Book Review | Einstein’s Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius by Hans C Ohanian
November 9, 2020
By Robert Miller | Portfolio Manager at NAOS Asset Management
The title of this book would be seen by most to be an oxymoron on the surface but the reality is that it was very much the truth. The genius who defined the 20th century was said to have made fundamental mistakes in approximately ¼ of his 180 published scientific papers. Still, a pretty amazing strike rate of success.
Einstein was often captivated by real world observations of objects and nature to form a basis for a theory, many which were misconceived or underpinned by poor mathematics. He would often reject, or simply ignore ideas/scientific theories, sometimes for the positive but equally for the negative. For example, the universe is expanding is a fundamental concept. He did not factor this this into one of his most famous principles, leading to follow on mistakes, and for others to solve for this at a later date. Even his most famous equation, E = mc^2 is only partially correct.
In no way do the mistakes he made diminish his success. Rather it is a powerful lesson showing how a man of human excellence is able to make mistakes and for himself and others to learn and build from them. The world of investing is full of making mistakes. Mistakes we make ourselves and mistakes we observe others making, both are an eventuality rather than a probability. This book translates well to investors of all walks of life.