I'm quite disappointed because nowhere on this page does it mention that this is only disc 3 and 4 of the 24 lecture series, which is what I got. I bought this for my husband to play during his commute, as they were marketed as audio books. However, it appears that they are actually DVDs. So now I only have the second half of the series when the listing was for the who series and I'm not even sure whether they will be able to be used in the way I intended them to be.
This superb course reflects scholarship at its best. As the course title promises, Don Howard expertly shows us that Einstein was indeed a "physicist, philosopher, and humanitarian" all rolled into one - truly an amazing person, though not without flaws (see below). At least for me, this course provides a nearly perfect blend of physics, philosophy of science, social history, psychological analysis, and intriguing biography.
What will you learn from the course? Here are "ten things that may surprise you" about Einstein, but if you haven't completed the course yet and prefer to avoid spoilers, READ NO FURTHER:
(1) Contrary to myth, he was mostly an excellent student, and was very strong in mathematics. And though appropriately aware of his limits, he also knew his abilities and was somewhat cocky from a relatively young age.
(2) He considered his involvement in philosophy and history of science as being vital to his achievements in physics, and advocated that this should be part of the education of all physicists.
(3) His key ideas regarding quantum theory and relativity were influenced by others (Planck's quantum hypothesis, Lorentz transformations, Minkowski spacetime, Riemmanian geometry, etc.) - not developed entirely from scratch - though his contributions here are still revolutionary and tremendous.
(4) His Nobel Prize was for his work on the photoelectric effect, not relativity (and he emphasized the fundamental importance of universal invariants as much as relativity). This photoelectric effect work was a major contribution in quantum theory, but he eventually became a sharp critic of quantum theory (especially its indeterminism and nonlocality).
(5) He was relatively unknown in 1905 at age 26 when he published his landmark papers, but within a few years, by his early thirties, he had become quite famous and successful. He certainly didn't have to wait until later life for recognition.
(6) His family life was less than stellar, to put it mildly. He and his first wife had a daughter (before they married), which they gave up and completely lost touch with. And he cheated on his first wife with his cousin, who he eventually married, but then he eventually repeatedly cheated on her too.
(7) He was a political liberal since his teenage years. Illustrating this, he developed strong ties with the African American community when he was in Princeton and was active in civil rights. And though he was influential in promoting US development of the atomic bomb (to get there before Hitler), he was excluded from the Manhattan Project because of his leftist politics (which were actually social democratic, not communist).
(8) Though he was never a practicing Jew and didn't believe in a personal God, he did value Jewish history and culture, and supported cultural Zionism, though he opposed establishment of a Jewish national state in Palestine (and he was generally anti-nationalist). Accordingly, he also declined an offer to be President of Israel.
(9) He had many personal and social ties, yet he also felt himself to be largely a loner, compelled to spend much of his time in the realm of solitary contemplation.
(10) He was very fond of invention, engineering, and music, to the extent of receiving patents and being a good violinist himself. In fact, music was almost as important to him as physics.
Highly recommended to anyone interested in Einstein, modern physics, science, philosophy, and/or biographies.