، ومليير كان مصابا بالسل، واديسون بالصمم، ودستويفسكي بالصرع، وسيزان بالسكر.. اما هذه الايام فاعظم مثال هو عالم الفيزياء البريطاني ستيفن كنج الذي اصيب بانحلال تدريجي في العضلات حتى اصبح مجرد كتلة لحم رخوة.. ومع هذا يعد كنج حاليا اعظم عالم في الفيزياء والفلك وكتب بالصوت واحدا من اكثر الكتب مبيعا في التاريخ (موجز تاريخ الكون)!!

.. حين نتأمل الرابطة القوية بين المعاناة والعبقرية نقدم العذر للاصحاء والمحظوظين.. فالمحظوظ لا يتمرد على مجتمع أعطاه كل شيء، وصحيح الجسم لا يملك دافعاً للابداع او وقتا للتأمل
Profile Image for Alyazi.
116 reviews315 followers
December 10, 2011
أينشتاين أينشتاين .. لقد أضحكتني ، أمتعتني ، أغضبتني ، أبكيتني .. وأشعلتَ في داخلي عوالماً فيزيائية كونية .. ورغبات جديدة كُلياً على رُوح .
كنت سعيدة بي لأنني أقرأك ، وغاضبة مني لأنني أبدو أحياناً متعاطفة معكَ كُلياً وكم يبدو هذا سيئاً ! فأنتَ لم تكن عالماً فحسب ، لم تكن ألمانياً تخليت عن جنسيتك ، لم تكن يهودياً فقط بل صهيونياً أيضاً تحاول الإنصاف .. أترى ها أنا أحاول أن أبرر لكْ مع أنه لا يجب أن يحدثَ ذلك .. أنتَ ساهمت في بناء إسرائيل في أرض فلسطين ، أنتَ رغبتَ بهذا مع أنكَ لم كنت بادئ ذي بدء تقول :" إن فكرة دولة إسرائيل لا تتوافق مع رغبات قلبي ، وإنني لا أفهم لماذا نحن بحاجة إلى دولة كهذه " . وبعد الإعلان عنها قلتَ بأنكَ سعيد بها ، رفضتَ الرئاسة فيها لأنكَ تظن بأنكَ لم تخلق لتكون سياسياً أو ذا منصب .
لم أفهمك إلى حدٍ ما ، لكنني أحترمك بعد كُل شيء ، أظنكَ جديراً بالإحترام .

مستاءة لأنني مضطرة لحسم نجمة عن كِتابتك ، ففي بعض أجزاءك الصغيرة المتناثرة بين الفصول توجد مواضيع علمية تبعث النفور والملل لمن لم يكن لديه خلفية علمية عنها . لكنني قارئة ذكية أينشتاين ، لقد تجاوزتها واستمتعت بالوثب القرائي

معرفةُ أينشتاين : إنساناً .. فيزيائياً .. مفكراً .. أو حتي يهودياً .. ألمانياً . متأمركاً .. مسالماً .. لعوباً كان كُل هذا ممتعاً ، مغرياً لكُل الراغبين في قراءتك أيضاً

Profile Image for Jamie.
Author 5 books169 followers
August 1, 2008
A while back I had tried to read Walter Isaacson's biography on Benjamin Franklin, but just couldn't get through it because the author mired everything down in pointless details. Despite that, I decided to give his more recent book about famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein a try. If it turned out to be boring, I'd just drop it. Turned out, I loved it.

What I loved about Isaacon's book here is the way it delicately balances three aspects: the life of Einstein from a strictly biographical angle, the examination of his scientific works like special and general relativity, and the discussion of how Einstein impacted and viewed the scientific zeitgeist of the early 20th century --particularly within the field of physics. I could see how someone setting out to write this book might want to focus on just one or two of these facets, but that would really be missing a huge opportunity. Each member of this trio of topics interacts with each other, and Isaacson finds ways to discuss two or more of them within the same passage. We get interesting little tidbits about Einstein's personal life and character, but we see how those things impacted the way he pursued his scientific work and thinking, and how that body of work turn defined (or, later, ran counter to) the entire field of physics. Seeing how all these pieces intersected and linked was fascinating.

It's all pretty well written, too. We get neat little anecdotes about Einstein like how contrary to popular belief he never failed math, or how he married his cousin, had four citizenships, or how --SPOILER ALERT-- the coroner who performed his autopsy stole his fricking brain and kept it in a jar for years while periodically giving out pieces of it to friends. I'll admit that when Isaacson would go off on a lecture about special or general relativity my eyes would glaze over while trying to follow his discussion of say four-sided triangles in non-Euclidean space or whatever, but at least some of the time it was written at a level I could follow, at least conceptually. Enough to understand the impact it had on the field, at least until Einstein's own theories were supplanted by quantum theory. If I have any criticism of the book, it's that while Isaacson does an admirable job of placing Einstein's achievements within the context of scientific discoveries at that time, what he fails to do is give us much perspective on how much --if anything-- the modern science of today owes to Einstein and his theories. What did Einstein get wrong, and what parts of his theories have been crowded out by the inevitable march of scientific progress? Dunno. Didn't say.

All in all, though, I found the book fascinating and would recommend it. I think I may go back and give the Ben Franklin book another shot.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,631 followers
October 17, 2016
On the suggestion of my friend Al, I acquired and recently finished the recent Einstein biography by Walter Isaacson. He also wrote one on Franklin which I will read soon as well. As for the Einstein biography, it is about 550 pages long follow by 90 pages of footnotes and references and 50 pages of index. It covers his life and attempts to explain some of his theories. I found that the first half about his childhood and momentous discoveries in 1905 was exciting. I hadn’t realized that most of his most critical insights came within months of each other and several years before they could be fully understood or exploited. The photoelectric effect (proving the existence of atoms) Brownian motion, special relativity, and the equivalence of matter and energy were all there. It took him another 10 years to get from the special theory to the general theory of relativity. Interesting to note as well was the innate marketing in Einstein to simplify formulas to their more palatable essence: the five symbols in E=mc2 being so incredibly benign looking but in fact harboring atom-shattering power. Isaacson often takes time to demonstrate how Einstein was constantly in wonder at the universe around him and convinced that there was some relatively simple rules hiding there waiting to be discovered by some distant omniscient deity. His further quest for general relatively was similarly passionate reading particularly in the race with a Swedish mathematician David Hildbert to find the final formula. It is a bit harder to remember and understand than the special theory but contains the famous cosmological constant that bugged him ever after.

The book kind of slows down and loses a little focus after this initial rush. It drifts from Eintein’s Zionism, to his peace activism, events in his personal life, his emigration to the US, etc. The author organized the books on common themes rather than using a chronological account. I am more a fan of the latter (such as the 2-volume Faulkner biography by Blotner that remains my favorite) so this one left me a little wanting. As for the math, I would have appreciated a few more details on Einstein’s derivations and so forth but perhaps that’s just the nerd in me. I’ll need to get Hawking’s “On the Shoulders Of Giants” for that approach I think.

Overall, it is an interesting introduction to Einstein’s life and highly readable. Certainly not the best biography I ever read but not the worst either.
Profile Image for Trish.
2,015 reviews3,434 followers
November 15, 2022
Albert Einstein is one of the most important human beings in the history of humanity. His theories, almost all proven to have been correct by now and those not having been proven only remaining un-proven because we don't have the technology to prove them yet, have radically changed the way we understand the universe.

Albert was born on March 14th, 1879, in Ulm to a German-Jewish family.

Ulm, coincidentally, is not far from where I live and yes, it's the same state. Funnily enough, though, Einstein renounced his German citizenship early on (aged 17) because German academia was too restrictive for him.
There is this myth that Albert flunked math, but it's not true. He didn't have the best grades, but he never flunked. And the reason he had bad grades was because the teachers felt he didn't show them the proper respect more than anything. He also used different ways of arriving at nevertheless correct results - ways that weren't accepted by the teachers.

Due to his father's business ventures, Einstein grew up in a number of places in Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
Eventually, he took the entrance exams to the Swiss Federal polytechnic school in Zürich (later the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH). Remember that myth about him flunking maths? Einstein failed to reach the required standard in the general part of the ETH's examination, but obtained exceptional grades in physics and mathematics. He obtained the school's teaching diploma for both subjects in 1900. So there.

In 1903, Einstein married Mileva Maric, the only woman among the six students in the mathematics and physics section of the teaching diploma course. Apparently, they had a daughter born out of wedlock, who died of scarlet fever. After having married, they had two sons. But their relationship was ... rocky. Eventually, they got divorced in 1919 after having lived apart for years. As part of the divorce settlement, Einstein agreed to give Mileva any future Nobel Prize money - she accepted and collected years later.
There has been a lot of controversy (mostly debunked now) that his wife had helped with his theories. I think that does Mileva's actual accomplishments a disservice. What she did do was support him, put up with him, raised their children and later cared for their sick son until her own death, and she checked his math (remember: she had gone to the university in Zürich herself).
When I say "having lived apart", I mean that Albert had a romantic relationship with another woman back in 1910 when his wife was pregnant with their second son. In addition to the romantic interest in 1910, he had an affair with none other than Marie Curie(!!!). Though his "chief" romantic interest since 1912 was his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, whom he married in 1919 right after his divorce from Mileva. They emigrated to the United States in 1933 where Elsa died only 3 years later.
Elsa hadn't been his only love either, however. You see, good old Albert obviously was a bit of a ladies-man as letters to six different women during the time of his second marriage and after confirm.
As a last point about his family life, his younger son, Eduard, was diagnosed with schizophrenia after having suffered a breakdown aged 20. He even had to be institutionalized. Albert wasn't the best of fathers, I'm sad to say.

But back to his career. In 1900, after not being able to secure a teaching job, Albert Einstein started working at a patent office since he had to earn a living. It is here that the very first significant "what if" moment occurred: What if Albert Einstein had accepted the promotion and given up on his dream of becoming a theoretic scientist?! It almost happened - but, thankfully, didn't.

On 30 April 1905, Einstein completed his dissertation "A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions" with Alfred Kleiner who served as Einstein's pro-forma advisor. The thesis was accepted in July and Einstein was therefore awarded a PhD on 15 January 1906.
Also in 1905 (which was dubbed Einstein's amazing year), he published 4 other papers - one of which was on special relativity and the equivalence of mass and energy. He was only 26 at the time.
Between 1907 and 1915, Einstein devised THE most well-known theory he ever published: general relativity (a theory of gravitation). In 1911, Einstein published another article "On the Influence of Gravitation on the Propagation of Light" expanding on the original article.
By 1908, he was recognized as a leading scientist and was appointed lecturer at the University of Bern.
Einstein became a full professor at the German Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague in April 1911 (where he became the youngest member), accepting Austrian citizenship in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to do so (remember that he wasn't a fan of the German way of life). During his stay in Prague, he wrote 11 scientific works, five of them on radiation mathematics and on the quantum theory of solids.
In the spring of 1913, Einstein was enticed to move to Berlin with an offer that included membership in the Prussian Academy of Sciences (he became a member in July), and a linked University of Berlin professorship, enabling him to concentrate exclusively on research since the membership included a paid salary without teaching duties at the Humboldt University of Berlin.
In 1916, Einstein predicted gravitational waves. The first albeit indirect detection of gravitational waves came in the 1970s through the observation of a pair of closely orbiting neutron stars. Definite confirmation came on 11 February 2016, when researchers at LIGO published the first observation of gravitational waves, detected on Earth on 14 September 2015, nearly one hundred years after the prediction.

Einstein visited NYC for the first time in April 1921, where he received an official welcome by the mayor, followed by three weeks of lectures and receptions. He went on to deliver several lectures at such esteemed universities as Columbia and Princeton before going to Washington DC where he accompanied representatives of the National Academy of Sciences on a visit to the White House. On his return to Europe, he delivered a lecture at the King's College in London.
So yes, he was a rock star.
In 1935, Einstein collaborated with Nathan Rosen to produce a model of a wormhole, often called Einstein–Rosen bridges.

Einstein emigrated to the US in 1933 as a refugee after the Nazi regime had started discriminating against Jews and had raided his various homes repeatedly. But while he was apprehensive about neither having a home nor work, his fame helped him: he was taken to meet people like Churchill and Chamberlain, the former of which helped in getting German scientists out of Germany. Einstein thus turned activist and wrote to other state leaders to save as many German-Jewish scientists as possible. On 3 October 1933, Einstein delivered a speech on the importance of academic freedom before a packed audience at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Naturally, this is also the time when his most controversial work came about. In 1939, the Manhattan Project came to be after a group of Hungarian scientists alert Washington to ongoing Nazi atomic bomb research after which they made Einstein aware of the danger (he was a pacifist and had actually never considered the possibility), following which Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, recommending the US pay attention and engage in its own nuclear weapons research. By signing the letter to Roosevelt, some argue, he went against his pacifist principles. And indeed, in 1954, a year before his death, Einstein said "I made one great mistake in my life—when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification—the danger that the Germans would make them ..." In 1955, Einstein and ten other intellectuals and scientists, including British philosopher Bertrand Russell, signed a manifesto highlighting the danger of nuclear weapons.
Einstein became an American citizen in 1940.

Throughout his life, Einstein published hundreds of books and articles as well as more than 300 scientific papers and 150 non-scientific ones.

On 17 April 1955, Einstein experienced internal bleeding while trying to finish a speech. He refused surgery, saying, "I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share; it is time to go. I will do it elegantly." He died early the next morning aged 76.

And yes, this is the HEAVILY abbreviated version that mentions not nearly enough of this man' achievements. I might not condone his personal life, but his genius canNOT be disputed. To think that he only THEORIZED about all these principles and was limited by the tech of his time so we have to confirm his theories today! No wonder a pathologist illegally removed Einstein's brain before he was cremated. No it was not OK, especially since he didn't have the family's consent, but that is how important people knew Einstein to have been!

I am very happy to say that not only did the author manage to greatly mix the various elements of Einstein’s life to combine them into a riveting narrative, he also fantastically broke down the different theories, observations and breakthroughs so any reader can understand them - something that Einstein himself was apparently very good at either (one of my teachers once said that if you can’t explain a complex matter in simple terms, you haven’t understood it). :D

A fantastic biography presented wonderfully by a great audiobook narrator.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,361 reviews225 followers
January 15, 2023
”Аз нямам особен талант, просто съм страшно любопитен”, заявява Айнщайн в края на живота си.

Любопитен дали законите на физиката остават едни и същи независимо от състоянието на движение; има ли обективна реалност, независима от наблюдателя; играе ли Бог на зарове; как се пътува върху слънчев лъч.

Цял живот Айнщайн посвещава на опит да обедини, обясни и опрости колкото се може повече от необятния свят на физиката. С усмивка, с добронамереност към човечеството като цяло (не към собственото му първо семейство обаче) и с чувство за хумор. Както и с немалка доза артистичност и минималистична математическа елегантност. Пацифизмът, вярата в критичния разум и непоносимостта му към дискриминация (било то фашизъм или маккартистки лов на комунистически вещици) се съчетава с ролята му на един от бащите (макар и не от преките създатели) на атомната бомба.

Физиците са пионерите и героите на ХХ век. Онези, които ни разкриха познати и неподозирани вселени и ни накараха да повярваме в едно просветено бъдеще.

Навремето мразех физиката, което ме затрудни да преплувам тоновете физика в книгата. Авторът добросъвестно е издирил и възпроизвел хронологията и основните моменти от теориите на А��нщайн, мисловните му експерименти, както и фазите на безуспешната му война срещу квантовата механика (нищо, че неволно е един от основоположниците и). Научната част в книгата е истински романтична и вдъхновяваща. Човекът Айнщайн обаче остава размит образ - далеч по-мъгляв от прочутата клета хем жива, хем мъртва котка на Шрьодингер, която също е герой на разказа. Леко неясни си останаха и образите на близките, приятелите и съперниците му.

Като теглих чертата обаче, осъзнах, че физиката също е романтична и облагородяваща, и е еквивалентът на великите географски открития през ХХ век.
Profile Image for Cherisa B.
518 reviews43 followers
September 8, 2022
An incredible life nicely documented here. Isaacson walks us chronologically through Einstein's emotional, scientific and political biography. He fills in the context of the times to show the milieu of the man and how he stood out in it, the personal attributes that both plagued and made him who he was, the curiosity and stubbornness, the humanity and kindness, aloofness and mischievousness. Always engaging, the clarity of the writing made the science readable and somewhat understandable to me, as were the politics and machinations in both the national and scientific realms. This thoroughness by the author makes for a very good read. But of course the real star is Einstein, the man, the scientist, the humanist, the legend and icon.

Things that stood out for me about the man in the way that Isaacson presents him include:

- non-conformity and an innate inability to kowtow to authority allowed Einstein the freedom to pursue unorthodox ideas. Unrestrained by received dogma, but also appreciative of the incipient markers laid by others, he could blaze new trails that opened up vast new territories. These attributes also fired his belief that no one had the right to impose ideas and beliefs on others, not just in science, but also to recoil from Nazis marching in lockstep or the tyrannies of mind like Stalinism or McCarthyism.

- curiosity that led him from the smallest particles to the cosmos, and many ideas and theories in between

- his ability to use intuition and imagination as well as analysis and intelligence to delve into the nature of reality he sought to understand

- his tenacity and passion to understand, both the work of the Creator and the work for man to do

- his reverence and awe of the universe and that we are given the ability to understand it. "For some people, miracles serve as evidence of God's existence. For Einstein, it was the absence of miracles that reflected divine providence. The fact that the cosmos is comprehensible, that it follows laws, is worthy of awe”.

There is much much more in his life and work to appreciate, be amused by, stand in awe of, and admire. Undoubtedly, one of the great men in the history of human civilization.

(Narrative is 551 pages; sources, footnotes and index comprise another 125 pages)
Profile Image for Arvind Iyer.
44 reviews12 followers
July 26, 2020
Marvelous!!. The book provides insight into Einstein's mind, his views on various aspects of life, science, relationships, and GOD. Walter Issacson does an incredible job of explaining the scientific concepts in a simpler language that can be understood to a non-science person. Overall, a very enjoyable, engaging, and an important read. This book needs to read if you want to know what went into the making of a legend ALBERT EINSTEIN. Strongly Recommended.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,099 followers
November 16, 2022
This turned out to be a wonderfully accessible and well-written account of Einstein's life.

He has warts, to be sure, but he's quite human. He was also a superstar for his time. A real rockstar. E=MC squared, you know?

I've seen documentaries, too, even read his General Relativity when I was young, and I've had a grand ole time listening or reading about all his colleagues and all the things they had to say about Einstein -- and it's all a hoot.

At least in the realm of quantum physics, Einstein is viewed as an embarrassment and all my classes kind of rolled their eyes at him, but for the time he championed field dynamics, it deserved all his accolades... not that the real world was all that easy on him.

For while WE have seen him in the media as a rockstar, in reality, he was victimized out of quite a few well-deserved accolades for his being Jewish. The whole thing about GENERAL RELATIVITY, for example, has still never been properly stamped.

On the other hand, Einstein, being a rockstar, was one of the few people who could have said anything they wanted and often did. I admire him for that quality. I think he was a genuinely good dude. The questionable things he DID do were all in his family life and they were limited to cheating, sometimes ignoring his family unless they gave him the total freedom to come to it on his own, or just staying out of their lives entirely, aside for setting them up with funds, but that's about the full extent of it.

What he had to deal with, on the other hand, was a lot of antisemitism, McCarthy Era BS, and a lot of stodgy tools keeping him back in the science community.

The fact is, aside from that short period when he was working as a Patent Clerk and being super productive with his thought experiments, his talents were kinda wasted, but one thing is abundantly clear: he was a rockstar whose dedication to personal freedom, following his personal compass, allowed him to perform some truly amazing feats.

Fortunately for the rest of us who want to sift through all the BS the media wrote about him versus what ACTUALLY happened, this book is a fantastic resource.
Profile Image for Robert.
817 reviews44 followers
March 19, 2017
This is an incredibly well researched, detailed account of all aspects of Einstein's life, personal, scientific and political that I can highly recommend to anybody interested. I learned heaps I didn't know and had the record set straight on a number of points, mainly regarding Einstein's political views, how they changed over time and his level of support for setting up the Manhattan Project.

I read the book with a specific research agenda, which was to independently form an opinion as to whether Einstein was autistic, an idea not first suggested by me and not on the author's mind either. Conclusion: Yep, autisticker than an autistic person with autism.

Towards the end there is an account of how Einstein was affected by and responded to McCarthyism. He was opposed, seeing in it the oppression of free speech and free thought characteristic of both Fascism and Communism. The author takes the view that McCarthyism was a passing fad, doomed to fail in the long term because of the greatness of the American Constitution. I found this level of complacency offensive to all the victims of McCarthy, all the people who spoke up in defense of freedoms and all the people who defended the constitution legally.

On it's own the constitution is nothing; without those people willing to risk reputation, career, even liberty, would McCarthyism have been a "passing fad"? Given the current political situation, we need such people more than ever. You disappoint me in this, Isaacson. Einstein, who used his world famous name to stand up for moderation, tolerance and freedom of thought and speech, does not.

Still, overall an excellent book.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,254 followers
May 24, 2013
Einstein: His Life and Universe is but a mere pinch of Einstein's theories mixed in with a modest helping of his life. The brevity was too my taste as I was only in the mood for a tiny taste of Einstein bio. Too much of the genuis' theory is liable to give me brain-freeze, so this was perfect. And done just the way I like it, tight and to the point.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,282 reviews80 followers
October 11, 2022
4 Stars for Einstein: His Life and Universe (audiobook) by Walker Isaacson read by Edward Herrmann.

It’s interesting to delve deep into the life of one of the most brilliant people of all time. This book really helps put into perspective all the turmoil in the world at the time and how it affected Einstein’s life.
Profile Image for Alex Telander.
Author 16 books157 followers
November 2, 2007
EINSTEIN: HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSE BY WALTER ISAACSON: Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, takes biography writing to a whole new level with Einstein: His Life and Universe. This isn’t just the story of Albert Einstein from birth until death; Isaacson escorts the reader on a unique journey through the mind of Einstein, as well as through the eyes of his friends and family; along the way one becomes so close and understanding of the man of the twentieth century it is as if he were still alive and conversing with you. This book shows you the man and human being behind the genius of physics and astronomy, the creator of the theory of relativity.

Do not be fooled by the sheer girth of this 700-page book, Isaacson has a writing style that immediately makes the reader feel calm and at home, sitting in a comfortable chair doing what they love to do. Coupled with this is the knowledge – since the book is so large – that you will experience every important moment in Einstein’s life and you will be able to put to rest the urban legends that have developed over the decades. And no, Einstein did not flunk math.

Isaacson has done an incredible job in researching the math and physics so that the theories and ideas are presented in their entirety and laid out plainly so that if the reader wishes to truly understand Einstein’s ideas behind relativity, magnetic fields, quantum mechanics, and his never ending search for the unified field theory, they can. But unlike most Einstein biographies, this is only part of the book; another part is the human being behind the incredible brain. While being a very kind man throughout his life, Einstein also had a thing for the ladies, divorcing his first wife, Maric, of many years due to his infidelity with his second wife and cousin, Elsa, who he would outlive. Nevertheless, throughout his life Einstein always loved and cared for his children, even his first daughter with Maric who was given up for adoption and remains an obscure detail to history. There was a time when he held little respect for Hans Albert, his son, who pursued a career in engineering; Einstein’s love belonged to the world of theory and contemplation and despised the more manual sciences. Later in life, Hans and Albert became close once again and his son was by his side when Einstein died.

While not in the table of contents, the book can be divided into two parts, two worlds essentially for Einstein’s life. The first is his growing up in Germany and then moving to Switzerland, Prague and Berlin. His genius was there from the beginning, as he mastered calculus at the age of 15, and while working at a patent office began his work on relativity. It took some years before Einstein was granted a professorship in Berlin among his colleagues. It is during this time that Einstein was at his height and achieved a celebrity status that was very uncommon for a scientist, and where Hitler began his steady rise to power. While Einstein adamantly declared himself without religion, he never considered himself an atheist but a scientist; however he always considered himself a member of the Jewish culture and with the changes taking place in Germany, he became a prominent spokesmen for the Zionist movement. Sadly it came to the point where it simply wasn’t safe for Einstein to live in Germany anymore, as well as being forced out of his professorship, he made the decision to immigrate to the United States. He had visited the country a number of times during his tours around the world as a proponent of relativity and to meet other scientists at conferences, and was a big supporter of the rights and freedoms inherent in the country.

This is where the second part of the book begins, pursuing Einstein’s life in the United States.

Read the rest of the review at www.alexctelander.com

Profile Image for Nika.
306 reviews122 followers
May 9, 2019
Уф, яка масштабна і захоплива праця про одного з найунікальніших мислителів світу. Бунтівник, який не визнавав жодних авторитетів і до вивчення світу підходив лише з цікавістю та пошуком. Неймовірно радію, що прочитала. І трііііішечки більше зрозуміла про загальну теорію відносності та квантову механіку😅 І взагалі не бійтеся читати. У книзі в першу чергу про Альберта-людину, який найбільш за все в світі переймався свободою та справедливістю. Людина, перш за все.
Profile Image for Lee.
36 reviews9 followers
March 10, 2009
You'll know Albert like your own grandfather after reading this. This book covers the complete life of Albert Einstein, from his childhood (he never did fail a math test) and early attraction to science and math to his love life, his children, his education, his employment, his many great theories and discoveries, his relationship with all of his famous peers, his rise to public fame, his sincere beliefs in freedom from oppression, 2 world wars, his role with the bomb, and his life in the US. And through it all is modest, humble private life. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Profile Image for Viktor Stoyanov.
Author 1 book166 followers
January 11, 2021
Животът му е цяла Вселена.

Каквото и да се изпише в една биография на Айнщайн ще е малко. Затова и не ми достигна материя в иначе добре конструираната биография от Уолтър Айзъксън - изпълнена с присъщия за автора каноничен поглед и принцип на "най-важното". Не ми достигна онази щипка подправка повече, която четем в "Стив Джобс" например, но е ясно и откъде идва разликата. Нямал е как да се срещне на живо с гения от началото на XX век, така както го е направил за книгата с този от края на века. Впрочем, това ми липсваше и в биографията на Леонардо, а доколкото малко четох и в тази на Б. Франклин (нея обещавам да я завърша в тази година).

С този увод, смятам ще ме разберете, че не ми се иска да преразказвам живота на А.А., тъй като сбитият преразказ ще се яви недостоен да отрази и 1/10 от същината. Вместо това, ще се опитам да ориентирам, какво да очаквате в тази книга.

1. Личния му живот - най-малко засегнатата част и има защо. Той самият е предпочел другите си две роли на този свят, пред тази на отдаден баща, син, или съпруг. Детството му е интересно - ще запомня момента с компаса (подарък), който предизвиква у малкия Алберт любопитство към природните закони.

2. Науката - най-голямата му страст. Човъркащото любопитство, което от онзи компас, не го оставя до последното му болнично легло. Тази книга е добър Пролог за по-интересно навлизане в мътните дебри на физиката и астро-физиката. Парадокс за мен е, че в първата половина на века, когато политиците и техните привърженици сътвориха нещо наречено Първата световна глупост и Втората световна глупост, по същото време една дузина учени (без компютри, калкулатори, сателити ... по д��волите, дори без електричество в началото) сътвориха толкова много за разбирането ни на вселената, колкото всички останали дотогава. Да, те стъпиха на титаничните рамене на предшествениците си - както философи, така и учени като Нютон (в миналото разликата между учен и философ е повече бледа), но буквално сътвориха вселената наново и се опитаха да ни я обяснят.
Паули, Хайзенберг, Уилър, Шрьодингер (по-известен с котката), Бройл, Планк, Ръдърфорд, Хъбъл, Бор ... Прочутите беседи на Айнщайн с Бор се считат от мнозина за най-високото интелектуално достижение на човешката мисъл. Това не е махленски спор, с каквито твърде често се срещаме днес и навсякъде - това са две вселени, които се допълват и противоречат в опит да разберат плана на самия Творец. Тук са някои от споменатите и още много, променили света чрез познаването му:

Друг парадокс - в проучване за популярност - Хитлер печели по това време 1-во място пред 2-рия Айнщайн като най-влиятелна личност в света. Добре, че човешката история е само прашинка във вселенската.

3. Това води и до третия образ на Айнщайн - този на общественика. От тази биография оставам с впечатлението, че той първоначално е странял от всякакви политически позиции, но може ли човек да остана така равнодушен в контекстта на случващото се в Германия? И при това еврейн! Няма шанс - и той поема и тази функция на плещите си. нея няма да коментирам, мисля Айзъксън се е справил доста обективно да я представи. Тя идва и от вродената му склонност за оспорване на авторитетите.

Следващата ирония е, че след феноменалната му продуктивност в научната сфера в първата половина от живота - когато е "бунтовник" срещу всеки авторитет и апостолат, във втората му половина се превръща в точно това - скептичен авторитет. Сам го признава. Опитът му го трансформира. От въображението си, преминава към математиката като подход за извеждане на идеи. Но вътрешният му бунт продължава в една друга линия ... отдава се докрай в търсене на "обща формула", която да обединява новите теории (квантова, неопределеност и др.) с останалата досегашна физика. Според всички специалисти - неплодотворен и неблагодарен труд, но той вярва в него до самия край.

В последните си дни, дори в последните часове в болницата, изпълнява ролята си на общественик - пише реч по случай годишнината от основаването на Израел. И пише редове с формули по именно този физичен проблем. Последното нещо, което написва е просто още един ред уравнения.

Със затваряне на последната страница си мисля, че ако всички бяхме толкова отдадени на работата си, на идеите си - човечеството щеше вече да е в своите космически години, в една много по-напреднала фаза на еволюция. Вместо това, обсъждаме проблеми, които са били на дневен ред и преди времето на Айнщайн.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews103 followers
February 7, 2019
People ask the question all the time, "If you could have dinner with someone, living or dead, who would it be?"

My new answer (probably not who you're thinking):


Not only would Isaacson bring one of greatest thinkers (the good sir Albert Einstein) to the table, he'd also be able to conjure visionaries like Da Vinci (next queued audiobook), Benjamin Franklin, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. He'd regale funny anecdotes and character quirks as if he were speaking about a personal friend, talk about their thought processes in depth, and get to their heart and soul.

Einstein: His Life And Universe is an absolute triumph. Not since Michael Ruhlman, who made the culinary world come alive for me with his "Making of a Chef" series, has an author awakened an interest in a subject so intensely. A friend of mine once said, "Don't bother reading the history of Africa; just read The Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. It's got it all." I get it now; I want to tell people, "Don't bother with physics; just get Isaacson's book." Physics, man! It turns out, it's not just math (Einstein wasn't even that great at math; he relied on thought experiments); it's why we're here.

Since starting this 20+hour audiobook, I've been watching lots of NOVA (highly recommend the Fabric of the Cosmos series), bookmarking relativity and "meaning of the universe" docs on Netflix and Prime, and going down the rabbit hole of quantum mechanics. And it's all been fascinating. I really didn't expect to get such an in-depth schooling on physics from a biography, or to take to it as I have. Isaacson breaks down incredibly difficult concepts--relativity (gravity and acceleration are indistinguishable--there's a great analogy of a man suspended in an elevator)--and gravity is a property of "space-time"); mass/energy equivalence (E=MC^2); and the photoelectric effect (light interacts with matter as "packets" of light/energy, not waves). All of this doesn't mean anything here, of course, because I'm not Einstein, or Isaacson. But seriously, you'll feel like a fucking genius after you finish Isaacson's work. (Until you try to explain it to someone else in your own words; then you'll feel like a dolt again.)

Isaacson mentions that Einstein never fancied himself to be that smart. He said his best quality was his curiosity. He was also humble, never afraid to admit when he was wrong, or throw out or refine a theory. He was most pleased and humbled when he could grasp an underlying principle that governed all (that to him, was the true miracle; not an aberration from universal law). While he never quite came around to quantum mechanics (his favorite quote was "God does not throw dice"), he helped challenge its biggest proponents like Niehls Bohr (who used to mumble under his breath, "Einstein, Einstein...").

Einstein was amused and seemed to play into the "absentminded professor" characterization he received later in life, and enjoyed interacting with the public. He was self-aware, kind, the highest of independent thinkers (World War II made him reject his views on pacifism), and was instrumental in the development of the atom bomb when it was feared that Germany was also developing the technology (he distanced himself from his involvement when we used the atom bomb(s) on Japan, and it was clear Germany didn't possess the weapon).

He was once offered the presidency of Israel, helped establish the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, married his first cousin, possibly had an illegitimate daughter who was given up for adoption and never mentioned again, published his four most famous papers at the age of 26, adored Mozart and playing the violin, was suspected of being a spy at the height of the McCarthy era (Isaacson pokes fun at the FBI here, specifically the file they had on Einstein, which carried everything EXCEPT his unbeknownst affair with an actual Russian spy), was a civil rights advocate, and befriended not only famous scientists but artists like Upton Sinclair and Charlie Chaplin.

My favorite part of listening to this book has been watching physics docs with my smartass husband, who already knows a lot about science. We'll be watching NOVA, and I'll shout out, "It's entanglement! Arthur Eddington proved that! Entropy!" and he'll just look at me like, "When the HELL have you been listening to?" That, friends, was worth the 20+ hour listen in and of itself.
Profile Image for Mohamed Elashri.
874 reviews1,060 followers
July 4, 2017

حسناً أنوي الكتابة عن الكتاب نفسه ، لا أقصد المحتوي بالطبع ، رغم أناقة الحديث عن هذا العبقري المغرور الذي غير وجه فهمنا للعالم وكان للأسف من أعظم علماء الفيزياء . حسناً بالطبع بول ديراك {{برقبته}}ولكن علي كل فهو قدير بأن يكتب عنه الكثير فهي صدفة سعيدة جعلته يسبق هيلبرت فى الوصول لحقائق النظرية النسبية الخاصة (سعيدة بالنسبة له علي الأقل) وهذه الحقائق لن تنكر حقيقة أنه عبقري ومتمرد حقيقي.

أكتب لان الكتاب نفسه لديه قصة طويلة لدى ، إنه يؤرخ لأسعد ذكريات حياتى علي الاطلاق ، فبعض كلمات هذا الكتاب تحتوي علي أسعد ما يمكنني قراءته فى كل ما كتب علي ورق يوماً ما .
ربما يكون الكتاب سيرة ذاتية عن متحذلق ما من المتحذلقين الذين غيروا وجه العالم لأنهم تحلوا ببعض الشجاعة للتفكير فى مدي ما قد تحدثه تحذلاقاتهم اذا تم التعبير عنها بلغة الرياضيات ، ثاني أصدق اللغات فى التعبير بعد لغة المحبين فى لحظة الفراق .

نسخة مكتبة الاسرة ظريفة ولكن نسختي كانت هدية وهي أغلي هدية عيد مولد قدمت لي ، لا يعود هذا بالطبع إلي كونها أول هدية مولد حقيقية لي . بل يعود لكونها مميزة للغاية . لن تكون مميزة لأنني معتوه يشبه فى تمرده المعتوه الكبير الذي يتحدث عنه الكتاب فى بدايات حياته مع فارق أنه كان اكثر تفوقاً مني قليلاً وأنني لن أقوم بتغيير العالم بالطبع كما فعل هو .

قرأت الكتاب عدة مرات ، لأكن صادقاً فليست قراءة كاملة ، لكن بالأمس قراءته كاملاً طوال الليل , حسناً ساكون صادقاً أنني لم أكن اقرأ طوال الليل فقد مرضت فى نفس هذا الليل وغطيت فى نوم طويل إلي الصباح ، نوم طويل مثلما شعرت ولكن يبدو أن ساعة بيتنا قد سافرت بعيداً فهي لم تشر سوي أنني نمت سوي الساعتين فقط . (حسناً يبدو أن تباطؤ الزمن يأتي أحيانا بالايحاء ) , حسناً ما بين القوسين هو جملة حمقاء للغاية ولا تأخذوها محمل الجد ولست أدعي أنها اكتشاف حصري سيغير العالم خصوصاً عندما ياتي من شخص لم يقبلوا نشر ورقته البحثية رغم انها كانت مجرد مراجعة وليست شيئاً جديداً .

فى أول كتاب قرأته وانهيته فى حياتي كتبت فى نهايته لغة تشفير بسيطة من ابتكاري ، الكتاب عن سيرة صلاح الدين الأيوبي ، كانت اللغة عبارة عن مزيج من اسماء الحيوانات واسماء أشياء اخري احبها . للكتاب ذكريات كبيرة وعديدة معي وكنت أخال أنني لن احب كتاباً ابداً أكثر منه ولكن هذا الكتاب أحببته أكثر منه بكثير ، حسناً أكرر أن هذا ليس لسواد عيون اينشتاين ، ربما لو كان كتاباً عن ديراك لأصبح الأمر أكثر معقولية ولكن البتة .

لما أكتب كل هذا هنا ولم كل هذا الكلام الغريب الذي لا علاقة للكتاب به ولا توجد علاقة وثيقة بين الكلام نفسه وبعضه ، لا أعرف
ربما لو كانت لدي مدونة او مكان لا يصيب المرء من وراءه كلمات المعارف من قبيل ماذا تقصد بهذا وهذا لكنت صببت كل هذا الهراء هناك .
لكنني لا امتلك سوي هنا ، وأنا اقوم هنا بمراجعة علي أثمن ما أمتلك فى حياتي .

قبل إهداء الكتاب ، كنت أتحدث انا والحياة لغتان مختلفتان تماماً , كنت أتحدث لغة من الخيال وفانتازيا الأحلام بينما كانت تتحدث الحياة لغة واقعية بكل شاعريتها وسخريتها وأقدارها . أما بعد الكتاب فقد اقتربت اللغتان من بعضهما البعض , وجدت الحياة طريقها إلي لغتي ووجدت طريقي إلي لغة الحياة كما لم أكن فيها من قبل .
إهداءات الكتاب خالية من عبثية المصحح اللغوي وأعباء التكنولوجيا ، لم يخط شيئاً من أجل إيجاد طريق ماً ، بل من أجل العودة الي هذا الطريق الذي كان من المفترض أن تكونه سعادة ، تلك السعادة الغائبة التي مرقت فينا يوما�� .
لا أدري كيف ما يزال "قبلك" حاضراً في اللغة. لولا أنها كلمة حقيقية ، لما شعرت أن لهذا الشئ وجودا. لذلك فأنا أكتب لعل هذا يكون سر تنشيط الأثر الذي أحدثه يوماً هذا .
فهذا الوجود الكامل كثيق إلى حد الرعب. هذا الوجود الكامل أثقل من أن يحتمل نفسه. هذا الوجود الكامل يبدو اللقاء المُحتم مع العدم بعد أن يمضي كل منهما في اتجاه، فيتحدان حين تكتمل دورة المطلق . الوجود المعتم بحاجة لضياء نور يعيد الحياة بعيداً عن ثقل هذا الوجود الفارغ .
أكثر ما يرهقني أنك كل ما أري . ليس لأن ثمةَ ما هو أجمل منك ، فهذا لا يوجد ، بل لأني أرى أجمل ما في الوجود فأشعر أني كائن خطِر.
تخيلي أني أعرف أكثر ما في الوجودِ خطورة وسرية. فكيف لي أن أعيش بعد ذلك مطمئناً ولو لإغفالة عين وجِلة خاشعة !
فإلي متى سيأتمنني الوجود على هذا السر ؟ وإلى متى سيثق في طاقة كتماني؟ و إلى متى ستمر الرياح بجواري وتحجم عن اقتلاعي في آخر لحظة؟
ولماذا لا أستطيع الفكاك بعيداً ؟؟

وأخيراً لما لا تسير الساعات بطيئة إلا عندما لا نريدها كذلك ؟
ولماذا لم يرسب اينشتاين فى التفاضل والتكامل فقد أحرزت فيها علامة مقبول ؟

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