Einstein on the Road (Hardcover)

By Josef Eisinger

Prometheus Books, 9781616144609, 219pp.

Publication Date: September 20, 2011



At the height of his fame, Albert Einstein traveled throughout the world, from Japan to South America and many places in between. During these voyages, between 1922 and 1933, he was in the habit of keeping travel diaries in which he recorded his impressions of people and events, as well as his musings on everything from music and politics to quantum mechanics and psychoanalysis. These fascinating records
are now here published in thier entirety, painting an engaging personal portrait of Einstein the man.
The author has created a vivid and entertaining narrative that brings Einstein's voice to the fore. During Einstein's travels far and wide, he meets with royalty, presidents, movie stars, and artists--Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Fritz Kreisler, and Sinclair Lewis, as well as the most eminent scientists of the time, including Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Erwin Schrodinger, and Edwin Hubble.
In his travel entries, we read his candid impressions of the Far East during a long sea voyage to Japan (1922), where Einstein is welcomed with enormous enthusiasm, and steals the show at an imperial reception. He and Elsa visit and explore many Japanese cities, as well as Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Barcelona, Madrid, and Jerusalem, where Einstein cogitates on Zionism and sees it in action.
In 1931, the couple spends eight weeks in Pasadena, where Einstein enjoys fruitful interactions with scientists at Caltech and the Mount Wilson observatory. This portion of the diaries contains illuminating observations about America, science, and the Hollywood celebrities he encounters. He returns to Caltech two more times, and enjoys two extended sojourns in another academic sanctuary, Oxford University. Back at home in Berlin, his diary shows his deep involvement with the academic, social, and cultural life of the German capital, and with the politics of the Weimar Republic. He discusses books, dinner parties, plays, concerts, and sailing, but his greatest passion, apart from physics, is music; he is never happier than when playing chamber music, preferably Mozart--and he does so at every opportunity.
A lifelong pacifist, he watches the rise of the Nazis with anxiety, and when Hitler gains control in 1933, he renounces pacifism and searches for a place of refuge. He finds it in Princeton, New Jersey, where he joins the newly created Institute for Advanced Study and becomes an American, never more to roam.
Filled with memorable vignettes, this singular book provides a window into the thoughts and opinions of the twentieth century's most celebrated scientist and allows us to share in his exhilarating experiences.

About the Author

Josef Eisinger, PhD, a native of Vienna, is a physicist whose research has ranged from nuclear physics to molecular biology and from the history of medicine to music history. He is professor emeritus in the Department of Structural and Chemical Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, the author of some two hundred articles in professional journals and books, and the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships.

Praise For Einstein on the Road

"Just when one thinks that one has read every possible book about Einstein there comes along the new and delightful Einstein on the Road by the physicist Josef Eisinger. Once Einstein became famous he was invited to make several visits to places like Japan and Uruguay. He kept a diary that makes it clear that these trips were no picnic. Apart from the lectures, he was expected to appear at all sorts of social functions and wear the dreaded tuxedo. He was also ‘graded’ by the local German consuls who gave him high marks for exporting German culture. This was at the time when he was being vilified in Germany. The book is full of surprises and is a pleasure to read."
—Jeremy Bernstein, Author of Quantum Leaps

"‘The road is life,’ said Jack Kerouac, and here, as Einstein hits the road, life as he had not seen it before unfolds in front of him. As the newly famous physicist embarks on travels that take him from Europe to Palestine, Princeton, and Pasadena; from Ceylon to Singapore; and to Argentina, Japan, China, and other exotic places, we see Einstein amused, awed, and sometimes appalled as he absorbs what he sees around him and faithfully reveals his thoughts to his closest travel companion, his travel diary. In this book, Josef Eisinger brings us a delightful addition to the ever-expanding genre of Einstein studies."
—Alice Calaprice, Author of The Ultimate Quotable Einstein and Dear Professor Einstein: Letters to and from Children

"Einstein was a keen, sometimes caustic, observer of the world around him, and his travel diaries are a fascinating portal into a neglected part of his life. In vivid language and without being intrusive, Professor Eisinger has captured the elusive charm of Einstein’s prose."
—Robert Schulmann, Longtime director of the Einstein Papers Project at Boston University

"Josef Eisinger has uncovered an intriguing fragment of history here—the triumphal, wandering years of 1921–1933 during which Einstein and his wife were feted on four continents and in more than a dozen countries. He uses to the hilt witty and insightful commentaries from Einstein’s voluminous diaries. His wanderlust was compounded of the need to escape from the dangers and disturbances of that period in Germany, his love of long sea voyages seen as relaxing work opportunities, his insatiable curiosity about the world, and his desire to further humanitarian causes. But, finally, Einstein found in Princeton, when matters in Germany came to a head, the quiet backwater that he needed, and he stayed there for good after 1933. This may be the most delightful way ever to learn all that one really needs to know about Einstein."
—Philip Anderson, Recipient of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physics