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Gordin, Michael D.

Einstein in Bohemia


    48,95 € / $56.25 / £48.00*

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    February 2020
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    Aims and Scope

    A finely drawn portrait of Einstein's sixteen months in Prague

    In the spring of 1911, Albert Einstein moved with his wife and two sons to Prague, the capital of Bohemia, where he accepted a post as a professor of theoretical physics. Though he intended to make Prague his home, he lived there for just sixteen months, an interlude that his biographies typically dismiss as a brief and inconsequential episode. Einstein in Bohemia is a spellbinding portrait of the city that touched Einstein's life in unexpected ways—and of the gifted young scientist who left his mark on the science, literature, and politics of Prague.

    Michael Gordin's narrative is a masterfully crafted account of a person encountering a particular place at a specific moment in time. Einstein's Prague was a relatively marginal city within the sprawling Austro-Hungarian Empire, heir to almost a millennium of history of which the physicist—still several years away from becoming the most famous scientist who ever lived—was largely unaware. Yet Prague, its history, and its multifaceted culture changed the trajectories of Einstein's personal and scientific life. It was here that his marriage unraveled, where he first began thinking seriously about his Jewish identity, and where he embarked on the project of general relativity. Prague was also where he formed lasting friendships with novelist Max Brod, Zionist intellectual Hugo Bergmann, physicist Philipp Frank, and other important figures.

    Einstein in Bohemia sheds light on this transformative period of Einstein's life and career, and brings vividly to life a beguiling city in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


    7 b/w illus.
    Walter Isaacson; The Genius Biographies; Arnošt Kolman; Franz Kafka; Rudolf Steiner; Zionism; philosophy of science; history of science; nationalism; Eastern European history; Central European history; Czechoslovakia; Czech Republic; City of a Hundred Spires; World War I; Archduke Franz Ferdinand; Czech capital; great cities of Europe; Stephen Hawking; Nikola Tesla; Isaac Newton; Nobel Prize in physics; Prague history; history of Prague
    General/trade;Professional and scholarly;College/higher education;

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    Michael D. Gordin is the Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University. His books include A Well-Ordered Thing: Dmitrii Mendeleev and the Shadow of the Periodic Table and Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War (both Princeton). He lives in Princeton, New Jersey. Twitter @GordinMichael


    "Einstein in Bohemia is a sparkling, sensitive, and resonant story about the relationship between people, places, times, and ideas. A learned delight."—Steven Shapin, coauthor of Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life

    "This beautifully written double biography of Albert Einstein and the city of Prague is a wonderfully creative historical work that yields important new insights. Michael Gordin enables us to understand Einstein's time in Prague as it was lived and perceived by the physicist and his contemporaries. The scholarship is superb."—Diana Kormos Buchwald, director and general editor of the Einstein Papers Project

    "This engaging and beautifully written account of Einstein's often ignored time in Prague is a tour de force. Drawing on prodigious research, Gordin insightfully depicts Prague's intellectual, social, and political milieu and its long-term impact on Einstein's research, his friendships, and his thinking about nationalism and Jewish identity."—Gary B. Cohen, University of Minnesota

    "Using Einstein's sojourn in Prague as a scarlet thread, Michael Gordin guides us expertly through the labyrinth of physics, philosophy, and politics during the tumultuous early decades of the twentieth century. The result is an enthralling meditation on national and religious identity, the power of people and place, and the nature of history and myth."—Lorraine Daston, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

    "With unrivaled erudition, Michael Gordin skillfully guides his reader through the streets of Prague and through Einstein's attempts at creating a general theory of relativity. This wonderfully written book masterfully demonstrates the relationship between place, identification, and physical theory during the early twentieth century."—Myles W. Jackson, Institute for Advanced Study

    "A pleasure to read. This is a lovely book—highly original, meticulously researched, elegantly written, and full of surprises. Einstein in Bohemia is a richly textured, multilayered inquiry that ranges freely across many boundaries."—Derek Sayer, author of Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History

    "In Michael Gordin's erudite hands, a seemingly minor episode in Einstein's life becomes a window onto the milieu in which the physicist's most extraordinary work, the theory of general relativity, began to emerge. Einstein in Bohemia serves up a deliciously rich slice of history, offering a portrait of one of the great capitals of the Western world and a fresh perspective on the greatest scientist of the modern age."—Philip Ball, author of Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different

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