Upon first glance, the idea of a "scientific romance" puzzled my mind. I mean, to be quiet honest, both words, science and romance, have little to do with one another. One is motivated by the mind. The other is motivated by the heart. Add the name Einstein into the mix, and you end up with a puzzle more complex than the theory of relativity itself.
Dennis Overbye, deputy science editor of The New York Times and author of LONELY HEARTS OF THE COSMOS, has combined years of research and study of unpublished letters to bring us his most recent release, EINSTEIN IN LOVE: A Scientific Romance. The book provides an intimate glimpse into the not so popular younger years of the Nobel Prize winning physicist Albert Einstein.
It was difficult at first to imagine Albert Einstein as a young man in love. After all, we're talking about the guy who provided experimental proof of the theory of relativity. After a little reading, however, my mind began to see a young, insecure boy, who, just like most boys his age, wanted very much to fit in.
The book begins with Albert, age 18, writing a letter to the mother of a young girl whose heart he had recently broken. He mentions his faults in the letter and even promises to "mind his own business and avoid romantic adventures" in the future. He also goes on to say that "strenuous intellectual work and looking at God's nature are the reconciling, fortifying, yet relentlessly strict angels that shall lead me through all of life's troubles." Now, I've always believed that behind every successful person there is a deep drive that pushes them forward. It appears that Einstein was motivated, at least in the beginning, by romantic failure. The pieces to this puzzle of science and romance slowly began to fit together. I didn't quiet have a full understanding of it all, but I was definitely off to a great start.
The book continues with a little more basic history behind Einstein's life. His birth in 1897 is mentioned along with his well known temper tantrums as a child, including an incident in which, during a fit of anger, he threw a bowling ball at his younger sister Maja.
As the book goes on, Overbye introduces Mileva Maric, a bright young mathematician who becomes Albert's soul mate. It is this woman who changes Einstein's life forever. This is his first true love; a love that would prove to be quite chaotic at times but, nonetheless, true and sacred to him. It is this love affair around which the book revolves. A scientific romance of sorts, between two great minds. The puzzle had been solved. I finally understood how the two words could go together so well. Science and romance, an odd mix indeed.
In essence, EINSTEIN IN LOVE: A Scientific Romance is a great source of reading for those who want more than just the basic facts found in most biographies. Dennis Overbye provides a unique glimpse into the love life of the popular physicist. The excerpts from actual letters written by Einstein make for interesting reading, and the book's structure allows for easy navigation in case you need to go back and refresh your memory on any given topic. Most importantly, the book provides just enough science and just enough romance to entertain both the scientific mind and the hopeless romantic in each of us.
Reviewed by Jonathan P. Lamas on October 5, 2000
Einstein in Love: A Scientific Romance