Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This biography, by Walter Isaacson, who wrote an excellent bio of Benjamin Franklin, was fascinating. I thought I knew a lot about Einstein, when in fact I didn't.

The things I didn't know surprised me.

  • Einstein had a very productive few years in his early career when he came up with the theory of relativity and the e=mc2 formula, but he still couldn't get a job as a professor.
  • Because of politics on the committee, he didn't win the Nobel for relativity or e=mc2, but rather for one of his other lesser-known theories.
  • He was treated like a rock star when he visited the states, with lectures attended by standing-room only audiences. On one trip to the states, he had to disembark his ship onto a tugboat in the harbor to evade the crowds waiting on the docks.
  • Even though Einstein developed the e=mc2 formula that led to nuclear fission and the atomic bomb, and even though he was one of the scientists who warned Roosevelt that the Germans might be developing nuclear weapons, Einstein was never involved in the Manhattan Project. He never even received security clearance even though many of his fellow physicists worked on the bomb project.
  • The FBI collected a dossier on Einstein that eventually contained thousands of pages of documents, all in an effort to prove he was a communist. However, they never could pin anything on him.

The earlier parts of the book, which are filled with explanations of Einstein's theories were tough going at times. There's a reason I struggled with physicis in high school - I just don't get it. But once I slogged through those sections, the book was really entertaining. Einstein was a fascinating man.

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