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Price: $22.00

Paperback 336 pp.
48 line illus., 201 mm x 135 mm



Publication date:
July 2006

Imprint: OUP US

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Einstein's Heroes

Imagining the World through the Language of Mathematics

Robyn Arianrhod

Imagine you are fluent in a magical language of prophecy, a language so powerful it can accurately describe things you cannot see or even imagine. Einstein's Heroes takes you on a journey of discovery about just such a miraculous language--the language of mathematics--one of humanity's most amazing accomplishments.
Blending science, history, and biography, this remarkable book reveals the mysteries of mathematics, focusing on the life and work of three of Albert Einstein's heroes: Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and especially James Clerk Maxwell, whose work directly inspired the theory of relativity. Robyn Arianrhod bridges the gap between science and literature, portraying mathematics as a language and arguing that a physical theory is a work of imagination involving the elegant and clever use of this language. The heart of the book illuminates how Maxwell, using the language of mathematics in a new and radical way, resolved the seemingly insoluble controversy between Faraday's idea of lines of force and Newton's theory of action-at-a-distance. In so doing, Maxwell not only produced the first complete mathematical description of electromagnetism, but actually predicted the existence of the radio wave, teasing it out of the mathematical language itself.
Here then is a fascinating look at mathematics: its colorful characters, its historical intrigues, and above all its role as the uncannily accurate language of nature.


  • "Open-minded students will come away from reading Einstein's Heroes with a newfound appreciation of the role of scientific inquiry and insight in the larger human enterprise-and hopefully, will acquire a hankering to 'take to the field' themselves."--The Mathematical Association of America
  • "Arianrhod's achievement is to so masterfully combine history, biography, and mathematics as to absorb and enlighten even the mathematically maladroit."--Booklist
  • "Arianrhod is an infectiously enthusiastic writer, keen for her audience both to admire Einstein's heroes and to understand their contributions to fundamental mathematical physics."--Nature Physics
  • "An intriguing blend of science, history, and biography.... Arianrhod's well-written, fascinating discussion of intertwined topics not usually presented in one book aimed at general readers is highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)
  • "Offers readers an engaging intellectual exercise combining physics, language, mathematics, and biography."--Science News
  • "A thrilling story.... Arianrhod is an easy author to like, and not simply for the clarity of her narrative. She brings out the human side of the scientists. She also is a student of imaginative prose: Her explication of a novel by the Australian David Malouf helps introduce ideas about mathematics, and she quotes the poet William Blake to crystallize a thought about Maxwell.... Scientists' quest for knowledge is exhilarating to Arianrhod, and she conveys that to the reader."--bloombergnews.com
  • "On one level, Robyn Arianrhod's Einstein's Heroes is about the crowning achievement of classical physics--James Clerk Maxwell's understanding of electricity, magnetism, and light. But on another level, Arianrhod adeptly examines a much deeper idea: why is mathematics the language of nature and how do physicists tap the hidden power of numbers to understand the physical world? Einstein's Heroes does an admirable job of explaining the strange allure that mathematics holds over the scientists who so dramatically altered the way we look at the universe."--Charles Seife, New York University, author of Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
  • "With exceptional skill, Arianrhod makes her subject clearly understood through metaphor, example, and story. She has given us a treasure - a combination of history, biography, and essay that clearly shows how and why the language of mathematics is essential to imagination in modern physics. Her unique book deserves high praise and should be read by anyone who enjoys science writing at its best."--Science and Spirit

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Robyn Arianrhod is a writer and mathematician whose passion for both literature and mathematics reflects her love of language. She teaches mathematics at Monash University, where she is also an Honorary Research Associate.

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Special Features

  • A fascinating tour of the mysterious language of mathematics, focusing on the life and work of Maxwell, Newton, Faraday, and Einstein