Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Ultimate Quotable Einstein – Alice Calaprice (Ed.) ***

There is no doubt that Albert Einstein had a way with words. He was an expert with the sound bite long before the concept existed. In this fat little book, Alice Calaprice has collected together a vast number of his quotable snippets to delight the Einstein fans.
Just looking at the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations shows how quotable (and what a wit) Einstein was. He has 37 entries compared with 10 for Rutherford (no slacker) and 7 for the ultimate science wit Richard Feynman. And that’s where the doubt creeps in. Feynman was, without doubt, even better at coming up with little gems – yet we don’t get equivalent books for him. At the moment on TV, a grotesque animation of Einstein is being used to advertise bread. He is more than a scientist, he is a brand. The only real reason for producing a book like this is because Einstein has fans. It wouldn’t be going too far to call the action of putting this collection together hagiography.
This being the case, it’s hard to be too enthusiastic about the result. It would have been much better, for instance, if it had far fewer dull quotes but gave a lot more context. Ultimately, I just don’t see what this book is for. You would have to be a real fan to read it from cover to cover, and it’s not really a reference book for any practical use. An oddity beyond doubt.
Hardback:  
Review by Brian Clegg

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