Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Einstein, His Life and Universe

"I did it!"(as Katie would say). Now I don't need the magic Internet fairy to add pictures for me.
I try to mix up my reading list with biographies now and then and Einstein was my most recent subject. This 550 page tome did not disappoint, although I must admit that I did skim over some (ok, much) of the more detailed explanations of his experiments and scientific papers. Clearly, Issacson understood all the intricacies of relativity and quantum mechanics and did a masterful job of describing it. And, really, I do think it's awesome, but reading too much about it makes my head want to explode. Hence, I'll leave the science to others while I explore the humanities aspect of the individual.
I especially like biographies because so much of what I was taught in school about "famous" people was so one dimensional and boring. However, when I read a good, well-researched and balanced biography like this one, I feel as if I really understand the man behind the genius- human frailties and all.
Unfortunately, Einstein's genius in the scientific realm did not carry over into his personal life. Although married and the father of two sons he basically abandoned the family (he did send money sometimes) for years while he moved around in the pursuit of his science. And, as is so often true of exceptionally talented individuals, the pursuit of their "passion", whether it be in art, music, math, science or whatever, becomes the driving force of their lives to the exclusion of just about everything and everyone else (except their professional peers).
As the book jacket reads, "his success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals." If we can take just one lesson from Einsteins' life, it would probably be that education must not stifle independence or creativity. "A society's competitive advantage", as Issacson writes, "will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity." Amen.

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