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Learn the key ideas of the book by Alice Calaprice , Trevor Lipscombe

Albert Einstein

The stories and paradoxes behind the genius of the century

Albert Einstein is one of the most famous scientists of all time, and many people think of him as the personification of the word “genius”. The image of him standing in front of a blackboard with his dishevelled hair and bushy moustache is easily recognisable. Yet, Albert Einstein was also a human being with a bubbly personality, an insatiable curiosity, and an ironic and cutting sense of humour; a man of many contradictions and various weaknesses, who also committed and suffered his own misdeeds. In their book Einstein: A Biography, Alice Calaprice and Trevor Lipscombe aim to present the human side of the man who has become an iconic figure and somewhat of a stereotype, presenting the lesser known sides of his character so that we can understand Albert Einstein as the brilliant, yet contradictory human being that he was.

Albert Einstein
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Albert Einstein was a genius and a paradox, a common combination for the great thinkers of every age

When we hear the word genius, there is one image that immediately comes to mind, the dishevelled face of Albert Einstein. Named one of the hundred most influential people of the twentieth century by the prestigious Time magazine, Einstein revolutionised the world of physics in a way that hadn’t happened since Isaac Newton.

It is thanks to him that, among other things, we know that light is made up of both waves and particles, and that gravity is the manifestation of the space-time curvature. His famous equation of the equivalence between mass and energy (E = mc2) was essential in creating the atomic bomb (even if Einstein was not directly involved in the Manhattan Project) and, being perfectly symmetrical, was also used to find - thanks to the creation of Large Hadron Colliders (Lhc) or particle accelerators - particles such as the Higgs boson, whose existence had previously only been speculated about.

His theories in the field of modern physics have earned him a place among the great scientists throughout the ages, but remembering Albert Einstein for this alone would be to underestimate his talents. Einstein was also a firm pacifist, a man who did not hold back from expressing his dissent towards dangerous political choices, even at the expense of his own safety. To this he added an eccentric personality, endowed with a great sense of humour, profound humanity, huge charisma and courage. His interests were not only related to physics, but also crossed into the humanities, and he had an intense passion for music.

Albert Einstein, the man, also embodied a series of paradoxes. He was a staunch pacifist but in August 1939 he wrote a letter - along with other physicists - to United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to start a nuclear program for fear that Germany would be the first to build the atomic bomb. He loved both children and animals, but was unable to be a loving father to his own children. Whilst he was deeply respectful of others, generally open-minded, and capable of enabling his assistants’ professional growth, he treated his first wife with contempt and was quite cruel to her. Her name was Mileva Marić, and she was also his intellectual sparring partner, so much so that she is still recognised as sharing the credit for many of her husband’s revolutionary discoveries.


The key ideas of "Albert Einstein"

Albert Einstein was a genius and a paradox, a common combination for the great thinkers of every age
Albert Einstein was a very curious person, a determining characteristic in becoming a good scientist
The correspondence between Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić reveals something about their relationship but much of it is still shrouded in mystery
1905 was an ‘Annus Mirabilis’ for Albert Einstein: he published four revolutionary scientific articles that boosted his career
Einstein’s relativity theory represents a milestone in modern physics
Albert Einstein was a born pacifist
As Albert Einstein became more well-known, his marriage to Mileva fell apart: they divorced and he married his cousin, Elsa Lowenthal
Einstein’s spiritual views were complex, sometimes even contradictory, but always linked to universal values
In his years at Princeton, Albert Einstein gradually left his research to spend his time on education
After his death, Einstein’s brain became a legend
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