Simply Einstein

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Pub Date 14 Mar 2021 | Archive Date 31 Jul 2021

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Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was born in Ulm in the German Empire and received his academic teaching diploma from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in 1900. Unable to secure a teaching post, he eventually found work in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern, where he began to develop his special theory of relativity. In 1905 (his “miracle year”), he published four revolutionary papers, which came to be recognized as stunning breakthroughs in physics. For the next 25 years, while continuing his research, he taught at several universities in Europe, relocating to the U.S. in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power. During World War II, his insights regarding mass-energy equivalence led to the development of the atomic bomb, a practical demonstration of his theories that shook the world. Einstein was horrified that the bomb was used, and he spent the rest of his life warning about the dangers of nuclear weapons and advocating for peace and international cooperation.

In Simply Einstein, Professor Jimena Canales offers the reader a unique perspective on the man who occupies a singular place in the popular imagination. Unlike many Einstein biographies, her book does not glorify the scientist or get lost in esoteric details, but takes pains to present a straightforward, thoroughly readable introduction to the man and his work that shows just how and why an eccentric physicist became a household name.  

The universe that Einstein described is the one in which we now live, a world of paradoxes and uncertainty, as well as infinite possibility. For anyone interested in better understanding how this came to be–and in gaining a fuller appreciation of the brilliant, flawed human being who changed everything–Simply Einstein is essential reading.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was born in Ulm in the German Empire and received his academic teaching diploma from the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in 1900. Unable to secure a teaching post, he...

Advance Praise

"Jimena Canales is one of the very best contemporary science writers, and no one could have written a clearer, more empathetic or appealing short life of the twentieth century's quintessential scientific genius." — John Banville, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea

"‘Simply Einstein’ offers a succinct and fascinating look at the phenomenal work that made Albert Einstein world-famous. It shows how Einstein’s reputation was built on bold theories that were splendidly tested by experiments such as the eclipse expeditions of 1919 and amplified by the media in riveting stories about their revolutionary implications. It offers a great read for those wondering how Einstein vaulted into international fame in the early 20th century and has remained synonymous with genius." — Paul Halpern, author of Synchronicity: The Epic Quest to Understand the Quantum Nature of Cause and Effect

"This stimulating book by a distinguished historian of science looks at Einstein from several angles. We see him as the author of the special and general theories of relativity, as an ambitious professor in competition with others, as the exemplar of the brilliant scientist, and as a political figure. We see him as a child, a student, and as a husband and father. Jimena Canales animates the debates about the validity of Einstein’s most famous ideas and how they changed our ideas about time and space forever, at their implications for quantum mechanics and the building of the atomic bomb, and at the significance of his legacy today. The book draws on a wide variety of sources to illuminate the impact and the controversies Einstein’s work caused and is written throughout in clear and sparkling prose." — Jeremy Gray, Emeritus Professor, the Open University, U.K. and Honorary Professor of Mathematics, The University of Warwick, U.K.

"Einstein has become, and still is, the worldwide icon of the solitary scientific genius. How did it happen? Award-winning author Jimena Canales succeeds in succinctly conveying to a large readership a de-mythologized image of the man behind the public image Einstein himself endeavored to construct. Wonderfully written and carefully crafted, Canales’ succinct biographical sketch not only reveals the humanity, the science, and the mythologizing process of one of last century’s most influential scientists, but also invites deep reflection on the changing public and social role of science through the 20th century." — Roberto Lalli, Research Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

"Jimena Canales is one of the very best contemporary science writers, and no one could have written a clearer, more empathetic or appealing short life of the twentieth century's quintessential...

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Featured Reviews

I enjoy a good biography and I always thought of myself as Einstein admirer. And then I read this book and now I’m not sure. which is to say I now appreciate the difficulty of separating the person from their accomplishments. When it comes to the latter, Einstein stands nearly peerless in a field of modern science. Not entirely alone and, granted, standing on the shoulders on giants, but still…the man’s a monument. There have only been 4 or 5 scientists in the entire timeline of science that have been able to do what he did…reinvent the paradigm, reinvent the way people think about the world. It’s basically Euclid, Galilei, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein. And since this short bio concentrates heavily on Einstein the physicist, it’s a pile of well deserved praises. But then it veers to Einstein the man and that’s when it gets tricky. Because genius or not, he was also a man, a person of his time, shaped by the ideologies and events of his era. The book presents Einstein as a moral man in immoral times, moral, but complex and complicated. Compelled to flee and condemn his native land, he has nevertheless disparaged the intellectual prowess of his adopted country. Mind you, rightly so, America was never that bright and only got dumber since, but still… A devoted Zionist, he has later all but abandoned the cause, certainly turned down a chance at Israel presidency quickly enough. For all of Einstein’s accomplishments, he also never did complete the grand unification theory that would have tied up all his science neatly with a bow. And in his personal life, the man was a nightmare. An absolute beast in his first marriage and an aspiring pervert in his second, alternating between paying for his son’s institutionalization and trying to sleep with his stepdaughters, this was a prime example of a man so ruled by his mind that it has all but disabled his emotional box of tricks. Or maybe it was a result of too many people over too many years telling him he was a gift to science which he took to mean also a gift to the world in general. The man certainly had the oversized ego a genius might. Reminded me of Picasso, another brute of a man, all too enamored by his own accolades but then again Einstein was actually a genius and not a dramatically overrated artist. So that’s the thing with biographies, that’s really the thing with getting to know anyone on a more than superficial level. All the ugly things come out into the light and we are left to reconcile that with all the good things. Balance is tricky. Personally, I still admire Einstein and believe him to be a genius, a powerhouse of a mind and a revolutionary physicist. Maybe not a good person as such, but who are we to judge… So that’s me reviewing Einstein. Tricky indeed. Reviewing this book about him is much easier. It’s one of a series of short bios of famous people, but it isn’t at all simplified or dumbed down due to the format. It’s an accessible and reasonably engaging nonlinear account of a life (heavy of science) that gives readers an excellent idea of Einstein as a scientist and a man. It’s also infinitely more serious than the goofy cover suggests, but Einstein would probably love that, After all, he loved his famous tongue sticking out image. Much food for thought here. Recommended. Thanks Netgalley.

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