I just finished reading Einstein by Walter Issacson and I have to say this was a very interesting book. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to the man behind the equations until I heard this biography came out. Then I couldn’t wait to read it.
I was not disappointed. Granted, when the book delved into discussions of the science, I could only keep up about half the time. The other half I only heard the voice of the Charlie Brown adults in my head. But this book isn’t about the science. It’s about what made Einstein different from his peers. And that is utterly fascinating.
What I took away from the book isn’t so much that he was that much smarter or creative than those around him. What set him apart, at least in my mind, was that he was able to make connections and leaps of logic that others were not. Planck may have discovered his constant (I’m not even gonna try to explain what that means here), but it was Einstein who figured out why it was important. The reason that he was able to so was that he wasn’t afraid to question conventional wisdom. To him, individual thought and freedom were the most important things in the world. The sections on the rise of Nazi power and McCarthyism were particularly illustrative on this point.
The one thing that kept coming to my mind as I was reading this book was: Are our schools preparing the next generation of thinkers? Einstein was quoted in this book as saying that an education was for teaching people to think, not to memorize facts or learn a trade. Anyway, I think I know the answer to that question. And now I have to make sure that my children know how to think, regardless of what the schools “teach” them.
This was a very insightful book. Read it if you get the chance. Don’t be put off by it’s length; the last 100 pages or so are footnotes and indices. So it’s really only about 550 pages. A beach read. 🙂