Stanley gives history priority over science. His explanation of general relativity will be a stretch for readers unfamiliar...




A thrilling history of the development of the theory of relativity, “one of the essential pillars upholding our understanding of the universe.”

Despite Einstein’s sole billing, this outstanding history/biography gives equal billing to Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), the British astronomer who championed relativity. This year is the 100th anniversary of the year when proof of his theory, largely engineered by Eddington, made Einstein (1879-1955) a scientific superstar. In his first book for a general audience, Stanley (History of Science/New York Univ. Gallatin School of Individualized Study; Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science, 2014, etc.) chronicles the creation and acceptance of relativity against a background of the nasty nationalism of World War I. The author reminds readers that in 1905, Einstein described special relativity, a brilliant explanation of space, time, and motion. However, it did not explain accelerated motion, which includes gravity. Fixing that required years of labor, but Einstein succeeded in 1915 with general relativity. Einstein was a rare scientist among the warring nations who rejected often hateful patriotism. Eddington was another. Born a Quaker, he was a prodigy who studied at Cambridge and became a distinguished astronomer. As conscientious objectors, British Quakers suffered vicious persecution during the war, and it was only through the efforts of his superiors that he was spared. Eddington learned about relativity through a Dutch astronomer; intrigued, he became its leading British advocate. Few colleagues showed interest in theories of an obscure enemy scientist, but this did not prevent Eddington from initiating plans, even as the war raged, for the famous 1919 eclipse expedition. The author excels in explaining its surprisingly complex details, the tedious work required to tease out the minuscule bending of starlight that obeyed Einstein’s prediction, and the still stunning explosion of adulation that resulted when results were announced.

Stanley gives history priority over science. His explanation of general relativity will be a stretch for readers unfamiliar with college physics, but he delivers a superb account of Edison’s and Eddington’s spectacularly successful struggles to work and survive under miserable wartime conditions.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4541-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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