Einstein: His Life and Universe,by Walter Isaacson, published by Simon and Schuster, 2007, reviewed by J.S. Bradford
This is a biography that educates the reader on many levels. If you are one who, understandably, feels intimidated by the laws of physics, you can concentrate on the chapters that vividly depict the human qualities of the man who enhanced our perception of the universe. Einstein began his quest as a young boy imagining what it would be like to ride alongside a light beam, but the path that led to the conclusion that “energy equals mass times the square of light,” wasn’t always a smooth ride. Those of us who have pursued a career fraught with rejection will appreciate that Einstein labored away at his day job at the Swiss Patent Office for years before receiving belated acceptance for his intuitive talents and accomplishments. In 1905, Einstein released his paper “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” but he did not become famous until the study of a 1919 eclipse “confirmed his prediction of how much gravity bends light.”
Isaacson does a splendid job of illustrating Einstein as both a man of immense scientific importance and a man deeply immersed in the joys and pains of intense emotional and family obligations. As a result of his stature, Einstein was also drawn into the international politics of the World War II era, the creation of Israel, and the strains of the McCarthy era.
One aspect of Einstein’s belief system that is fascinating is his understanding of God and the universe. This is what Einstein once remarked upon being questioned about his belief in God. “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.” But did he believe in immortality? “No,” he said, “And one life is enough for me.”
Einstein died at age 76 on April 18, 1955.