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Einstein in Love
ISBN 0141002212 / 9780141002217 / 0-14-100221-2
Publisher The Viking Press
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In his first book, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye humanized the formidable intellects who have probed the inner workings of the universe. With Einstein in Love, he takes on the most formidable intellect of all--and the result does justice to a complicated man and his equally complicated work. Overbye's narrative concentrates on the years between 1896 (when the 17-year-old Einstein arrived in Zurich to study physics) and 1919 (when he used measurements of light deflection during a solar eclipse to support his new theory of relativity thus beginning a reign as the 20th century's most famous scientist). It's no accident this period begins with Einstein meeting fellow student Mileva Maric, who would become his first wife, and closes with his second marriage. "Physics was not all Einstein's life," writes Overbye. "He lived on Earth with a belly and a heart." Accordingly, Einstein in Love depicts a young man who liked to hike, play the violin, flirt, and tell dirty jokes. Albert and Mileva had a child before they were married (Michelle Zackheim's popular 1999 book, Einstein's Daughter, attempted to unravel the mystery of Lieserl's fate), and the young father was as careless of convention in his dress and grooming as in his scientific work. Indeed, although Overbye nicely captures Einstein's personality, the real excitement comes in those chapters delineating his thought. The book effortlessly incorporates a capsule history of physics from the Greeks to the Victorians, both laying out the issues with which Einstein grappled and suggesting just why his solutions were so revolutionary. Even those with little grounding in science will easily grasp why Einstein's ideas made such an impact, not just on fellow physicists, but on a populace that at the dawn of the 20th century was ready to accept the demise of all the old certainties. As usual, Overbye's work is a model of science writing for the general reader; it's also a perceptive biography highlighting Einstein's most creative years. --Wendy Smith [via]