The task of writing a biography of one of the world’s most well-known geniuses will always provide a difficult job. However, Walter Isaacson does an incredible job of delving into Albert Einstein’s life and intellectual abilities in this book.

Isaacson pulls together Einstein’s geopolitics, religion, cultural effect, philosophy of science, amorous relationships, powers of abstraction, and rockstar renown to create a compelling narrative.

Einstein is a paradoxical figure: on the one side, we have this incredibly intelligent guy who challenges the status quo in physics, and on the other, he is a man who forgets his house number on the way back home from work. A guy who comes up with ground-breaking scientific ideas and wins the Nobel Prize, on the other hand, has a very strange connection with women and his wife, which makes for an interesting story.

This book, based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk, a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate, became the mind reader of the cosmos’s creator, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the master of the universe’s laws of physics.

Einstein’s achievement came as a result of his willingness to challenge conventional thinking and wonder at secrets that others dismissed as insignificant. This prompted him to adopt a morality and politics centred on the respect for free minds, free spirits, and free persons as the foundation of society.

Einstein was a rebel and a nonconformist from a young age, and these characteristics guided him throughout his life and in his scientific endeavors. In this tale, Walter Isaacson reveals how his mind operated as well as the secrets of the cosmos that he found throughout his scientific research.

Contrary to common belief, Albert Einstein, a German-Jewish schoolboy, not only excelled in mathematics, but he also mastered calculus by the time he was fifteen. Albert’s distaste for rote learning, on the other hand, compelled him to characterise his professors as “drill sergeants.” It was a manifestation of Einstein’s admiration for individual and intellectual liberty, beliefs that the author revisits as he tells the story of his subject’s life and work in the context of world and political events that shaped both, from World Wars I and II, and their aftermath, to World War II and its aftermath, and through the Cold War.

Rating

9/10

Walter Isaacson offers a portrayal of this unavoidable renegade genius in this book, who is unable to separate his private and public life without causing chaos.

The sources alone take up eleven pages of the document. This book is well researched, wonderfully written, informative, motivating, and all-around amazing on many levels. I highly recommend it. It’s 551 pages lengthy, and I really didn’t want this book to come to a conclusion.

There is a lot of information in this book on Einstein’s intellect and his ideas on numerous elements of life and science as well as relationships and God. Walter Issacson does an outstanding job of describing scientific topics in a straightforward manner that is understandable to those who are not trained in the sciences. An overall really fun and fascinating book that is also quite significant.

This is a must-read if you want to understand what went into the development of Albert Einstein, who is considered a legend. This book comes highly recommended.

Favourite Quotes

  • “The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think, he [Einstein] said.”
  • “He was a loner with an intimate bond to humanity, a rebel who was suffused with reverence. And thus it was that an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom and the universe.”
  • “It is tasteless to prolong life artificially,” he told Dukas. “I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.
  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
  • “It was a sunny day, and Einstein merrily played with the telescope’s dials and instruments. Elsa came along as well, and it was explained to her that the equipment was used to determine the scope and shape of the universe. She reportedly replied, “Well, my husband does that on the back of an old envelope.”
  • “You have to remain critically vigilant.” Question every premise, challenge conventional wisdom, and never accept the truth of something merely because everyone else views it as obvious. Resist being credulous.”
  • “Loyalty to a party, Einstein felt, meant surrendering some independence of thought. Such conformity confounded him. “How an intelligent man can subscribe to a party I find a complete mystery.”
  • “Okay, it’s not easy, but that’s why we’re no Einstein and he was.”
  • “When shown his office, he was asked what equipment he might need. “A desk or table, a chair, paper and pencils,” he replied. “Oh yes, and a large wastebasket, so I can throw away all my mistakes.”
  • “Einstein would not, as it turned out, ever win a Nobel for his work on relativity and gravitation, nor for anything other than the photoelectric effect.”

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