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David TopperReviewed  by MARTIN ZEILIG
“A team of scientists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity,” New York Times science writer Dennis Overbye wrote on February 11, 2016 (“Gravitational Waves Detected, Confirming Einstein’s Theory”).

Similar articles appeared worldwide.
Now, along comes a very short and readable new book about (arguably) the most famous scientist of all time.
“Einstein for Anyone: A Quick Read”, by David Topper is presented as “a concise but up-to-date account of Albert Einstein’s life, thought and major achievements.”
A retired Professor of History at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Topper taught courses in the history of science and the history of art. He was the recipient of two teaching awards: the Robson Memorial Award for Excellence in Teaching (1981), and the National 3M Teaching Fellowship (1987). He has published three earlier books: “Quirky Sides of Scientists: True Tales of Ingenuity and Error from Physics and Astronomy” (Springer, 2007), “How Einstein Created Relativity from Physics and Astronomy” (Springer, 2013), and “Idolatry and Infinity: Of Art, Math, and God” (Brown Walker, 2014).
 Notably, this book is very much weighted toward Jewish themes in Einstein’s life, including his early struggles with Judaism and his later resolution as an adult - when he identified as a cultural and ethical Jew, as well as his critique of Jewish assimilation and especially Christian conversion among German Jews.
“As the drama over relativity was playing-out in the 1920s, Einstein took up another cause – the plight of Eastern European Jews,” the author writes in a chapter entitled “Race”.
“This involvement in the plight of Eastern Jews was another element in his reengagement with his Jewish identity at this time. Coupled to this was his increasing involvement in one aspect of the Zionist movement…the quest to create a Hebrew University in Jerusalem.”
We also see the influence of the 17th century Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, on Einstein’s ideas in both physics and theology.
“By the 1920s, when he was questioned about his religious beliefs, he invariably said he believed in Spinoza’s God, ‘who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of human beings,’ ’” Topper says.
In the same chapter, he quotes Einstein again on the topic: “I am not an atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a pantheist. The problem is too vast for our limited minds.”
Einstein’s habitually thorny relationships with women and close relatives are explored in a chapter called “Love”.
His first love was Marie Winteler, his first and second wives were Mileva Maric and Elsa Einstein-Löwenthal, his parents were Hermann Einstein and Pauline Koch, and his children were Hans Albert and Eduard. None of Einstein’s relationships was untroubled, as the author reveals.
The birth of an illegitimate daughter with Mileva, the estrangement of his sons after his divorce from her, his incessant struggle with his controlling mother – all had a strong physiological effect on Einstein’s personality, according to Topper.
In adulthood Einstein was unwaveringly committed to social justice and democratic principles that he believed were rooted in Jewish ethical values, the author observes.
“He moved to the U.S.A. fleeing Nazi Germany, only to be confronted with the racism endemic against African-Americans, to which he spoke out, boldly supporting the burgeoning civil rights movement,” says Topper, noting that this is an aspect of his life not well-known. Also revealed are his troubles with the FBI and the McCarthyism he was living under in the last years of his life.
Topper deals with Einstein’s scientific contributions in a way that the general reader will find accessible.
So, for instance in the chapter called “Chutzpah”, we see a scientist who expresses his ideals through his radical ideas about the physical world, as he reworked our conceptions of space, time, and motion.
“The result was a new cosmic model of the universe that is being developed further today,” Topper writes.
 “Einstein’s commitment to an ordered and predictable universe was ultimately expressed in his final (but still unfulfilled) quest for a theory unifying all forces of nature into one whole.”
The acceptance of his radical ideas, however, was often impeded by criticisms that had anti-Semitic origins. This not only transpired in Germany before he eventually fled the country, but continues even today on the  Internet.
The central chapters – on “Love”, “Race”, and “Chutzpah” – are sandwiched between an introductory chapter called “The Smile”, and a final one called “The Hair”. Within are the five photographs of Einstein featured in the book. In his 1889 elementary school picture, he is the only boy out of 52 tense German lads who has a smile on his face. This photo is then juxtaposed next to a candid shot of another singularly animated Einstein in 1931, seated at a round table of stern dignitaries (one of whom later became a Nazi) at a reception in the German Chancellery in Berlin. Also shown is the picture of his graduating class in 1896, showing his unique countenance and pose among the ten students. “The Hair” is (of course) self-explanatory, being a brief history of his dishevelled appearance, with two archetypal pictures.
With the recent echo of the colliding black holes, we appreciate that, more than 60 years since his death at age 76, Albert Einstein is still making “waves”, in more ways than one.
Note: a code for a 22% discount on the book may be found on Topper’s website:

“Einstein for Anyone: A Quick Read”
By David Topper
Vernon Press
88 pages

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