Einstein Lived Here

This volume is a complement to Pais’s biographical study of Einstein the scientist. Two of the eleven essays are taken from that earlier book. Seven of the remaining are relatively short and maybe of marginal interest to most readers. The first and last essays, however, are both more substantive and significant.

Pais opens the volume with a sympathetic, but frank, discussion of Einstein as husband and father. Written in response to recently acquired knowledge that Einstein had an illegitimate daughter, whose fate is unknown, and recent claims regarding the role of Einstein’s first wife in the development of relativity theory, Pais’s account provides an accurate summary of current knowledge for the nonspecialist. The picture he draws is of a man too involved in science to work very hard on human relationships. He also successfully deflates the claim that Einstein’s first wife was a collaborator in the theory of relativity.

More than half the book is taken up by the ultimate essay, which discusses the relation of Einstein with the press, starting with a 1902 newspaper advertisement by Einstein and ending with reminiscences published on the occasion of the centennial of Einstein’s birth. Taking a generally chronological approach, Pais combines quotations from and paraphrases of press accounts of Einstein with reports of Einstein’s speeches, letters to the editor, and other Einstein contributions to the press. Although short on analysis, Pais’s essay, with more than four hundred citations, demonstrates the fascination the press (and Pais limited himself to only English-, French-, and German-language publications) had for Einstein. There is also considerable evidence that Einstein was able to widely disseminate his views on nonscientific issues through the mass media. In a word, Einstein was a celebrity.