Book Review: The Perfect Theory

Books and recommendations from Scientific American

The Perfect Theory: A Century of Geniuses and the Battle of General Relativity
by Pedro G. Ferreira
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

University of Oxford professor Ferreira begins this “biography of general relativity” with a profession of his “lifelong love affair” with Albert Einstein's grandest theory. He writes this almost apologetically because despite its revolutionary linkage of gravity with space and time and its remarkable success in explaining the universe's evolution, general relativity has not always been a popular research topic. Indeed, for decades it was an “almost irresponsible calling,” eclipsed throughout much of the 20th century by the wild successes of quantum physics. Many of its greatest triumphs, from black holes to the big bang, were at first steadfastly opposed by notable physicists, often Einstein himself. In The Perfect Theory, Ferreira masterfully portrays the science and scientists behind general relativity's star-crossed history and argues that even now we are only just beginning to realize its vitality as a tool for understanding the cosmos.

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