Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius
Fresh insights into aspects of Einstein we don't usually consider: his mistakes and the role they played in the discovery of his theories.
Although Einstein was the greatest genius of the twentieth century, many of his ground-breaking discoveries were blighted by mistakes, ranging from serious misconceptions in physics to blatant errors in mathematics. For instance, Einstein's first theoretical proof of the famous formula E = mc2 was incomplete and only approximately valid; he struggled with this problem for many years, but he never found a complete proof (better mathematicians did). In this provocative forensic biography, Hans C. Ohanian dissects this and other mistakes and places them in the context of Einstein's turbulent life and times. Einstein was often navigating in a fog of irrational and mystical inspirations, but his profound intuition about physics permitted him to reach his goal despite—and sometimes because of—the mistakes he made along the way. Einstein's uncanny ability to use his mistakes subconsciously as stepping stones toward his revolutionary theories was one hallmark of his genius.
About the Author
Hans C. Ohanian received his B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, where he worked with John A. Wheeler. He has taught at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Union College, and the University of Vermont. He is the author of several textbooks spanning all undergraduate levels: Physics, Principles of Physics, Relativity: A Modern Introduction, Modern Physics, Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Classical Electrodynamics, and, with Remo Ruffini, Gravitation and Spacetime. He is also the author of dozens of articles dealing with gravitation, relativity, and quantum theory, including many articles on fundamental physics published in the American Journal of Physics, where he served as associate editor for some years. He lives in Vermont.