cover image Einstein’s Masterwork: 1915 and the General Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s Masterwork: 1915 and the General Theory of Relativity

John Gribbin. Pegasus, $27.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68177-212-7

Contrary to widespread belief that 1905 was Einstein’s most important year, British astrophysicist and science writer Gribbin (13.8: The Quest to Find the True Age of the Universe and the Theory of Everything) posits that 1915, the year that Einstein published his general theory of relativity, holds much more historical and scientific importance. Leading up to this argument, Gribbin describes Einstein’s life, mingling personal events with his work, and successfully humanizing the iconic image of the scientist, describing him more as “a cross between God and Harpo Marx.” Gribbin tells the sad fate of Einstein’s first marriage from both sides and describes Einstein’s social interactions within the wider international physics world. Einstein’s work might not have been recognized as revolutionary if not for the support of respected scientists such as Max Planck and Einstein’s old friend Marcel Grossmann. Despite Gribbin’s claim, he devotes the book’s longest chapter to the excitement surrounding the special theory of relativity in 1905. When Gribbin finally arrives at 1915, instead of making the case that it was Einstein’s true annus mirabilis, he points out that those who came before Einstein laid the groundwork for the idea of a curvature of space-time. The book’s primary virtue is Gribbin’s clear explanations of Einstein’s theories, which can be understood by those lacking an extensive background in math or science. Illus. (Sept.)