Einstein: The Life of a Genius

Einstein: The Life of a Genius

by Walter Isaacson
4.2 123


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Einstein: The Life of a Genius by Walter Isaacson

From his remarkable theory of relativity and the famous equation E=mc2 to his concept of a unified field theory, no one has contributed as much to science in the last century as Albert Einstein. Drawing on new research and reproducing documents only recently made available, Einstein reveals the process behind the work and the man behind the science: his early years and experiments in Germany, his marriages and children, his role in the development of the atomic bomb, and his involvement with civil rights groups in the United States.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061893896
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/03/2009
Pages: 94
Product dimensions: 9.75(w) x 11.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Walter Isaacson is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, an international non-profit organization designed to promote enlightened leadership and dialogue in contemporary issues. He was chairman and CEO of the international news organization CNN and managing editor of Time. Isaacson wrote the critically acclaimed Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), for which he had access to previously unavailable papers belonging to Einstein. He has also written Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003), Kissinger: A Biography (1992), and is the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made (1986). His work has been published in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and China. In 2007, Isaacson became a columnist for Time. He divides his time between Aspen, CO and Washington D.C.

Date of Birth:

May 20, 1952

Place of Birth:

New Orleans, LA


Harvard, B.A. in History and Literature, 1974; Oxford (Rhodes Scholar), M.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics

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Einstein 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 123 reviews.
frankDeHouston More than 1 year ago
I learned more about Einstein from this one book than with all the previous articles, papers, hear-say, etc. floating around in the printed world. Excellent writing style to boot! I am listening to it while driving and sometimes on arriving to my destination I just sit there in the parking lot engrossed in the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Albert Einstein is generally considered one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. It is not often, though, that people understand him as the active pacifist that he was. Isaacson introduces Einstein in a new light - as both a funny and innovative idealist. Though dense at times, the book carefully balances theory with humanity and moves smoothly through Einstein's complicated ideas. We understand the inner workings of Einstein's mind - both his social insecurities as well as his humor. By the end of the biography, you feel as though you are saying goodbye to a dear friend. The book offers the reader a glimpse into the life of this famous mind, allowing the general person to understand both his science and his soul.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The creator of the Queen of all equations, without a doubt the most famous equation on our planet, the one propounding the equivalence of Energy to mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light, a universal constant, has now been dissected once again, this time by the well-known biographer, Walter Isaacson. In this sprawling, captivating, most readable biography, the author has drawn a well-balanced, multi-layered portrait of Einstein. It is quite possible that growing up slowly has its advantages. In his early childhood Einstein was a slow learner. He learned to speak only after the age of two. And because of his slow verbal development, ¿he thought that it allowed him to observe with wonder the everyday phenomena that others took for granted. Instead of puzzling over mysterious things, he puzzled over the commonplace,¿ the author has written. Walter Isaacson states that Einstein once explained how he happened to discover the theory of relativity: ¿The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time. These are things he has thought of as a child. But I developed so slowly that I began to wonder about space and time only when I was already grown up. Consequently, I probed more deeply into the problem than an ordinary child would have.' I was not surprised to read that even thought his parents were irreligious, Einstein himself believed in God, a ¿God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists'. Not all scientists are atheists, of course. He saw no contradiction between science and religion. 'The religious inclination lies in the dim consciousness that dwells in humans that all nature, including the humans in it, is in no way an accidental game, but a work of lawfulness that there is a fundamental cause of all existence,' he has said. When I hear the name Einstein, I think of the bust of Einstein I saw in a museum when I was six years old. The bust, sculpted of fine white marble and placed on a black marble pedestal, was given a prominent place in the museum hall. After reading Walter Isaacson¿s biography of Einstein, I felt as if the author had transformed the cold marble sculpture into a warm and beautiful statue of clay, and relocated it from its glistening pedestal to a pedestal of molded clay, fired to brick-red in a kiln. Now grainy and highly textured and stripped of its halo and made to look earthy and human, the formidable bust suddenly looks more inviting, approachable and, in an odd way, even likable. With the aid of newly released personal letters and archival documents that were unavailable to biographers before, Isaacson has written a charming and impressive biography, as unexpected and startling as the discovery of a previously unknown type of bright and succulent fruit growing on a prickly plant. What better way to conclude this brief review than with the words of Einstein himself: ¿Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.' What clearly comes through while reading this book is the notion that Einstein not only had a brilliant mind, and sharp intellect, but he also had a weird sense of humor, and at times lacked social grace as well. But I must say that this book has won me over.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It was long but very enlightening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walter Isaacson did an excellent job writing this well-researched, inspiring, and enlightening biography of Albert Einstein. The book was a great joy to read. I was very pleased with the way how relevant concepts, theories, principles, notions, and experiments were introduced and explained in the book (e.g., the equivalence principle, relativity of simultaneity, the Michelson-Morley experiment, Newtonian notions of absolute space and time, etc) as well as the amount of space that was given to other physicists whose work had an impact and influence on Einstein's own work (e.g., Plank, Bohr, Lorentz, Minkowski, etc). The importance of independent thinking and imagination, and having the courage to abandon the conventional wisdom when necessary, was illustrated with many great examples throughout the book (e.g., Newtonian notions of space and time). Einstein was even greater genius than he is thought to be. His ability to come up with such ingenious thought experiments and see their many far-reaching implications on physical reality was truly astonishing. To my delight, the book is also full of great stories illustrating Einstein's sense of humor. My favorite story was the one that described his response to Women Patriots after they had petitioned for denying him a visa to enter the United States. His evocation of the geese that once saved Rome gave me the biggest laugh of all. This book is well worth the time.
cannonball More than 1 year ago
I found this book very interesting and informative. The author does a good job making Einstein seem a rather humble, somewhat eccentric, human and a genius. I had a hard time though with the mandatory chapters about physics--it's just not my subject.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From page one the author held my interest and helped me to expand my mind. Einstein was a true genius.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This author's strength lies in his ability to switch between Einstein's personal life and his theories without breaking the storyline. Once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. Also, includes very nice photos of Einstein throughout his life which were enjoyable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As his existence began to wind down to its final hour, I found myself regrettably having to let go of the character that I had so deeply grown to know via this very detailed and clearly depicted account of Einstein's life. A sure indication of a biographical hallmark achievement. He is gone, yet his universe remains.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding piece if work. In addition to being packed with informtion, it reads like a novel. I have lost many hours of sleep b/c I can't put it down. The immeasurable research and interviews gathered by Isaacson were wonderfully augmented by Einstein's prolific letter writing, all of which provides an indepth understanding of how his mind worked with regard to science, interpersonal relationships, his belief stystems and much more. I hope you'll read it and enjoy it as much as so many others. If nothing else, I guarantee you'll learn a lot about the universe and how scientific knowledge used to advance. Ask youself afterwrds, "has it changed?"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books ever. I listened to this book on audio and I think it has to be one of the best books around. It was truly a great biography, and the reader on the audio was absolutely outstanding. In truly excellent biographical form, the author had a way of pulling the reader (listener) into the subject matter, making the scientific parts understandable as much as possible for the layperson but interspersing the personal aspects of Einstein's life at the right moment so the listener/reader doesn't get fatigued and bored. You like Einstein, which I thnk is important when I read a biography. If I don't like the person, it is not a pleasant read, and it's up to the author to create a feeling of likeability. There were many great quotes, descriptions, and I just had the feeling that I was in the presence of a fantastic part of history. Einstein was a great man of his time who not only moved science as great scientists have in centuries before him, but also moved humanity and affected the human condition. It was an honor to learn about Einstein's life and the contributions he made.
Jalalyanwiththewand More than 1 year ago
Superbly written. This is surely the ultimate look on the man that was Einstein from his childhood to his cluttered desk at his death. Brilliantly written.
Sassan1 More than 1 year ago
"Einstein, His Life and Universe" is a fascinating account providing a unique and intriguing insight to what made Einstein, Einstein! This book provides amazing details and unparalleled levels of Einstein's writings and correspondence from his youthful days in which he was first falling in love with his first wife to his later years when he was stuck in his unrelenting quest for his "Unified Field Theory". We learn not only the different steps Einstein journeyed throughout his life and what it took for him to become the nonconformist and revolutionary that postulated Special Relativity and later General Relativity - but also how he ended up in some ways becoming the "reactionary physicist" that earlier in his younger days he had defied with his revolutionary theories. Most importantly, Isaacson provides Einstein's own words and deeds in allowing the reader to see that despite the amazing humanitarian Einstein was, he was human and had flaws like the rest of us. Saying this, his love for humanity was without doubt one of his greatest motives of his life and although he would often times leave the realm of the "merely personal" and delve into his scientific work to escape life's stresses - the quest for world peace encompassed his ultimate moral value in which he believed in the universality and paramount importance of individual freedom and free expression of the mind and human spirit. Without these universal values, Einstein believed creativity stifles and the human spirit hampers in the abyss.. Truly fascinating book... I only take one issue with Walter Isaacson in this book. I was interesting in reading more about Einstein's lack of belief in a personal god and in the chapter "Einstein's God", the chapter is very terse and does not provide us many details. In addition, Isaacson takes more of a subjective and opinion based approach to that chapter. I have studied Einstein's religiosity (or lack-of) and while he indeed was not an avowed atheist, he time and time expressed his non-belief of religion and based on many of his writings and quotes, one can come to the conclusion that even the "cosmic divine" in which Einstein sometimes referred to was simply metaphoric as during a period when Einstein was in the United States, he was blasted on all sides (whether from civil society, media, and press) in what was believed to be his being a "heretic". Therefore, Isaacson does not take a fair and objective overview of Einstein's own words throughout his life in which Isaacson jumps to the conclusion based on a lack of an overall review of Einstein's quotes and thoughts throughout Einstein's years in asserting that Einstein believed in a "divine providence" - although, Isaacson at least does admit that Einstein did not believe in a personal god. But overall, that chapter on "Einstein's God" was the only chapter that was quite terse and was based more on subjectivity rather than objectivity. Great book, and I recommend it to EVERYONE!
Azpooldude More than 1 year ago
Winner of Time Magazines person of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein was a legend in his own time and his scientific ideas continue to live on today. Walter Isaacson's recent biography, Einstein His Life and Universe, is an in depth look at this icon, his life, ideas and tribulations. Born in Germany, this boy genius was a rebel and not a very good student when he was young. Unhappy with authority and the Prussian mind set of strict discipline, he found a better life for free thinkers in neighboring Switzerland. A graduate of The Zurich Polytechnic and later an employee at the the Bern Patent Office, he had a hard time finding work. His desire to work at more respectable universities were often met with letters of rejection. With a chaotic marriage, coupled with child custody problems and a later divorce, it is a miracle that this man came up with such breakthroughs in theoretical physics. But he did and it changed the lives of humanity to this day. Isaacson, does a good job in his book of not only covering Einstein's life but describes his theories of Special and General Relativity; with later introductions to Quantum Theory, that a "smart" layman can understand. I had to re-read the juicy scientific parts a few times to digest it, but it was worth the effort. Later in his life, Einstein wrestled with a unified field theory that would unite gravity and electromagnetism with the crazy unpredictable micro world of Quantum Mechanics. He did not have much success but did make some interesting observations and had many theories and opinions on this new and strange small atomic world. Being world famous and on the speakers circuit, Einstein was thrown into the political mix of the 1920's and 1930's and eventually made decisions that would later affect his life. An early believer in a Jewish state, he helped the Zionist movement and the creation of a Hebrew university in Israel. A staunch opponent to militant nationalism politics, he unknowingly endorsed anti war Communist front group causes and later was seen as a risk to national security during World War Two. But, there was no doubt that he was a proud American. Einstein would joke that he was not a Pacifist, but a militant pacifist. His utopia vision for the world was a one world benevolent government that ensured individual freedoms and encouraged free thought. As for the development of the A-Bomb, Einstein was not a active participant in its construction, but his famous equation of, e=mc2, was the building block that helped make it. This book is an enjoyable read because it covers all parts of Einstein's life to include the lighter side of this deep thinker. His love of life, his love of people and his quick witted humor and absentmindedness is a trait that many people equate with this great man. One example is when he would take his hat off during a rainstorm saying that he knew that his hair could withstand the rain but he was unsure of how his hat would hold up. He would listen to his students ideas and theories and even help small children in his neighborhood with their math homework. I have read other books on Albert Einstein, but I would recommend that this one be put on the list of favorites. Some are not as complete, while others deal mainly with his science- but this one is a pleasant mixture of both. I enjoyed this book and found it informative, educational and interesting on the life of this human legend. Robert Glasker
JamieBowen0306 More than 1 year ago
I'm not altogether sure about it. Growing up, we all learn a fair bit about Einstein, and anyone who studies Science for any period of time probably "hero worships" him a little (as the epitome of all things scientific at least). He's probably the most famous scientist on Earth, and everyone who is aware of anything in science knows his famous equation. Despite the fact that I wanted to like Einstein and I've a Chemistry degree, I found the book a hard read. I suspect most people might agree with me. Non-scientists might think about the science involved "a challenge," most people will think he wasn't pleasant to his first wife and kids, by the end of this book, and most might find him egocentric, and a little inflexible by the end of the book. If you can cope with the sensation that your ideals about a hero have been shattered, read this book. If you can't don't. I guarentee you will have a more rounded, and less likeable, view of the man by the end of this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unlike Isabella, I was glued to this book. While I still dont get most of the physics in it, I got a picture of the process and the context in which 20th century physics developed in a way I never have before. Also, the picture painted of Einstein is complex and complete.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Any criticism leveled against Isaacson¿s book has to be counterbalanced by a recognition of the tremendous effort and importance of the work, such as his ability to recaptured Einstein¿s life through the many letters by and to him and by an ability to explain many of his most important ideas in a deep and superb way. The missing star in my rating is because of what the book does not do. Occasionally critical of Albert Einstein, ultimately the book is a hagiography. As with the rest of the mainstream, Isaacson is really blind to Einstein¿s shortcomings. His theory of relativity, on the whole, is a true mish-mash, that, in the last analysis, makes little sense. Several problems with his theory have to do with (1) the arbitrary decision to do away with the ether, and (2) place the subjective view on a pedestal while at the same time eliminate the very consciousness of the viewer as a force in and of itself, or a space (e.g., a 5th dimension of hyperspace for mind). For instance, Isaacson points out that if a lady is on a plane looking down on the Earth, she can¿t tell if the plane is moving over the Earth or the Earth is moving under a stationary plane. This is a bedrock of Einstein¿s relativity theory, a highly subjective observation that ignores the elephant in the room, the movement of the Earth around the Sun, the absolute measure Einstein keeps trying to eliminate. The Michelson-Morley experiment didn¿t do away with the ether. Nor did Einstein. Both simply suggested that the ether could not be detected. So even though Einstein lectures on the ether and states to Lorentz that an ether must exist, he also realized that if indeed it did exist, then his theory of relativity would be wrong. The idea that space can be curved, as Tesla pointed out in the newspapers, is absurd. Since Einstein has ascribed properties to space, it cannot be empty. It is, in fact, the ether, and the reason why light bends around or towards stars is potentially twofold, (a) photons may have mass, and (2) as with all matter, stars are constantly absorbing ether in order to keep their elementary particles spinning. Ether theory explains gravity and its link to acceleration because what we call gravity most likely the absorption of ether by the mass of the planet (or star). According to this theory, we are held to the planet because we are in the way of this constant influx of energy. Had Einstein truly resurrected the ether, (he partly does, as Isaacson notes, once de Broglie¿s wave theory becomes more prevalent) Einstein may have solved his grand unification theory, but it would have been at the expense of his baby, the theory of relativity. Another problem with his theory is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. However, as Gamow points out in Thirty Years That Shook Physics, and I point out in my book Transcending the Speed of Light, electrons spin at speeds in excess of the speed of light! Following in the steps of Minkowski who used the imaginary number the square root of negative one to make the one dimension of time equivalent to 3D space, Paul Dirac essentially did the same thing to account for the spinning electron that violated relativity with his Nobel Prize winning equations that tied relativity to quantum mechanics. Isaacson¿s book completely miscasts Minkowski, doesn¿t even mention the idea of imaginary numbers (which can only exist in the mind, yet are used to explain the physical world), and thereby helps relegate Minkowski to virtual non-person status. This is a super book, but flawed because of the rose colored glasses that are always used to portray a great thinker with a flawed theory that will ultimately be upturned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love 'bios' and was excited when my son gave me this book. I was quickly bored by the author. I was not glued to this book as I have been with other biographies, the author lacks passion when he writes about all of Einsteins' accomplishments and his life. I couldn't wait to finish reading it, not because it was entertaining, but because I had another book I wanted to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The popular myths about Einstein are dispelled, as is the one dimensional image of the absent minded professor. While some parts of the book are very detailed in scientific theory and mathematical calculations, the overall picture of Einstein is facinating. What kept me reading through all the dense science and math was the incredible way the author wove scientific thought and invention into the social, political and economic realities of the times. Einstein's personal life will also amaze and the multiple layers of his personality are facinating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is a jouney through the life and times of one of the most brillant men in history. it takes you on a ride from beginning to end
Guest More than 1 year ago
With Einstein the universe changed. It became more dynamic, less mechanical, and somewhat un-understandable to our common, logical minds. Time and space became integrated as never before. If you want to learn about Albert Einstein, I highly recommend this book. His universe is mind blowing his personal story is fascinating too. Frank Scoblete: author of Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution! and Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution!
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When I grow up I will be a scienctist