Einstein's Greatest Mistake: A Biography

A physicist with the soul of an artist, whose unkempt face is still universally recognized, Albert Einstein has become a metonym for genius. David Bodanis's biography of the man who first described relativity focuses less on his science and his genius and more on his personality, an immutable constant that was both a strength and a liability.

Einstein's Greatest Mistake is a pleasure; reading it does not require weeks or an advanced degree in theoretical physics. Bodanis (E=mc2) explains and illustrates Einstein's discoveries simply, contextualizing them in his life and his contemporary science.

He begins with Einstein's youth in Munich, moving quickly to the scientist's early academic frustrations. These led Einstein to his post at the Zurich patent office and his 1905 "annus mirabilis"--miracle year--during which he made several major breakthroughs; 10 years later, he came up with his greatest achievement, the theory of general relativity. When experimentation seemed to disprove his theories, Einstein grudgingly "fixed" his formula, ruining the elegance he so loved. When his original work was later proven correct, he vowed never again to be so easily swayed. It was a tragic lesson that prevented Einstein from accepting the tenets of quantum mechanics, and ultimately led to isolation from the scientific community that revered him.

Hubris also led him astray in personal relationships. Bodanis gives voice to the women in Einstein's life, reflecting on their perspectives and quoting them when possible. Bodanis is nonjudgmental, albeit wistful that Einstein didn't accomplish more. The author, however, achieves a thoroughly engaging and illuminating read. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Powered by: Xtenit