Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais | Go to book overview

To the Reader

Turn to the table of contents, follow the entries in italics, and you will find an almost entirely nonscientific biography of Einstein. Turn to the first chapter and you will find a nontechnical tour through this book, some personal reminiscences, and an attempt at a general assessment.

The principal aim of this work is to present a scientific biography of Albert Einstein. I shall attempt to sketch the concepts of the physical world as they were when Einstein became a physicist, how he changed them, and what scientific inheritance he left. This book is an essay in open history, open because Einstein's oeuvre left us with unresolved questions of principle. The search for their answers is a central quest of physics today. Some issues cannot be discussed without entering into mathematical details, but I have tried to hold these to a minimum by directing the reader to standard texts wherever possible.

Science, more than anything else, was Einstein's life, his devotion, his refuge, and his source of detachment. In order to understand the man, it is necessary to follow his scientific ways of thinking and doing. But that is not sufficient. He was also a highly gifted stylist of the German language, a lover of music, a student of philosophy. He was deeply concerned about the human condition. (In his later years, he used to refer to his daily reading of The New York Times as his adrenaline treatment.) He was a husband, a father, a stepfather. He was a Jew. And he is a legend. All these elements are touched on in this story; follow the entries in italics.

Were I asked for a one-sentence biography of Einstein, I would say, 'He was the freest man I have ever known.' Had I to compose a one-sentence scientific biography of him, I would write, "Better than anyone before or after him, he knew how to invent invariance principles and make use of statistical fluctuations.' Were I permitted to use one illustration, I would offer the following drawing:

-vii-

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Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To the Reader vii
  • Contents (entries in Italics Are Almost Entirely Biographical) xi
  • I- Introductory 3
  • 1- Purpose and Plan 5
  • 2- Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory 26
  • 3 - Portrait of the Physicist as a Young Man 49
  • II- Statistical Physics 53
  • 4- Entropy and Probability 55
  • 5- The Reality of Molecules 79
  • III- Relativity, the Special Theory 109
  • 6- ''subtle is the Lord . . .'' 111
  • 7- The New Kinematics 138
  • 8- The Edge of History 163
  • IV- Relativity, the General Theory 175
  • 9- ''The Happiest Thought of My Life'' 177
  • References 184
  • 10- Herr Professor Einstein 190
  • 11- The Prague Papers 192
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • References 228
  • 13- Field Theories of Gravitation 237
  • 14- The Field Equations of Gravitation 239
  • 15 - The New Dynamics 292
  • V- The Later Journey 297
  • 16- ''The Suddenly Famous Doctor Einstein'' 299
  • 17- Unified Field Theory 325
  • VI - The Quantum Theory 355
  • 18 - Preliminaries 363
  • 19- The Light-Quantum 364
  • 20- Einstein and Specific Heats 389
  • 21- The Photon 402
  • 22- Interlude- The Bks Proposal 416
  • 23- A Loss of Identity 423
  • 24- Einstein as a Transitional Figure 435
  • 25- Einstein''s Response to the New Dynamics 440
  • 26- Einstein''s Vision 460
  • VII- Journey''s End 471
  • 27- The Final Decade 473
  • 28- Epilogue 479
  • VIII- Appendices 481
  • 29- Of Tensors and a Hearing Aid and Many Other Things 483
  • 30- How Einstein Got the Nobel Prize 502
  • 31 - Einstein''s Proposals for the Nobel Prize 518
  • 32- An Einstein Chronology 520
  • Name Index 531
  • Subject Index 539
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