THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ALBERT EINSTEIN by Roger Highfield

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ALBERT EINSTEIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

 This lively account of Einstein's relationship with family and friends represents the opening salvo in what will likely be a barrage of ``tell-all'' books based on his papers. In the late 1980s scholars were given virtually unlimited access to Einstein's collected papers and personal correspondence. A series of revelations has ensued about the great physicist's turbulent personal life, such as his fathering of an illegitimate daughter. The authors of this volume, both British science journalists, put forth a compelling argument that, contrary to public perception, Einstein wasn't such a nice guy after all. His letters contain nasty comments about his parents, wives, scientific colleagues, and closest friends. (His favorite put-down was ``philistine.'') His unceasing flirtation with women, his disregard for other people's feelings, and his inability to achieve intimacy destroyed both marriages. For the last 22 years of his life he never visited his youngest son, Eduard, who spent most of his adulthood either in mental institutions or under the care of a guardian. Highfield and Carter go so far as to assert that Einstein's ``emotional myopia'' left behind a series of ``damaged lives.'' According to the authors, the executors of Einstein's estate suppressed the truth for decades to prevent these embarrassing disclosures. Highfield and Carter usually indict Einstein with his own words. They do offer enough damning direct source material to ensure that there's more than just a kernel of truth to this revisionist treatment. But too often they speculate on Einstein's emotional frame of mind or recreate conversations or events based upon second-hand accounts from dubious sources. And by virtually ignoring Einstein's considerable humanitarian and pacifist writings, the book hardly offers a balanced portrayal. His scientific contributions are given a superficial treatment, and the reader learns virtually nothing about his complex religious and philosophical outlook. In that sense, this portrait is tantamount to a Rembrandt biography that sporadically mentions that the Dutchman doodled on a canvas.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-11047-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1994




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