The myth is well-known. In 1905 an unknown 26-year-old clerk at the Swiss Patent Office, who had supposedly failed math in school, burst on to the scientific scene and swept away the hidebound theories of the day. The clerk, Albert Einstein, introduced a new and unexpected understanding of the universe and launched the two great revolutions of twentieth-century physics, relativity and quantum mechanics. The obscure origin and wide-ranging brilliance of the work recalled Isaac Newton’s “annus mirabilis” (miracle year) of 1666, when as a 23-year-old seeking safety at his family manor from an outbreak of the plague, he invented calculus and laid the foundations for his theory of gravity. Like Newton, Einstein quickly became a scientific icon--the image of genius and, according to Time magazine, the Person of the Century.
The actual story is much more interesting. Einstein himself once remarked that “science as something coming into being ... is just as subjectively, psychologically conditioned as are all other human endeavors.” In this profile, the historian of science L. Randles Lagerstrom takes you behind the myth and into the very human life of the young Einstein. From family rifts and girlfriend troubles to financial hardships and jobless anxieties, Einstein’s early years were typical of many young persons. And yet in the midst of it all, he also saw his way through to profound scientific insights. Drawing upon correspondence from Einstein, his family, and his friends, Lagerstrom brings to life the young Einstein and enables the reader to come away with a fuller and more appreciative understanding of Einstein the person and the origins of his revolutionary ideas.
About the cover image: While walking to work six days a week as a patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein would pass by the famous "Zytglogge" tower and its astronomical clocks. The daily juxtaposition was fitting, as the relative nature of time and clock synchronization would be one of his revolutionary discoveries in the miracle year of 1905.