Forms and Content

A biography of Albert Einstein presents a challenge to the biographer: There are vast untapped archives, many specialized works, the recollections of associates, other biographies, popularizations, and picture books. In Einstein: The Life and Times, Ronald Clark responds to the challenge by utilizing a wide range of archival materials and fashioning the first full and balanced biography from them. This is a big book, comprising more than six hundred pages of text and nearly one hundred pages of bibliography, notes, and index. There are also illustrations, mostly photographs of Einstein, his parents, wives, schoolmates, fellow scientists, and other notable figures. The book itself has a cast of thousands. Clark also makes generous use of letters, articles, and lectures to illustrate events, attitudes, and reactions to and by Einstein.

Clark groups his twenty-two chapters into five parts, interweaving Einstein’s scientific developments with his nonscientific life, both personal and public. In part 1, Clark sketches the background of Einstein’s parents as nonpracticing Jews in Germany and Einstein’s Catholic school education. In a frenzy of freethinking, he rejected all forms of organized religion, schools, and Germany itself as authorities trying to force him to think and believe in one way. By 1901, he had renounced his German nationality for Swiss citizenship. Part 1 ends in 1905, with the hitherto undistinguished Einstein publishing four...

(The entire section is 563 words.)