Ein­stein: His Space and Times

  • Review
By – May 19, 2015

Albert Ein­stein was the world’s first sci­en­tist to become an inter­na­tion­al celebri­ty, appear­ing as a pre­oc­cu­pied genius out of touch with the real world, yet sto­ries like the one about his poor per­for­mance in school, even fail­ing math­e­mat­ics, are in real­i­ty unfounded.

Ein­stein grew up in a sec­u­lar Jew­ish home in Ger­many and attend­ed a Catholic school. The required reli­gion class­es there kin­dled his inter­est in Judaism and he became obser­vant for many years. A free thinker and a paci­fist, Ein­stein did not like the mil­i­taris­tic stance of the Ger­man gov­ern­ment. At the age of 16, he renounced both his Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship and his Jew­ish observance.

Steven Gim­bel, who also wrote Einstein’s Jew­ish Sci­ence: Physics at the Inter­sec­tion of Pol­i­tics and Reli­gion (Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2012), con­tin­ues his study of Ein­stein with this biog­ra­phy explain­ing his sci­en­tif­ic dis­cov­er­ies for lay read­ers and how his ideas are a prod­uct of his world. Albert Ein­stein saw sci­ence as more than a way to explain the ori­gin and behav­ior of the uni­verse: it was also a mod­el of coop­er­a­tion for inter­na­tion­al affairs and a basis for think­ing about the deep­er philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions of life. Although his work served as the basis for the atom­ic bomb, Ein­stein was very trou­bled by its cre­ation and use. His ten­den­cy to speak his mind led to death threats. Con­ser­v­a­tives and Nazis con­sid­ered him dan­ger­ous — as did Zion­ists, despite his strong sup­port for Israel. His per­son­al life was dif­fi­cult as well, with a bad mar­riage, messy divorce, and trou­bled rela­tion­ships with his children.

Any­one inter­est­ed in sci­ence and his­to­ry will appre­ci­ate this well-writ­ten biog­ra­phy of one of the world’s great­est thinkers.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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