The genius, the media's darling

EISTEIN LIVED HERE Abraham Pais-Ctarendon Press Oxford University Press-Special Indian Price Rs 325

By Dhruv Raina
Published: Thursday 30 November 1995

TO COMMENCE a review of Pais' recent book, with 'he does it again', would take away its poignancy. His previous work, Subtle is the Lord, dealt with Einstein's science and his life. This volume, Pais informs us, is not meant to be a sequel to his previous works, but is based on a colossal examination of archival material and press reports, from which he intended to reveal Einstein's relationships with the other notable minds ofhis age. Pais had also sought to outline the principal concerns of the first half of this century, of Einstein's responses to these issues, and the manncr in which the media made him into a mythical figure.

Since the expanse of this work is fairly large and a short review will not do it any justice, I prefer to touch upon a few points that I found most striking. The first has to do with Einstein's remarkable commitment to the cause of internationalism, militant pacifism, world peace and tolerance. The second half of the book, titled Einstein and the Press, succinctly deals with this.

During and just before the First World War, Einstein was staunchly committed to the radical pacifism of avoiding war at any cost, and was signatory to a number of important petitions and manifestoes, and participated in movements demanding the resolution of conflicts between nations through peaceful arbitration. After the First World War, just when the media was lionising him as the Newton of the 20th century, Gandhi's satyagraha and Einstein's pacifism were to provide a meeting ground for their political concerns.

The first half of the book consists of essays that appeared elsewhere but have been reworked since. The chapter titled Reflections on Bohr and Einstein is absolutely fascinating. It depicts the similarities and contrasts of Einstein's and Bohr's differences of approach on the development of quantum theory. Pais, however, underplays Einstein's philosophical conception. I think this un standing ignores two sides to Einstein.

Firstly, Einstein was a fin de s European theoretical physicist, moulded I cultural milieu that was increasingly sens to debates on the nature of scientific lud ledge and the structure of scientific theory.

Secondly, Einstein's contributions tol absorption with the quantum theory, de the fact that he essentially disagreed witid Copenhagen Interpretation of quan mechanics on the grounds that it could ri a final theory of quantum reality, was an t temological one. Pais gives away his i philosophical predisposition in saying the famous Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper which was authored in the '30s cm be counted amongst his significant contr tions, though some physicists think otl wise. This view undermines the signiffi debate and quantum of research that the paradox has engendered in the foundatioo quantum mechanics into our own times.

But differences of understanding ap the volume is truly formidable for Pais' h sketches of Einstein as he appears through press. This volume, unlike the previous reaches out to a much larger public and, pels misconceptions about Einstein genius from the public eye without tal away the magnificence of his enterprise.
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