Einstein: His Life And Universe by Walter Isaacson

“I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.”  That’s what Einstein is known to have said time and time again.  But mere curiosity or even the most passionate variety of curiosity in most people might not have the potential for delving into the mysteries of the universe to the extent that this man did.

This is quite the tome on the life and times of a man who started out as an ordinary clerk in the patent office in Zurich, Switzerland, and ended up as the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos.  And how did his mind work?  What made him a genius?  Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the curious and non-conformist nature of his personality.  His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein in the last decade, this book explores how success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane.  A century after Albert Einstein began postulating his “Big Idea” about time, space, and gravity, Isaacson examines the scientist whose public idolization was surpassed only by his legitimacy as one of the greatest thinkers of the twentieth century in the field of science.   

In a famous catchphrase, Einstein couldn’t believe that God played with dice, and for decades he kept up the search for a “unified field theory” that would make sense of everything.  Einstein: His Life and Universe covers all this and much else in a painstaking biography that covers as many of his famous thought-experiments as the many affairs and liaisons that the man had over his lifetime. 

Fascinating as I found all these details to be, I was particularly struck at his one characteristic of blocking out people and relationships with the uttermost dedication if he believed them to be too difficult or painful to handle, and to throw himself into his work as a coping mechanism.  I don’t know if I would necessarily applaud this quality in a person; I would personally consider it to be a fundamental character flaw, but when it resides in a person of this stature where the other areas of his persona so brilliantly eclipse this flaw, the flaw becomes almost non-existent, or so it appears to seem.

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