Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Einstein by Walter Isaacson was originally published in April, 2007. My hardcover copy is 675 pages, including indexes. As Isaacson wrote: "Now that his archives have been completely opened, it is possible to explore the private side of Einstein - his nonconformist personality, his instincts as a rebel, his curiosity, his passions and detachments - intertwined with his political and his scientific side. Knowing about the man helps us understand the wellsprings of his science, and vice versa. Character and imagination and creative genius were all related, as if part of some unified field. " (pg. 2)
I recommend this well rounded, exhaustive biography. Einstein is an enjoyable book, but there were moments when the scientific details bogged me down and lessened my enjoyment of the biography. Even though this was my problem, I'm still keep my rating a bit lower because the sheer length of the book and breadth of the details requires any reader to have a major interest in Einstein's life. Rating: 3.5


"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." opening page

"A society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity." pg. 6-7

"As a young student he never did well with rote learning. And later, as a theorist, his success came not from the brute strength of his mental processing power but from his imagination and creativity." pg. 7

"He had such difficulty with language that those around him feared he would never learn." pg. 8

"...Einstein had a mild form of echolalia, causing him to repeat phrases to himself, two or three times, especially if they amused him" pg. 9

"...[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.' " pg. 16

"He was one of those split personalities who know how to protect, with a prickly exterior, the delicate realm of their intense personal life." pg. 29

"For all its momentous import, it may be one of the most spunky and enjoyable papers in all of science. Most of its insights are conveyed in words and vivid thought experiments, rather than in complex equations. There is some math involved, but it is mainly what a good high school senior could comprehend." pg. 127

" 'People need a scapegoat and make the Jews responsible, ' Einstein noted, 'They are a target of instinctive resentment because they are of a different tribe.' " pg. 284

"He knew his theory was correct. And so he calmly responded, 'Subtle is the Lord, but malicious [H]e is not.' " pg. 297

"Then he made a larger point designed to disparage Edison's view of education. 'The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think,' he said." pg. 299

"...asked him why he remained so cheerful given the depravity of the world. 'We must remember that this is a very small star,' he responded, 'and probably some of the larger and more important stars may be very virtuous and happy.' " pg. 306

"I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not play dice." pg. 335

"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. This is the defining quality of a 'God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.' ...It was what guided him. 'When I am judging a theory,' he said, 'I ask myself whether, if I were God, I would have arranged the world in such a way.' " pg. 551

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