Einstein's Life Mirrored Discoveries, Bio Says

By Walton, David | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Einstein's Life Mirrored Discoveries, Bio Says


Walton, David, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


"Einstein: His Life and Universe," by Walter Isaacson. Simon & Schuster, $35, 675 pages.

Walter Isaacson's big new biography of Albert Einstein (1879- 1955) is sure to be one of the most admired and popular books of this year. Whatever your background in science, "Einstein: His Life and Universe" is a joy and a revelation to read -- rich in detail, insightful, superbly researched and written. Most readers, however, are likely to approach this book with a single question in mind:

Will it help me understand Einstein's theory of relativity?

The answer, happily, is yes. Isaacson's success here is to render Einstein's largely abstract theories of time, space and gravitation into clear, intelligible English. Like Bill Bryson's "The History of Nearly Everything," this book sets out to make recondite science available to the layman and the novice -- a challenge every science writer today must face, in addressing anyone beyond the specialist in a field.

Isaacson's also is the first important biography written since Einstein's private archives were opened, and details of his personal life revealed. Here, for the first time, it's possible to assess fully the link between Einstein's daily life and his discoveries -- which turn out not to have been so very far apart. More than is generally understood, Einstein was a rebel and nonconformist, and his private life displays the same disregard for everyday conventions that his theories bear upon conventional notions of time, space and the order of the universe.

As Isaacson puts it, "Character and imagination and creative genius were all related, as if part of some unified field."

Isaacson, a former chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine, has a wonderful knack for the telling example, the illuminating quote or analogy. …

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