Einstein's Mistakes by Hans C. Ohanian
The Human Failings of Genius

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“A thought-provoking critique of Einstein’s tantalizing combination of brilliance and blunder.”—Andrew Robinson, New Scientist

Although Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his groundbreaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious errors in mathematics to bad misconceptions in physics and failures to grasp the subtleties of his own creations. This forensic biography dissects Einstein’s scientific mistakes and places them in the context of his turbulent life and times. In lively, accessible prose, Hans C. Ohanian paints a fresh, insightful portrait of the real Einstein at work, in contrast to the uncritical celebrity worship found in many biographies.

Of the approximately 180 original scientific papers that Einstein published in his lifetime, about 40 are infested with mistakes. For instance, Einstein’s first mathematical proof of the famous formula E = mc2 was incomplete and only approximately valid; he struggled with this problem for many years, but he never found a complete proof (better mathematicians did). Einstein was often lured by irrational and mystical inspirations, but his extraordinary intuition about physics permitted him to discover profound truths despite—and sometimes because of—the mistakes he made along the way. He was a sleepwalker: his intuition told him where he needed to go, and he somehow managed to get there without quite knowing how.

As this book persuasively argues, the defining hallmark of Einstein’s genius was not any special mathematical ability but an uncanny talent to use his mistakes as stepping stones to formulate his revolutionary theories.

About Hans C. Ohanian

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Hans C. Ohanian received his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he worked with John A. Wheeler. He has taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, and the University of Vermont. He is the author of several textbooks spanning all undergraduate levels: Physics, Principles of Physics, Relativity: A Modern Introduction, Modern Physics, Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Classical Electrodynamics, and, with Remo Ruffini, Gravitation and Spacetime. He is also the author of dozens of articles dealing with gravitation, relativity, and quantum theory, including many articles on fundamental physics published in the American Journal of Physics, where he served as associate editor for some years. He lives in Vermont.
Published November 9, 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Science & Math, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Einstein's Mistakes

Kirkus Reviews

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A close examination of Einstein's work, emphasizing the errors and wrong turns that even colleagues overlooked.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Einstein's Mistakes: The Huma...

Kirkus Reviews

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A sophisticated overview of modern physics, including more of Einstein's missteps than readers usually encounter.

Sep 08 2008 | Read Full Review of Einstein's Mistakes: The Huma...

Bookmarks Magazine

McMahon Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars "Ohanian … sometimes seems to be overreaching in his attempt to humble the great man, but the book’s quixotic approach—retelling Einstein’s story by homing in on his blunders—makes for good intellectual entertainment.

Sep 07 2008 | Read Full Review of Einstein's Mistakes: The Huma...

New Scientist

IN Einstein's Mistakes, a deliberately provocative semi-biographical study of Einstein's scientific errors, there are, indeed, plenty of mistakes - and not all of them are Einstein's.

Sep 24 2008 | Read Full Review of Einstein's Mistakes: The Huma...

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