EINSTEIN by Denis Brian


A Life
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 This new biography attempts a balanced assessment of the most famous scientist of modern times. Brian (Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, 1995) draws on material recently released from Einstein's archives, much of it concerning less than flattering aspects of his private life. The reader learns of rumors of a daughter, Liserl, who may have been given up for adoption; of his mentally ill son Eduard, who died in a Swiss psychiatric hospital; of a long string of affairs; of the recent allegations that his first wife, Mileva, was an unacknowledged collaborator in the discovery of the Relativity Theory. Brian does not try to make too much of this material, most of which is at best peripheral to Einstein's life and achievement. (The allegations concerning Mileva, which have been trumpeted by feminist critics, he dismisses as unfounded.) Nor does he much alter our perception of the key issues of Einstein's scientific work--relativity and the search for a Unified Field Theory, which dominated the last three decades of his career. Einstein's flight from Nazi persecution, the letter to FDR that spurred the creation of the Manhattan Project, and his tireless work on behalf of the founding of Israel are given full and illuminating treatment. Likewise, we get a clear picture of his humble, almost bohemian, daily life; of his playful sense of humor and his love of music; and of the awe he inspired in many of those close to him. We also get a disturbing look at the fear and hatred he inspired in others, illustrated by excerpts from his voluminous FBI file. Brian draws on an impressive range of sources, from ordinary people who happened to cross Einstein's path to the scientists with whom he worked. The only serious shortcoming is Brian's style, which occasionally borders on the soporific. Sometimes slow-moving, but a comprehensive and evenhanded treatment of Einstein in the wake of recent charges against his character. (14 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 17th, 1996
ISBN: 0-471-11459-6
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Wiley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996


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