Royal Book of the Week: Monday 8/1/11

Einstein: The Life of a Genius by Walter Isaacson is the Royal Book of the Week. Duke Augustus just finished this book.  The book is included among the Royal Books of the Week for the discussions in it of Einstein’s pacifist, socialist and internationalist politics.  Up until World War II, he was a ardent pacifist.  Einstein even called for 2% of all draftees to resist the draft to bring down the military culture.  He believed strongly in a society where every citizen had a guarantee that her basic needs were met, but did not believe in a dictatorship of the proletariat to achieve it. With the unleashing of atomic energy, Einstein continually called for strong supranational organization that would prevent wars and the use of nuclear weapons.  He and Bertrand Russell even co-authored a statement calling for such a supranational protection.

Einstein was above all a champion of individual freedom.  He opposed totalitarian regimes on the right and the left. After the founding of the state of Israel he became a public supporter, but he also spoke out for the rights of the Palestinians.  Einstein was a supporter of Civil Rights.  He supported the Scottsboro Boys, and called opposed the death penalty for the Rosenbergs.  He was an early critic of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and called for intellectuals to refuse to testify before the House Un-American Committee based on their First Amendment rights.

When the author Isaacson steps onto the stage to give his own opinions, they are often those of the corporate media where he was a leader.  Isaacson tries to paint Einstein’s politics as too radical, and his warnings as unnecessarily dire.  Isaacson insists that American government is self-correcting.  Isaacson does not take into account that such self-corrections have taken place only because of those like Einstein who were willing to risk everything to protect the country he loved. 

The book has the obligatory childhood battles with authorities and the explanations of how Einstein reached his theories.  The book seems to understand the publishing maximum that for every mathematical equation, the readership is cut in half.  Of course, it includes the iconic E=MC2. Oops,  there goes half of you. 🙂  I gained a greater understanding of the that his theories were a dramatic shift in our understanding of the universe that matches the genius of Isaac Newton three centuries earlier.

Children need attending
theories need a sounding board

The book also deals with Einstein’s relationships with the women in his life.  It gives a great deal of attention to his first brilliant wife, Mileva Maric.  The song Einstein’s Wife by yesterday’s Royal Song of the Day artist, Easy Anthems, explores her contribution to his theories.

Having just finished Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, it was fascinating to watch the pieces of Einstein’s life fall into place.  Gladwell’s theory is that people who are are high achievers, such as The Beatles and Bill Gates, had circumstances beyond their control that provided opportunities not available to others. On example is that Einstein’s job in the Swiss patent office rather than academia was his equivalent of The Beatles’ Hamburg.  It gave Einstein the freedom to publish “radical” theories that would have threatened the job ob a young professor for going against the accepted wisdom.

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