“Alone Against Gravity: Einstein in Berlin: The Turbulent Birth of the Theory of Relativity, 1914-1918″ by Thomas DePadova— Einstein, By Himself

DePadova, Thomas. “Alone Against Gravity: Einstein in Berlin: The Turbulent Birth of the Theory of Relativity, 1914-1918″, translated by Michal Schwartz, Bunim & Bannigan Ltd, 2018.

Einstein, By Himself

Amos Lassen

It seems that the more we know about Albert Einstein reflects on how much we do not know about him. Thomas DePadova shows us just how Einstein

transformed from being a ‘pure’ scientist and an apolitical man into a politically engaged person and a pacifist by conviction. We go back to Berlin, home to the study of physics during the early twentieth century. In 1914, Einstein received an invitation to the prestigious Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences. The invitation was the result of pressuring from

Max Planck, Walther Nernst and Fritz Haber who were the elite of Berlin’s scientists. At that time Einstein was 35-years-old and he wanted to take advantage of the academic freedom and the exchange of ideas in Berlin. His personal life at the time had to deal with his marriage was falling apart and his recently falling in love with his cousin, Elsa Lowenthal who lived in Berlin. By coming to the Academy he would be able to enjoy both of these.

But four months later saw the outbreak of World War and everything suddenly changed including the minds and relationships of German scientists and of Einstein’s relationships to his colleagues, many of whom joined the war frenzy with strong nationalism. Some changed the focus of their work and worked on the creation mass destruction. As the war began Einstein said that he felt ”alone, like a drop of oil on water, isolated by attitude and cast of mind.” Yet he did not move. 

The book, “Alone Against Gravity” looks at the reasons that Einstein became a pacifist and a devotee of political issues. He certainly could have returned to Switzerland since he was a Swiss citizen but he preferred to reinvent time and space and finish his revolutionary theory about general relativity as the world around him collapsed.

DePadova  brings together Einstein’s private life, his theoretical knowledge and the events of the First World War together and what we get is an exciting story and quite a different look at Albert Einstein. I found that mixing war-fever with Einstein’s persistence to be riveting just as were the two opposing ideas of war-logic and clear thinking.

We see how Einstein was able to draw a new image of the universe in the midst of the First World War when the fate of the world hung in the balance.

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