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Einstein: His Life and Universe (English Edition) par [Isaacson, Walter]
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As a scientist, Albert Einstein is undoubtedly the most epic among 20th-century thinkers. Albert Einstein as a man, however, has been a much harder portrait to paint, and what we know of him as a husband, father, and friend is fragmentary at best. With Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson (author of the bestselling biographies Benjamin Franklin and Kissinger) brings Einstein's experience of life, love, and intellectual discovery into brilliant focus. The book is the first biography to tackle Einstein's enormous volume of personal correspondence that heretofore had been sealed from the public, and it's hard to imagine another book that could do such a richly textured and complicated life as Einstein's the same thoughtful justice. Isaacson is a master of the form and this latest opus is at once arresting and wonderfully revelatory. --Anne Bartholomew

Read "The Light-Beam Rider," the first chapter of Walter Isaacson's Einstein: His Life and Universe.
Five Questions for Walter Isaacson What kind of scientific education did you have to give yourself to be able to understand and explain Einstein's ideas?

Isaacson: I've always loved science, and I had a group of great physicists--such as Brian Greene, Lawrence Krauss, and Murray Gell-Mann--who tutored me, helped me learn the physics, and checked various versions of my book. I also learned the tensor calculus underlying general relativity, but tried to avoid spending too much time on it in the book. I wanted to capture the imaginative beauty of Einstein's scientific leaps, but I hope folks who want to delve more deeply into the science will read Einstein books by such scientists as Abraham Pais, Jeremy Bernstein, Brian Greene, and others. That Einstein was a clerk in the Swiss Patent Office when he revolutionized our understanding of the physical world has often been treated as ironic or even absurd. But you argue that in many ways his time there fostered his discoveries. Could you explain?

Isaacson: I think he was lucky to be at the patent office rather than serving as an acolyte in the academy trying to please senior professors and teach the conventional wisdom. As a patent examiner, he got to visualize the physical realities underlying scientific concepts. He had a boss who told him to question every premise and assumption. And as Peter Galison shows in Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps, many of the patent applications involved synchronizing clocks using signals that traveled at the speed of light. So with his office-mate Michele Besso as a sounding board, he was primed to make the leap to special relativity. That time in the patent office makes him sound far more like a practical scientist and tinkerer than the usual image of the wild-haired professor, and more like your previous biographical subject, the multitalented but eminently earthly Benjamin Franklin. Did you see connections between them?

Isaacson: I like writing about creativity, and that's what Franklin and Einstein shared. They also had great curiosity and imagination. But Franklin was a more practical man who was not very theoretical, and Einstein was the opposite in that regard. Of the many legends that have accumulated around Einstein, what did you find to be least true? Most true?

Isaacson: The least true legend is that he failed math as a schoolboy. He was actually great in math, because he could visualize equations. He knew they were nature's brushstrokes for painting her wonders. For example, he could look at Maxwell's equations and marvel at what it would be like to ride alongside a light wave, and he could look at Max Planck's equations about radiation and realize that Planck's constant meant that light was a particle as well as a wave. The most true legend is how rebellious and defiant of authority he was. You see it in his politics, his personal life, and his science. At Time and CNN and the Aspen Institute, you've worked with many of the leading thinkers and leaders of the day. Now that you've had the chance to get to know Einstein so well, did he remind you of anyone from our day who shares at least some of his remarkable qualities?

Isaacson: There are many creative scientists, most notably Stephen Hawking, who wrote the essay on Einstein as "Person of the Century" when I was editor of Time. In the world of technology, Steve Jobs has the same creative imagination and ability to think differently that distinguished Einstein, and Bill Gates has the same intellectual intensity. I wish I knew politicians who had the creativity and human instincts of Einstein, or for that matter the wise feel for our common values of Benjamin Franklin.

More to Explore

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

Kissinger: A Biography

The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made

From Publishers Weekly

Acclaimed biographer Isaacson examines the remarkable life of "science's preeminent poster boy" in this lucid account (after 2003's Benjamin Franklin and 1992's Kissinger). Contrary to popular myth, the German-Jewish schoolboy Albert Einstein not only excelled in math, he mastered calculus before he was 15. Young Albert's dislike for rote learning, however, led him to compare his teachers to "drill sergeants." That antipathy was symptomatic of Einstein's love of individual and intellectual freedom, beliefs the author revisits as he relates his subject's life and work in the context of world and political events that shaped both, from WWI and II and their aftermath through the Cold War. Isaacson presents Einstein's research—his efforts to understand space and time, resulting in four extraordinary papers in 1905 that introduced the world to special relativity, and his later work on unified field theory—without equations and for the general reader. Isaacson focuses more on Einstein the man: charismatic and passionate, often careless about personal affairs; outspoken and unapologetic about his belief that no one should have to give up personal freedoms to support a state. Fifty years after his death, Isaacson reminds us why Einstein (1879–1955) remains one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th century. 500,000 firsr printing, 20-city author tour, first serial to Time; confirmed appearance on Good Morning America. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 29452 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 706 pages
  • Editeur : Simon & Schuster; Édition : Reprint (10 avril 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000PC0S0K
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Grâce à l'accès à de nouveaux documents dans les années 80 et 90, en particulier des correspondances, les biographies contemporaines d'Einstein sont plus complètes que celles d'antan. Isaacson a fait un travail impressionnant de biographie "à l'américaine", c'est-à-dire très complète - parfois un peu trop. On voit bien le génie d'Einstein émerger dès l'adolescence ; puis les années merveilleuses de 1905 à 1920 environ quand Einstein (aidé par quelques amis pour les maths de la relativité générale) a produit ses plus grandes théories ; puis les triomphes des confirmations ; puis la montée de l'anti-sémitisme en Allemagne dont il eut à souffrir ; enfin le savant s'isoler peu à peu de l'évolution de la Physique, car il consacra les trois dernières décennies de sa vie à rechercher sans succès une théorie unifiée de la gravitation et l'électromagnétisme, ignorant les moissons de découvertes (aussi bien expérimentales que théoriques) dans les années 20, 30 et 40 par les générations suivantes de physiciens. Isaacson montre aussi l'homme public, devenu par la force des circonstances avocat de la cause juive, et aussi le pacifiste qui, renonçant à ses convictions, recommanda à Roosevelt de développer la bombe. Les tentatives d'explications scientifiques sur la relativité restreinte et générale, pour estimables qu'elles soient, ne feront rien comprendre à un lecteur ou une lectrice qui ne les connaît pas déjà. On sort de la lecture de ce pavé avec le sentiment d'avoir connu Einstein, et en ayant passé quelques heures passionnantes.
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C'est de toute manière une lecture incontournable, Einstein ayant été l'homme le plus célèbre de son époque et une personnalité qui a marqué l'histoire jusqu'à nos jours.
Le livre est très détaillé, aussi bien sur la partie initiale qui a mené à ses découvertes de la théorie de la relativité restreinte, puis générale, que sur la partie de sa vie, plus compliquée personnellement (refuge aux états unis) et scientifiquement (contribution puis contradiction avec la mécanique quantique).
Mais dans la façons de partager les différents aspects de la personnalité d'Einstein, le livre n'est pas aussi vivant que je l'espérais après la lecture de la bio de S. Jobs.
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Le plus intéressant est qu'on assiste, à la lecture de ce livre, à la genèse des idées révolutionnaires d'Einstein, et on comprend dans quels contextes scientifiques et face à quelles problématiques, elles ont émergées.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x915cf840) étoiles sur 5 788 commentaires
295 internautes sur 305 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x915dc9cc) étoiles sur 5 You Don't Have to be a Student of Physics to Enjoy this Book 16 avril 2007
Par D. Buxman - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
In my experience, biographies of great scientists often leave the reader in a fog of technical complexity. While this book is not "Physics in One Simple Lesson," Walter Isaacson did a wonderful job of telling the story of the man and making the scientific aspects sufficiently understandable to be useful in grasping the magnitude of Einstein's intellect. This book is meticulously researched and sourced, yet written in a witty and entertaining way that makes reading it a pleasure. The central lesson that I was left with was the importance of independent thinking in any context. Einstein made it clear that conventional wisdom is often neither practical, nor wise. I was struck by his resiliance in his early years and his good humor in really tough times. I also appreciated the fact that the author was willing to examine all aspects of Eintein's personality, both favorable and unfavorable.
359 internautes sur 379 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x915dcc18) étoiles sur 5 A complex man gets his due in fascinating biography 12 avril 2007
Par Wayne Klein - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Walter Isaacson's biography of Einstein creates a fuller better rounded image of one of the finest minds of the 20th Century than many biographies of Einstein. Although it's not without its flaws, Issacson's book covers much of Einstein's life pointing out both his successes and flaws as both a person and physicist.

We learn that as a child Einstein suffered from what could be echolalia (which is where you mutter a phrase to yourself multiple times before saying it to others). Issacson notes both Einstein's debt to Hume, Planck and philosphers such as Kant in helping develop both his world view and his breakthroughs in science. To his credit Isaacson also points out that the man that came to embody the modern view of physics and became a hero who had feet of clay; Einstein gave up his daughter for adoption without ever seeing her and spent much of his time away from Mileva (who would eventually become his first wife) while she was pregnant for a variety of reasons some understandable some not. The young Einstein was brash,egotistic and obnoxious (or you could call him overly confident) often pointing out flaws in papers by the very professors he was seeking jobs from. He also charts Einstein's difficult path to his professorship including his stint working in the Swiss patent office.

Isaacson does cover Einstein's support for the development of the atomic bomb (although this is a relatively small section of the biography) and mentions that Einstein later regreted his support and the bombing that occurred in Japan during World War II. When Einstein came up with his famous equation, he never imagined it would help pave the way for for mass destruction. He was conflicted over his role in the development of the atomic bomb feeling both responsibility and guilty over his role and how it led to the deaths of those in Japan and the arms race. This guilt shaped his role in leading the charge for a world government that would prevent individual nations from using the atomic bomb. He later stated that if he had known Germany wasn't going to be able to develop the atomic bomb, he "never would have lifted a finger" to prompt the United States to develop this weapon of mass destruction. He never forgave the German people for their role in trying to exterminate Jews and others prohibiting sale of his books in post-war Germany and stated that he felt the country should continue to be punished for what occurred. Isaacson addresses some of the contradictions of the man of peace who contributed and supported war showing that while Einstein had his absolute convicitions they could sometimes shift depending on the circumstances. Einstein never pretended to be perfect and Isaacson does a good job of portraying the flawed but brilliant human being at the core of all that brain power. The biggest surprise for me was discovering that he unwittingly had an affair with a Soviet spy and the fact that he refused to believe in Black Holes even though there was clear evidence (some of it in his theories)because it didn't fit his elegant view of the universe.

Most importantly the author manages to give understandable explanations of Einstein's theories and how he came up with many of them. One can't understand Einstein's world without understanding his world view or the way that his papers/theories altered the world we live in today. I'd recommend this book for the compelling human portrait that Isaacson creates of one of the leading figures of science in the 20th Century. Also recommended--
American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
107 internautes sur 111 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x915dce58) étoiles sur 5 The human face of Einstein 28 avril 2007
Par Jon Hunt - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Walter Isaacson's sweeping new book about one of the great minds in life is a tribute to Albert Einstein through his life and his work. For those of us who know the renowned physicist through equations and reputation, Isaacson fills in the rest. Einstein's creativity and his abiltity to think far past others added so much dimension to the arena of science while his personal life was just as rich with detail. In "Einstein", the author reveals a dashing history.

As Isaacson says, Einstein wondered early on what it would be like to ride alongside a light beam. This kind of thinking outside the box led to a lifetime of successes and a few failures, as well. The good and the bad are covered here. What is so striking about this book is that the reader seems to grow with the subject. One cheers Einstein on in his youth as he throws convention out the window, bucks hierarchy and generally goes his own way. Later in life, as Einstein becomes more reasoned (but nonetheless no less radical) we understand the transformation. This is the key to the enjoyment of reading "Einstein"...the humanness of his person shines.

There are a couple of chapters which took me by surprise and are terrific additions to the book. One is titled "Einstein's God", a look at how science and religion may or may not be reconciled in Einstein's eyes, and a chapter on the "Red Scare". That Einstein should have lived through the McCarthy era and had the wits to comment on it is fortuitous, indeed.

"Einstein" may just be the best read of the year. Isaacson's narrative style flows and while there are a lot of technical points about physics necessary to the the story, it never for a minute lets down. I highly recommend "Einstein" and give tribute to Walter Isaacson, whose research and strength as an author gives us such a compelling look at Albert Einstein.
200 internautes sur 215 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x915de1d4) étoiles sur 5 Competent but simplistic 13 janvier 2008
Par Odysseus - Publié sur
Format: Relié
It's often unfair to rate a book relative to its reputation, but sometimes it is necessary to do so to offset the impression given by other advance billings. I found Isaacon's Einstein to be a serviceable biography, nothing more; certainly not the tour de force I half-expected it to be based on its having climbed to #1 on the best-seller list. Among biographies I read in 2007, Neal Gabler's life of Disney, and Leigh Montville's Babe Ruth bio ("The Big Bam") were certainly superior. So too was Whittaker Chambers's haunting "Witness" (though this was a 50th-year anniversary re-release). Even Bill Bryson's light and unpretentious "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" far outshined this book in the biography/memoir category.

Isaacson's book provides the salient details of Einstein's life, and does a fair if unspectacular job of bringing the gist of Einstein's theories into focus for the layman. Biographies of scientists, artists and philosophers can sometimes be frustrating reads when the life narrative isn't as interesting as the subject's body of work. This places a burden on the biographer to convey the aesthetic flavor and force of the subject's work (or, in other words, "what all the fuss was about.") Isaacson does a fair job of this. It's virtually impossible to fully do it with Einstein while omitting nearly all the math, but at least Isaacson manages to get it done without losing the essence of what made Einstein's work fascinating.

The larger problem with the book is the author's reduction of Einstein's personality to a few summary points, repeating those over and over, even to the point of jamming virtually every life event into tight pigeonholes. Specifically:

-- Einstein, we are told, was repulsed by conformity. Isaacson relates a story of the child Einstein crying when seeing a Germany army marching by in perfect synchronization. Nothing could be more horrifying to this fiercely independent mind than such mindless collective action. Isaacson argues that Einstein's determination to go his own separate way was one of the vital elements of his unique genius.
-- Einstein's non-conformity enabled him to avoid running with the pack, even in the political arena. A pacifist for some of his adult life, he had the good sense to eschew pacifism in the age of Hitler.
-- Einstein didn't do as badly in school, nor as badly at mathematics, as is often stated, though he was hardly a leading mathematician.
-- Einstein had an ambivalent attitude toward his own fame. On the one hand, he was amused by the buffoonery of celebrity culture, and went out of his way to deflate its pretentions. But he cultivated an image of indifference to fame that outstripped the reality that he quite enjoyed it.
-- Einstein was often cruel or indifferent to those closest to him, but he deeply felt, especially late in life, moral obligations to humanity at large.
-- Einstein was a willing scientific revolutionary early on, but later become something of a scientific conservative. He was never able, for example, to fully accept the achievements of quantum mechanics.
-- Einstein preferred simple, elegant theories to fiddly, complex, clunky ones.

There, that didn't take so long, did it? The book devotes hundreds of pages to interpreting most of Einstein's life events according to one or the other of these themes. The repetition is vexing, but the bigger problem is that one gets the sense that Isaacson is so determined that these be the defining characteristics of Einstein's life and work, that he allows little room for the possibility of narrative events that collide with the themes.

Most of us have read biographies where every childhood event is treated as though it's a precursor or partial explanation for some later adult event or tendency. And we've read bios that seem to reduce a life to a manifestation of a small number of repeated themes. But human beings are more complex than this, and life narratives are rarely so neat and tidy. It seems unlikely that a man of Einstein's intelligence and complexity would have a life that so unremittingly conformed to the favorite leitmotifs of his biographer. No doubt, Isaacson's interpretations have a sound and convincing basis, but the relentless plumbing of these lines left me rather numb by the end of the book.

Beyond this, the book simply wasn't as engrossing to read as many biographies are.

Certainly a serviceable biography, but not a flawless one.
107 internautes sur 114 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x915de3f0) étoiles sur 5 The Person of the XX Century 17 juin 2007
Par Benjamin - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I always wanted to read a good biography of Albert Einstein. This is it. I read Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin biography and I loved it, so when this new Isaacson book was published, I knew I could not go wrong. I am not a scientist guy, so it is difficult for me to follow the explanations about the Physics in the book (specially the Quantum mechanics), but despite of that, the life of Einstein is so full of so many other interesting things, that this biography is a completely triumph. It is very difficult to write a book like that and please everyone. I could even say there are parts of the book that lack depth. For example, I don't recall Isaacson telling us about Einstein reaction to the Holocaust. Also, we have a lot of information about Einstein as a musician, playing the violin, and his love for Mozart. But we don't have a lot of information about Einstein's daily routine, like what he used to eat, if he liked to take walks, or ride a bike, how he used a handkerchief to protect his head from the sun, etc. Again, nothing is perfect and still Isaacson book is brilliant. By reading this book I've become very much interested to go beyond and learn some Physics. I've been asking to some colleagues of mine who teach Science in High School, but it seems they don't even undestand these theories themselves (which is pretty sad and also explains why our students' standards nowadays are so low). I might try the Einstein General and Specific Theory of Relativity book and see if I can understand it myself. I also went to Youtube and searched for videos about his theories and his life and I found some very interesting things. On the other hand, I also want to learn more about the Jews, which is something I've been trying to learn for so long because I am not Jewish but I have a huge respect and interest for their culture and history. Also funny, when I ask some of my Jewish friends about the creation of the State of Israel, and the conflict between Israel and Palestine, they politely avoid an answer by saying 'Oh! You need to ask someone else, because I don't know exactly how that happened ...' So again, I am going to have to learn it by myself. To finish with this review, the bottomline is this is a wonderful biography of Einstein that I strongly recommend to everyone.
P.S. If you like my review vote YES. You can read all my other reviews if you wish to. I modestly write them to help people form an opinion about movies, music and books, but if nobody reads them (if you don't vote I do not know if you did) there is no point in writing them
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