The unexpected Einstein. The real man behind the icon

The unexpected Einstein. The real man behind the icon
Denis Brian
Hoboken, New Jersey, US: John Wiley | 2005 | 260 pp | ?15.99 (HB) | ISBN 0471718408 
Reviewed by Gaetano Mancino

There are very few people who haven’t heard of Albert Einstein, even if they do not understand all his theories. He was a rare breed - a physicist whose fame transcends the complexity of his scientific ideas. Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of his theory of special relativity and, unsurprisingly, another biography has appeared to mark the occasion. But this is a biography with a difference.  

Denis Brian attempts to ’demythologise’ Einstein by focusing on aspects of his life that most other histories have overlooked. We learn of Einstein the husband, the father and the lover; we are treated to a first-class analysis of his religious views and discover that the FBI, under the paranoid rule of J Edgar Hoover, massively distrusted Einstein, believing him to be a Soviet spy. We also discover some of his quirkier personality traits; his intrinsic shyness, his booming laugh, and even his skills (or lack of) in the kitchen. 

Those with a keen or even casual interest in Einstein will find this book interesting, although those hoping for a good introduction to his scientific theories will be disappointed. The author does, however, do a very good job at explaining the seminal theory of special relativity. 

The book is easy to read although the author has an annoying habit of repeating himself between chapters. Despite this small problem, the author does a good job overall and achieves what he sets out to do. Einstein comes across as a truly rounded character, more human and believable, allowing us to recognise his remarkable contributions even more.