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Subject: History

Einstein for Anyone: A Quick Read

A concise but up-to-date account of Albert Einstein's life, thought and major achievements

David Topper

March 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-257-9
Availability: In stock
$30 £20 €28

This book seeks to fill a gap: the need for a very short book on Albert Einstein that gives a brief but up-to-date story of his life and thoughts, with a short and simple explanation of what he contributed to 20th century physics. Here is the compact story of this famous scientist, from the smiling contrarian in his grade school picture to the nonconformist adult who refused to groom his hair. There is a chapter on his habitually thorny relationships with women and close relatives: his first love, his two wives, his parents and his children – none of which was a painless union. The birth of an illegitimate daughter, the estrangement of his sons after the divorce from his first wife, his ever controlling mother – all had a profound psychological effect on Einstein’s personality. Another chapter focuses on the young Jew struggling with his self-identify, who in adulthood was unwaveringly committed to social justice and democratic principles that he believed were rooted in Jewish ethical values. It started with his early flirtation with Orthodox Judaism, only to be vehemently rejected later when he became a science-obsessed teenager. His exposure to latent and overt anti-Semitism when he moved to Germany in 1914 led to his subsequent espousal (with misgivings) of the Zionist movement. When he moved to the USA in 1933 fleeing Nazi Germany, he was confronted with the endemic racism against African-Americans, an issue he spoke-out boldly against, as a supporter of the burgeoning civil rights movement. This work ignited the ire of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who had already opened a file on Einstein in 1932, because of his pacifist activities in Germany. When he moved to America, Hoover suspected him of being a Communist spy. Finally, there is the scientist who expressed 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 still being developed further today. His commitment to an ordered and predictable universe was ultimately expressed in his final (but still unfulfilled) quest for a theory that unifies the forces of nature, what he called his unified field theory. Some non-scientific topics, not often found in biographies of Einstein (even the hefty tomes): • A serious consideration of his extensive ruminations on matters of politics and society. • His social efforts for the plight of Eastern European Jews after World War I, and the later work for refugees from Nazi Germany trying to immigrate to the USA. • A look at his close friendship with the African-American singer Paul Robeson, and others committed to civil rights. • The story of his acceptance and reception of an honorary degree from Lincoln University in May, 1946, the first all-black college in America. • His confrontation with the anti-Communist movement during the McCarthy era (especially Hoover and the FBI). • The key role the ideas of the 17th century Jewish philosopher Spinoza had on both Einstein’s theology and his scientific thinking. Some of the highlights of Einstein’s scientific pursuits found in this book: • A clear explanation, with helpful diagrams, of Einstein’s famous “thought experiments.” • The importance for Einstein of the interplay between theory and experiment in physics, as well as his practical side with real world technology. • His vacillation with and ultimate embrace of the role of abstract mathematics in his theory of relativity. • A clear explanation of the differences between Newton’s and Einstein’s ideas about gravity. • A non-technical account of the difference between Einstein’s and Bohr’s interpretations of quantum physics. • Perhaps the first elucidation for the layperson of Einstein’s obsession with and eventual abandonment of what he called Mach’s Principle. • How Einstein’s stubbornness (or chutzpah) both helped and hindered his endeavors in science. • A consideration of why he alone endlessly pursued his quest for a unified field theory. • The little known story of the Einstein-deHaas Effect. • The contrast in his later years between the public’s perception of Einstein the sage and icon of science with that of his fellow scientists, who generally saw him as an old fool chasing a pipedream. • Finally, the most recent confirmation of another of his predictions: the detection of gravitational waves, announced in February 2016.

Showing and Telling: Film heritage institutes and their performance of public accountability

Nico de Klerk, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for History and Society, Austria

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-203-6
Availability: In stock
$50 £38 €45

Showing and Telling is the first academic work to explore how publicly funded film heritage institutes account for their mandate in their public activities. It does that by inspecting and evaluating public presentations and visitor information about these presentations. The research was done by juxtaposing two complementary approaches. The first is grounded in the author’s experience as a collection researcher and curator and makes a case for the richness of archival objects usually ignored for their lack of aesthetic qualities. The second is a survey of the public activities of 24 institutes worldwide, based on their websites, in February 2014; the latter constitutes a unique source. This original work uncovers the disconnect between the curatorial activities of these institutes and their missions. A central finding is that publicly funded film heritage institutes give their public an inadequate sense of cinema history. By and large they offer a mainstream-oriented repertoire of presentations, overwhelmingly consisting of feature fiction; they show a disproportionate amount of recent and new works, often through commercial distribution; their screenings consist of an unexplained melee of technological formats (sometimes substandard); and their presentations monotonously frame film as art, although their professed aesthetics are mostly of a cinephile nature and rest on received opinion. Specific materials, early cinema in particular, and specialist knowledge, both historical and methodological, are largely restricted to their network of peer communities. Wholesome transfer of full knowledge, in word and image, to the public is not a major concern. Showing and Telling concludes with recommendations for curatorial activities. Firstly, with a conceptual apparatus that allows a more complete understanding of film heritage and its histories. Secondly, with a plea for rethinking the institutes’ gatekeeper function and for developing more varied, imaginative, and informative public presentations, both on site and online, that reflect the range of their collections and their histories.

Landmarks in the History of Science

Great Scientific Discoveries From a Global-Historical Perspective

Basil Evangelidis, Leiden University, The Netherlands

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-200-5
Availability: In stock
$50 £38 €45

Landmarks in the History of Science is a concise history of science from a global and macro-historical standpoint. It is an account of grand theoretical revolutions, such as heliocentrism, atomism, and relativity. But, more importantly, it is also a story of the methodological transitions to the experimental, mathematical, constructivist and instrumental practices of science. It begins with Ancient Greek science, as one of the first self-conscious, comprehensive and well-documented scientific endeavors at the global level. The numerous contributions of the Greeks, in philosophy, mathematics, geometry, geography and astronomy, momentous as they were, were fruits of leisure rather than industry. It then examines the history of science in China and China’s exchanges with India and Islam. A systematic and collaborative scientific effort is the hallmark of Chinese science. The contributions of the Chinese in medicine, printing, manufacturing and navigation invariably predate and outshine those of western contemporaries. Attention then shifts to the age of oceanic discoveries, which created the inexorable presuppositions for the genesis of global trade and a world system. From the inner organs of the organisms to the outer regions of Earth, Renaissance science was ubiquitous. The importance of inter-cultural scientific syncretism is highlighted, with the Iberian Peninsula as meeting point and crossroad of mutual affection between Arab, Jewish and European culture. Discoveries and inventions in metallurgy, electromagnetism and the science of petroleum set the scientific basis for the industrial revolution. The logic of the industrial revolution dictates developments in information technologies that culminate with the invention of modern computers. A dedicated chapter on the history of modern scientific conceptions of the universe showcases the subtle links in the fabric of seminal ideas in physics and astronomy. The book concludes with some reflections on the relationship between philosophy and the history of science. Following Kuhn and Latour, this discussion centers on the characteristics of continuities, ruptures and paradigmatic transitions in science.

Napoleon’s Purgatory

The Unseen Humanity of the “Corsican Ogre” in Fatal Exile (with an introduction by J. David Markham)

Thomas M. Barden, Fellow in the International Napoleonic Society

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-166-4
Availability: In stock
$55 £44 €50

Napoleon’s Purgatory is a work portraying the human side of Napoleon as revealed by those who shared his exile on the island of St. Helena. Through the diaries and journals of the Emperor’s servants, generals, and companions come the stories of Napoleon’s tender love for children, his captivating sense of humor, his eternal love for Josephine, and his agonizing death. Napoleon Bonaparte was sent by the British to the remote island of St. Helena where he could not escape. What followed were six excruciating years of loneliness and depression, mixed with frolicking play with the island’s children, a battle of wills with his British captor, an exploration of his lapsed Catholic faith, and the complex relationship with the members of his entourage. This time in exile was akin to time served in Purgatory for Napoleon. His humanity, suffering, joy in the laughter of children, and longing for Josephine are captured vividly in this work through the detailed use of primary sources written by those who were there. While many considered Napoleon Bonaparte the “Corsican Ogre” for the wars he waged across Europe, he was anything but during his exile on St. Helena.

Modernity, Civilization and the Return to History

Anthony F. Shaker, McGill University, Canada

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-184-8
Availability: In stock
$80 £68 €77

The modern concept and study of civilization have their roots, not in western Europe, but in the spirit of scientific investigation associated with a self-conscious Islamicate civilization. What we call modernity cannot be fathomed without this historical connection. We owe every major branch of science known today to the broad tradition of systematic inquiry that belongs to a “region of being”—as Heidegger would say—whose theoretical, practical and institutional dimensions the philosophy of that civilization played an unprecedented role in creating. This book focuses primarily on the philosophical underpinnings of questions relating to civilization, personhood and identity. Contemporary society and thinking in western Europe introduced new elements to these questions that have altered how collective and personal identities are conceived and experienced. In the age of “globalization,” expressions of identity (individual, social and cultural) survive precariously outside their former boundaries, just when humanity faces perhaps its greatest challenges—environmental degradation, policy inertia, interstate bellicosity, and a growing culture of tribalism. Yet, the world has been globalized for at least a millennium, a fact dimmed by the threadbare but still widespread belief that modernity is a product of something called the West. One is thus justified in asking, as many people do today, if humanity has not lost its initiative. This is more a philosophical than an empirical question. There can be no initiative without the human agency that flows from identity and personhood—i.e., the way we, the acting subject, live and deliberate about our affairs. Given the heavy scrutiny under which the modern concept of identity has come, Dr. Shaker has dug deeper, bringing to bear a wealth of original sources from both German thought and Ḥikmah (Islamicate philosophy), the latter based on material previously unavailable to scholars. Posing the age-old question of identity anew in the light of these two traditions, whose special historical roles are assured, may help clear the confusion surrounding modernity and, hopefully, our place in human civilization. Proximity to Scholasticism, and therefore Islamicate philosophy, lent German thought up to Heidegger a unique ability to dialogue with other thought traditions. Two fecund elements common to Heidegger, Qūnawī and Mullā Ṣadrā are of special importance: Logos (utterance, speech) as the structural embodiment at once of the primary meaning (essential reality) of a thing and of divine manifestation; and the idea of unity-in-difference, which Ṣadrā finally formulated as the substantial movement of existence. But behind this complexity is the abiding question of who Man is, which cannot be answered by theory alone. Heidegger, who occupies a good portion of this study, questioned the modern ontology at a time of social collapse and deep spiritual crisis not unlike ours. Yet, that period also saw the greatest breakthroughs in modern physics and social science. The concluding chapters take up, more specifically, identity renewal in Western literature and Muslim “reformism.” The renewal theme reflects a point of convergence between the Eurocentric worldview, in which modernism has its secular aesthetics roots, and a current originating in Ibn Taymiyyah’s reductionist epistemology and skeptical fundamentalism. It expresses a hopeless longing for origin in a historically pristine “golden age,” an obvious deformation of philosophy’s millennial concern with the commanding, creative oneness of the Being of beings.