Albert Einstein is the great icon of our age: the kindly refugee from oppression whose wild halo of hair, twinkling eyes, engaging humanity, and extraordinary brilliance made his face a symbol and his name a synonym for genius.In Isaacson's account, Einstein is a revolutionary and a rebel, a non-conformist from boyhood days. His character, creativity, and imagination are related, and they drive both his life and his work. In Isaacson's marvelously clear account, we watch Einstein over the many decades of his life and we understand something of how the mind of a genius worked. Isaacson writes with such precision and patience that we grasp what for many of us has always been a mystery--Einstein's great discoveries which revolutionized physics. The young Einstein rebelled against rote learning, causing him to be expelled by one headmaster for impudence and told by another that he was unlikely to amount to much. From his boyhood on, he understood that freedom of thought is the key to imagination and, as he famously declared, imagination is more important than knowledge. It was a conviction that carried over to his politics and personal life. His belief in freedom led him to oppose all forms of tyranny, from German militarism, to fascism to communism to McCarthyism. He was a difficult husband and father, but he was also intense and passionate both with family and with many lifelong friends.The legend of Einstein starts when he was still in his twenties. In 1905, unable to get an academic job, he was working as a third-class clerk in a Swiss patent office. During his spare time, he produced four papers that upended physics. The first showed that light could be conceived as particles as well as waves. The second proved the existence of atoms and molecules. The third, to be known as the special theory of relativity, said that there was no such thing as absolute time or space. And the fourth noted that E=mc2. Helping him check his math was a young Serbian woman, Mileva Maric, the only woman in his college physics class. They had fallen passionately in love and had an illegitimate daughter, which he allowed to be given up for adoption before he even saw her. They married and had two sons. Eventually their relationship disintegrated, and Einstein sought a divorce. He offered her a deal: one of those 1905 papers would eventually win the Nobel Prize, he knew, and if she gave him a divorce he would give her the prize money. Because Einstein's theories were so radical and caused such discomfort, it took until 1922 before he was awarded the prize and she could collect. Einstein had fallen in love with a first cousin who was more caretaking and less demanding. At the time, he was imagining what would be his crowning glory, called the most beautiful theory in all of science: the general theory of relativity. He began, as he always did, with a thought experiment. Imagine being in an enclosed elevator accelerating up through space. The effects you'd feel would be indistinguishable from the experience of gravity. For Einsteian, that opened the way to counter the classical Newtonian physics. Einstein's life story encompasses the vast sweep of modern history. As a Jew, like many of the era's pre-eminent scientists, he fled the Nazis, and ended up spending the rest of his days, the second half of his life, at Princeton University.