Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough


Albert Einstein, Creator and Rebel

By Banesh Hoffmann, Helen Dukas

Narrated by : Wanda McCaddon


The impact of extraordinary human beings is partly the result of chosen facts–there repetition, and future generations’ revisions of history.  The best known are men, undoubtedly due to misogyny that reaches back to the earliest writings of history.  Whether because of misogyny or other reason, mostly men have had the greatest influence on the course of politics, arts, and science. None more than Aristotle, Jesus Christ, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

Banesh Hoffman and Helen Dukas reveal why Einstein is among a select group of extraordinary human beings.  Presumably, Hoffman (because he is a physicist) offers explanation of Einstein’s contribution to the world of science.  However, in an equally revealing light (because Dukas is secretary to Einstein), one presumes she offers understanding of Einstein’s personal correspondence and innate humanity.  To we who are not scientists, Dukas is the star of the book.  Whether searching for understanding of E=mc2 or Einstein’s humanity, this book is worth reading and re-reading.

Newton versus quantum mechanics.

Einstein did not overturn the physics of Isaac Newton, just as he did not deny the validity of quantum mechanics. 

Einstein added to Newton’s understanding of physics by confirming belief in quantum mechanics with the caveat that quantum mechanics does not reveal everything about physics of the universe.  Einstein argues to his last days–their remains an unrevealed fundamental truth about physics. He believes physics will explain why things exist and why manifestation of things is predictable.  Like the inviolate speed of light, Einstein insists there is a physics law that gives predictability rather than probabilistic answers for ways of the world.

Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677, Dutch philosopher of the Enlightenment, biblical critic.)

Einstein believes in God but it is the God of Spinoza. Einstein believes God is not a corporeal being but a principle.

To Spinoza, God is everything in nature.  Religions look at Einstein and Spinoza as heretics, and as some argue, atheists.  However, Einstein suggests “God does not play with dice”. He is saying there is a fundamental cause for everything in the world.  That fundamental cause is God. However, that God is nature which, like energy and mass, has equivalence. Einstein believes there is an unknown fundamental law that explains life’s predictable existence which will prove God is real because, in his view, nature is real and predictable.

Einstein clearly identifies himself as a Jew but in the sense of ethnic association, not religion.  Part of Einstein’s self-identity comes from his disgust with Germany and its systemic murder of Jews in the holocaust. 

Dukas reveals Einstein’s sponsorship of Jews who wish to escape Nazi Germany.  She notes that Israel asks Einstein to serve as President of Israel.  He is deeply honored but chooses not to accept because his life experience is as a scientist, not a politician.

Dukas explains Einstein has an implacable belief in scientific predictability and an unstoppable drive for proof.  Both authors make it clear that Einstein’s greatest discoveries come in his early twenties. He doggedly pursues intuitive truth, even when faced with experiments that fail to support his beliefs.  Einstein does not become discouraged. He casts failed experiment and mathematical calculation aside and re-doubles his effort to confirm his intuitive beliefs.

Einstein did not initially realize the potential of E=mc2 as a weapon because he thought too much energy would be required to create nuclear fission that would change mass into energy. 

With the discovery of neutrons by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1938, Einstein realizes there is destructive potential in his discovery of mass and energy equivalence.  Neutrons used to bombard particular fundamental atoms demonstrate transmutation of mass into energy.   That transmutation unleashes a cataclysmic force.

Einstein is shown to be an avid pacifist, but atrocities perpetrated by Germany in WWII leads him to recommend early efforts of America to create a nuclear bomb.  However, he is appalled by the bombs use in Japan.

The thought among Allied forces is that Germany would develop a nuclear bomb before Allied forces could end the war.  There is the suggestion by some that Germany’s last-ditch effort at the Battle of the Bulge was a desperate attempt to delay defeat to have time to develop a nuclear bomb.

It is clear in this biography that Einstein’s contribution to science is as immeasurable as aforementioned luminaries of politics, arts, and science.  Einstein, and Newton stand as the elite of the elite in science.  One hopes there are others in this century.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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