Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time Paperback – 12 Nov 2004
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"Galison provides a unique and enlightening view on the origin of time as we know it in the modern age."
Few books have ever made Einstein's work more accessible or more engrossing for general readers. "
This is how twentieth-century science really began....Engaging, original, and absolutely brilliant.--James Gleick
An easy-reading but penetrating book. [Galison] brings the story of time to life as a story of wires and rails, precision maps, and imperial ambitions, as well as a story of physics and philosophy.
Galison provides a unique and enlightening view on the origin of time as we know it in the modern age.
About the Author
Peter Galison is Mallinckrodt Professor for the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. He is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the Max Planck Prize, as well as the Pfizer Prize for the Best Book in the History of Science for Image and Logic.
Top customer reviews
My advice to readers:
Skip chapter 1 - relativity is better covered elsewhere, and this chapter is hard going (as another reviewer hinted). However, you do need to know that Poincare almost managed to develop a version of relativity before Einstein.
Read chapter 2 - the story of Poincare's non-mathematical work is very relevant, is interesting in its own right, and is presented here in a very accessible form.
Read chapters 3 and 4 - a terrific presentation on the emergence of global time and an insight into the nationalist politics from the French perspective led by Poincare (less well known - since Greenwich won the argument and this is the history we remember).
Read Chapter 5 - which highlights Einstein's non-mathematical activities (not well represented in other Einstein books), and illustrates what is perhaps one of the more surprising outcomes of the events recorded in chapters 2-5.
Skip Chapter 6, unless you are interested in the author's more usual territory in science studies.
It's astonishing how recently time was coordinated between rail companies and then around the world, and how physically difficult it was to map places like Peru and West Africa. Let alone agree how far Paris is from London.
I was inspired by the book to read some more about Einstein and time.
My main criticism of the book Einstein's Clocks, Poincaré's Maps: Empires of Time is that the author does not make up his mind about the two points mentioned above. The long expositions about relativity and chaos do not bring any new contribution to the subject; the best popular books on relativity were written by Einstein himself, while chaos theory is brilliant reviewed by James Gleick in his best-selling Chaos: Making a New Science. At the same time, the wording is sometimes confusing for beginners. As to the biographical aspect of the work, several personal anecdotes on Einstein's and Poincaré 's lives are included (some utterly irrelevant), but the book does not dwell on the rich personalities of these two giants of science.
In short: trying to please everybody, the author wrote a book that possibly will please nobody
Whilst there is a story there, it could have been much shorter, and so the book drags it all out, wandering off at tangents before coming back.
The illustrations & photographs were poorly reproduced and poorly chosen - why we needed to see the public clocks in Berne that Einstein would have seen on his way to work confused me.
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