Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
By 1916, Albert Einstein was a world-famous professor of physics at the University of Berlin, and he had seen several scientists and popularizers write books about his special theory of relativity, which he had first published in 1905. Other such books, published between 1913 and 1916, even included some of his preliminary ideas on the general theory of relativity. With the success of several of these popularizations, he knew that a large and willing audience was available to learn about the theories of relativity from the man who created them. Having spent the majority of his scientific career communicating with colleagues via journal articles that made heavy use of advanced mathematics, Einstein realized that he would need a different way to convey his discoveries to a lay readership. When, in the fall of 1915, he started thinking about how to make his ideas understandable to nonscientists, his work on the general theory of relativity was effectively complete, but his personal life was in turmoil, and all of this would play a role in the book’s composition.
In 1914, Einstein had separated, not amicably, from his first wife Mileva and their two sons, but he was not formally divorced until 1919. During the interim, he formed an intimate relationship with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal, who had been married and had two teenaged daughters, Margot and Ilse. Einstein became friendly with the young girls, and in papers kept secret for many years scholars would...
(The entire section is 1748 words.)
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