cover image Einstein: Visionary Scientist

Einstein: Visionary Scientist

John B. Severance. Clarion Books, $18 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-395-93100-4

Severance, whose previous biographies focused on men of social and political action (Gandhi; Thomas Jefferson), here does a commendable job of conveying both the complicated ideas that revolutionized the study of physics and the life of the thinker behind them. Opening with a discussion of Einstein's place in the history of science, the narrative then shifts to a chronological account of Einstein's life, discussing his difficulties in school, his groundbreaking early theoretical papers (published before he had even earned his Ph.D.), his work as a professor and researcher, and the fame that dogged his later years. Throughout this account of his professional work, Severance weaves in less-flattering details of Einstein's personal life--his fathering of an out-of-wedlock child; his estrangement and divorce from his first wife; his second marriage, in which he often acted more like a child than a husband--and touches upon lesser-known aspects of the scientist's public life, such as his pacifism (setting the record straight about the fact that he was ""never directly involved"" with creating the atomic bomb) and his involvement in the Zionist movement. Severance's writing occasionally stumbles (e.g., ""The political scene of 1933 indicated that Einstein's days in Europe were numbered""), and he has difficulty giving readers a sense of what Einstein was like as a person rather than just as a thinker. Otherwise, this is a solid introduction to the life and times of one of the 20th century's most innovative minds. Age 10-14. (Aug.)