“History, philosophy, politics, and religion are not removed from the history of science, but actually are important parts of it,” said Gettysburg College Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel, Cynthia Shearer Johnson Distinguished Professor in Humanities. “If we want to really understand why scientists do what they do when they do it, we need to understand their work in the contexts in which they live.”
This intersection of life and science was tackled in Gimbel’s latest book, Einstein’s Jewish Science. The book, an examination of the impact Albert Einstein’s beliefs, background, and environment had on his work, has earned considerable media attention and was recently named a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards’ prize for history, the Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award.
The National Jewish Book Awards, presented by the Jewish Book Council, recognize quality books of Jewish content in one of 18 categories that appeal to a broad reading audience. The Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award is endowed to ensure the continued study of Jewish history and to honor outstanding books in the field.
“It is a great honor to have a panel of distinguished judges confer such a status on the book,” Gimbel said. “As someone who generally writes on technical issues in science, specifically space-time physics, my hope for the book was to be able to tell interesting, smart, fun stories to non-academics, to normal people with an interest in science, religion, or history. That the judges found these stories compelling enough to list it with the other wonderful works they considered is very exciting.”
The book was first inspired when collaborating on a project with Prof. Stephen Stern, a professor in Gettysburg College’s religious studies department who specializes in Judaic Studies. During a conversation where the two scholars discussed the approach of Jewish ethics, Gimbel discovered there was an interesting similarity with Einstein’s work in the structure of reasoning.
The more the professors delved into the subject, the more intricate the discussion became. Most notably, how the Nazi-era claim that the theory of relativity was “Jewish physics,” a term born out of bigotry and hatred, could today be reinterpreted and rehabilitated into a source of pride.
Gimbel, chair of the Department of Philosophy at Gettysburg, has also authored Exploring the Scientific Method: Cases and Questions and Defending Einstein: Hans Reichenbach’s Writings on Space, Time, and Motion. He participated in the College’s first TEDx talk in spring 2012 and blogs frequently at Philosophers’ Playground.
Einstein’s Jewish Science has received media attention from the New York Times, Baltimore Jewish Times, and many others.
Read a Q&A with Gimbel.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contact: Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521.
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