The Unexpected Einstein: The Real Man Behind the Icon

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Wiley, Jun 24, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 260 pages
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Exactly one hundred years ago in 1905, Albert Einstein, the best-known and most beloved scientist of the twentieth century, revolutionized our understanding of the universe with his special theory of relativity. But behind the familiar image of the lovable eccentric with the cherubic smile and nimbus of white hair, did there lurk a very different individual? Now, fifty years after his death, this book tackles head-on many unexpected aspects of Einstein's life, thoughts, and personality rarely, if ever, covered in conventional biographies: his controversial treatment of his wives and sons; his love affairs, including one with a Soviet spy; what he really thought about God and organized religion; his daily, private life; and the mystery of his daughter Lieserl, whose very existence he kept secret from the world.

Was he the chilly, self-centered narcissist and misogynist that some contend? Did he, as one biographer claims, shamelessly plagiarize the work of others, including work done by his first wife as well as his special theory of relativity? Is there any truth to the frequent claims he was dyslexic, an incompetent mathematician, and a faker with only a tenuous grasp of physics? Or was he, as J. Edgar Hoover spent a quarter century trying to establish, a mad scientist in the employ of Moscow, bent on bringing Western democracy to its knees with the help of a death ray, a mind-controlled robot, and other fiendish inventions?

In this fast-paced and informed account, biographer Denis Brian strips away these and other myths, rumors, and outright lies that continue to circulate about Albert Einstein to offer us a uniquely intimate portrait of the living, breathing man.

Brian draws upon an impressive array of original sources including recently discovered documents and interviews—many of them previously unpublished—with Einstein's relatives, colleagues, lovers, enemies, lifelong friends, and relative strangers. In their own words, these men and women share their vivid memories of the "father of modern physics" and offer their insights into his character. In the process, many unexpected facets of Einstein's life and personality are revealed, including his childlike sense of fun, his hobbies, his love of pets, his poetry, and even his culinary exploits. Also weighing in are many luminaries from the worlds of science, politics, and the humanities, such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Werner Heisenberg, Upton Sinclair, Linus Pauling, I. F. Stone, Ashley Montagu, Bertrand Russell, Martin Buber, and David Ben-Gurion, to name just a few.

A profoundly complex man who charmed almost all who met him; an extraordinarily humane, generous, shy, and essentially lonely individual: the unexpected Einstein who emerges from these pages may, in the final analysis, best be understood from the casual observation he once made to the Russian author Ilya Ehrenburg: "I live and feel puzzled, and all the time I try to understand."

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User Review  - LynleyS - LibraryThing

This felt like a balanced view of Einstein as a person, which busted a few myths about the man (eg. that he was a late talker and a womaniser). In full disclosure I never quite finished it because it was overdue at the library. But I would have. Read full review


Einsteins FBI File and the Soviet

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About the author (2005)

DENIS BRIAN is author of Einstein: A Life, Pulitzer: A Life, Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him, and other popular books. He lives with his wife, Martine, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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