Einstein lived a life that was often cerebrally detached, which paid off in terms of career success, but strained his family to the breaking point.
May 16, 2017
Ask people what Einstein did and they’ll say “Relativity.” (Ask them what relativity is and you’ll get an awkward silence. All most people understand about it is that you’re supposed to know it’s important.)
As Walter Isaacson said in his wonderful biography, Einstein “devised a revolutionary quantum theory of light, helped prove the existence of atoms, explained Brownian motion, upended the concept of space and time, and produced what would become science’s best known equation.”
His work was so impactful that everyone knew he would one day win a Nobel Prize—but he had achieved so much that people weren’t sure for which breathtaking accomplishment he would get it.
When he finally did win the prize in 1921, ironically, he didn’t get it for relativity theory.
And the bulk of the work he was celebrated for he accomplished in one year, 1905, when he was twenty-six years old. (Not bad for a guy who was rejected for military service because he had sweaty feet.)
Unlike Newton, Einstein was charming, committed to social justice, and had a family and children.
But similar to his reclusive predecessor, he lived in a world of ideas, in his own head.
Obviously, he was a genius, but his real superpower was the incredible time and focus he put into his work. Though surrounded by fame, friends, and family, he still lived a life that was often cerebrally detached, the better to explore his ideas.
Einstein said, ‘I treat my wife as an employee whom I cannot fire.’