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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 1 May 2007
Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein creates a fuller better rounded image of one of the finest minds of the 20th Century than many biographies of Einstein. Although it's not without its flaws, Issacson's book covers much of Einstein's life pointing out both his successes and flaws as both a person and physicist.

We learn that as a child Einstein suffered from what could be echolalia (which is where you mutter a phrase to yourself multiple times before saying it to others). Issacson notes both Einstein's debt to Hume, Planck and philosphers such as Kant in helping develop both his world view and his breakthroughs in science. To his credit Isaacson also points out that the man that came to embody the modern view of physics and became a hero had feet of clay; Einstein gave up his daughter for adoption without ever seeing her and spent much of his time away from Mileva (who would eventually become his first wife) while she was pregnant for a variety of reasons some understandable some not. The young Einstein was brash,egotistic and obnoxious (or you could call him overly confident) often pointing out flaws in papers by the very professors he was seeking jobs from. He also charts Einstein's difficult path to his professorship including his stint working in the Swiss patent office.

Isaacson does cover Einstein's support for the development of the atomic bomb (although this is a relatively small section of the biography) and mentions that Einstein later regreted the bombing that occurred in Japan during World War II. When Einstein came up with this famous equation, he never imagined it would be used for mass destruction. He was conflicted over his role in the development of the atomic bomb feeling both responsibility and guilty over his role. This guilt shaped his role in leading the charge for a world government that would prevent individual nations from using the atomic bomb. He later stated that if he had known Germany wasn't going to be able to develop the atomic bomb, he "never would have lifted a finger" to prompt the United States to develop this weapon of mass destruction. He never forgave the German people for their role in trying to exterminate Jews and others prohibiting sale of his books in post-war Germany and stated that he felt the country should continue to be punished for what occurred. Isaacson addresses some of the contradictions of the man of peace who contributed and supported war showing that while Einstein had his absolute convicitions they could sometimes shift depending on the circumstances. Einstein never pretended to be perfect and Isaacson does a good job of portraying the flawed but brilliant human being at the core of all that brain power. The biggest surprise for me was discovering that he unwittingly had an affair with a Soviet spy.

Most importantly the author manages to give understandable explanations of Einstein's theories and how he came up with many of them. One can't understand Einstein's world without understanding his world view or the way that his papers/theories altered the world we live in today. I'd recommend this book for the compelling human portrait that Isaacson creates of one of the leading figures of science in the 20th Century.
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on 7 July 2009
I too have read quite a few Biographies and what I consider to be the most important quality for one to be successful, is that the work resonates the character of the subject. Reading quotes from the many critics listed, you too will be of those complimenting the amazing work of the Author.

This has to be one of the most intelligently written works I have read - it flowed like a Fictional Thriller. It's true that the word "Genius" has become synonymous with Einstein, and reading this book will make you appreciate how he had attained that stature.

The book is broken down into chapters that correlate the significant events of his life. Every single work he has produced is explained in considerable detail, also entailing the surrounding influences to Einstein. The book humanely describes the sacrifices Einstein had to endure in the lead up and following of his success. The book demonstrates another aspect of Einstein which is pretty much unknown: that he was a man of absolute Principle, and would never compromise in order to make his life easier.

This is the only book you will ever need to read about Einstein.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 17 May 2008
Having just finished the recent biographies of Stanley and the young Stalin, this one had a lot to live up to, and whilst not containing the elements of derring do that those two books had, this is nonetheless a fascinating and enthralling story. Many new facts have recently emerged about Einstein's life and Mr Isaacson has woven them into a story that is easy to get through and grips throughout, which will hopefully encourage those who may not be so keen on science books to give this a chance. It is fair to say that Einstein was a "bit of s lad" at times, and belies his "mad scientist" image - he really should have got a hairdresser to sort his mane out!

I heard the author speaking on NPR radio and was keen to emphasise that this is a personal story more than a scientific tome, and indeed the science contained herein is excellently described without overwhelming the little grey cells. The book also serves as a history of the scientific politics both pre, during and post world war two which is an added bonus to be honest.

If you are at all interested in famous lives, science and or history then this book should appeal to you.
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on 9 February 2012
I cannot add much to what has been said by others here. The author has incredible knowledge of Einstein's life and a good grasp of the physics that made Einstein famous. It is bewildering that anyone can write such a comprehensive work. I see the author is/was also the CEO of CNN. Quite an extraordinary panoply of talent. The book is fascinating and at no point does it leave you cold. Complex principles of theoretical physics are explained clearly without resorting to the underlying mathematical equations. Einstein was as often wrong as he was correct but when he was correct he revolutionized how we see the Universe. JP.
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on 31 March 2015
Hi guys,

Firstly I gave this book just 3 stars, however, it was very close to 4 and overall I'm glad I read this book.
May I also say, I listened to this on audio instead of reading, which may have effected my ability to absorb/enjoy the information.

I found the book was like a long roller-coaster, some parts were fascinating and very enjoyable.. other parts were a long drag and I had to force myself to get through - and it is a long long book [22 hours by audio].

Pros's
+ I felt I gained a thorough objective insight into the life of Einstein, his personality, and the historical period he grew up in [e.g. being a Jew living in Germany before 2nd World War]
+ I felt I could adopt lessons I learned into my life today, after observing his character traits/habits. E.g. I daydream frequently and often take walks to think about solutions to problems.. I tended to think I was just a daydreamer and perhaps I do this too much, but nice to know Einstein did this daily..infact he'd even ride a boat on a lake and take a pen and notepad to note down ideas..!
+ The physics is generally reasonably well explained and has been condensed into layman's terms so even you will be able to understand it :-)
+ The story side, e.g. his relationship with people, romantic life, and overviews of what he achieved were generally interesting.

Con's
- Very long. I appreciate this is a complete thorough work.

Overall, a good book, definitely worth a read, I think somebody very much interested in physics will find this book fascinating.

Thank-you for reading this, let me know if it was useful for you because I have read some other similar books and can leave reviews.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 August 2014
You don't need to be a physicist or even all that interested in science to thoroughly enjoy the story of this truly great man.

As a complete layman to science and knowing very little more about Albert Einstein other than the fact that he looked like the stereotypical mad scientist and he had come up with the equation e=mc2 (though I had no idea what this meant) I was completely ignorant to the bulk of accomplishments man. The main reason why I had picked it up was to hopefully get a slightly toned down version of his famous theories and understand a bit more about the science he is so famous for.

I was really surprised then to read about a very playful person with the checkered sexual history of a rockstar. His views and his many profound statements that were quoted in this book that often had little to do with science often had me laughing out loud which is rare when reading a book.

His personal life, his professional life and more importantly the way that he and his theories impacted the world around him both during his life and since his death are all equally fascinating. Not surprisingly a lot of the science in the book went over my head but I never grew bored with what I read. If anything I simply grew more eager to wrap my mind about his fascinating theories.

Overall this is an excellent book that does an obviously brilliant man justice. The writing is as good here as it is in the Jobs biography (the only book I have read previously by the same author) and what I find truly enjoyable was how the science elements were made understandable by the layman without ever feeling as though I was being spoken down to.

This is an excellent book that I can't recommend highly enough.
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on 11 October 2008
Walter Isaacson has created a unique and wholely respectful insight into the life of one of the great scientific figures of the 20th century.

As with any biography that is true to the subject and not retrospectively judgemental, Mr. Isaacson paints a very human picture of a man held in awe by most and misunderstood by many.

This is a first rate book. I've taken one star off, as the scientific detail could even be shorter.

Mr.Isaacson, keep writing please !
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on 2 August 2009
This was a book that was chosen for me by being a member of a Book Club. I would not have chosen it for myself.

I enjoyed the way the book unfolded and it was possible to read it like a story, not a dry worthy biography.

The author presents the whole Einstein. There is no attempt to glam it up. And I am learning some science as I go along.
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on 13 July 2013
This proved to be an interesting and very complete biography of Einstein, with sources listed for all key facts. Perhaps it was a trifle too long in parts, resulting in me skimming some sections, but it provides a remarkable insight into the life and the times of this great physicist. Whilst I had prior knowledge of Einstein's scientific work, I had not appreciated other aspects of his life, including his troubled relationships with his first wife and his children from that marriage, nor had I understood the extent of the anti-semitism to which he had been subjected, nor his celebrity status, whereby the press hung on to his every word. As well as detailing Einstein's life, Walter Isaacson also does a sound job of explaining, in simplified terms, the background to much of Einstein's scientific endeavours, including quantum physics, relativity, and his unsuccessful search for a unified field theory to unite gravitation with electromagnetism. I learned a lot about Einstein from this book and Isaacson brought him alive in terms of his personality.
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on 26 April 2012
Sorry, there's no other way to put it. What Isaacson achieved was not only a great historical chronicle of the greatest thinker of the 20th century, but he also manages to capture, as closely as reasonably possible, the thought process that Einstein engaged in. the attentive reader will also see that it was this thought process that also contributed to his stubbornness about the Quantum sphere. this was one of those biographies that I read piecemeal. There are so many wonderful anecdotes enmeshed into this narrative that after reading them, I wanted to let them swim around my consciousness for a day. The backdrop of the growth of 20th century nationalism plays heavily in this narrative and one can't help but be amazed that such great minds emerged from such a dogmatic time. One looks at the times we live in today and cannot help but be in awe that the quest for scientific truth was so resolute.

I hope were made of the same strong stuff.
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