Einstein's archive now available online

Mar 29, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- If you ever wanted to glimpse into Albert Einstein's thoughts, now you can. Last week, the complete catalog of about 80,000 documents written by or addressed to Einstein—letters, postcards, notebooks, and other papers—was made available online by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Einstein Papers Project (EPP) at Caltech.

The archive is the result of more than two decades of collecting and researching. Einstein left a collection of 40,000 personal papers when he died in 1955; since 1986, 40,000 more documents have been collected—most of them by the EPP staff—says Diana Kormos-Buchwald, professor of history at Caltech and director of the EPP.

One of the archive's highlights is a handwritten manuscript for a 1946 article entitled "E=mc²: On the Most Urgent Problem of Our Time," which was published in the magazine Science Illustrated. Explaining general relativity to a lay reader, the manuscript is one of only three documents in the world containing the famed "E=mc2" formula in Einstein's own handwriting.

The collection includes personal correspondence such as a postcard Einstein wrote to his mother, Pauline, whose health had been declining. "How I would like to keep you company again so that you're not left to ugly brooding," he wrote. "I truly wish you good days." In his missive, dated September 27, 1919, Einstein tells her of the "good news" that an expedition in West Africa, led by astronomer Arthur Eddington, had observed the bending of starlight by the sun during a solar eclipse; this effect was one of the main predictions of Einstein's theory of general relativity.

While many are automatically drawn to these personal letters—especially those to his lovers—Kormos-Buchwald says that some of the most exciting items in the archive are Einstein's notebooks, which illuminate the thought process of history's most iconic genius.

One of the most important notebooks, she says, is the so-called Zurich notebook, written during the winter of 1912–1913 and containing notes and calculations that provide a view into how Einstein developed his revolutionary theory of general relativity, which he finished in 1915.

Another notebook, from 1918–1919, contains Einstein's lecture notes on special relativity. On one page, dated November 9, 1918—the day Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated the throne—Einstein scribbled, "[Lecture] cancelled due to revolution." Also available is Einstein's high-school report card, showing that he earned good grades, despite the popular myth that he was a bad student.

Einstein's letters to his colleagues, including Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger, provide a historical window to the scientific process and show that Einstein was not a lonesome theorist isolated from others. "It's a testament to the very intense scientific exchanges that took place," says Kormos-Buchwald. Einstein would sometimes receive up to 20 letters a day and respond to all of them, a rapid exchange equivalent to today's email conversations. "It gives a much more realistic feeling of what it meant to be a scientist," she says.

Since being launched on March 19, the website has received more than 21 million hits and almost 700,000 unique visitors, Kormos-Buchwald says. The archive includes data on each individual document, such as the title, author, and date. To provide historical context, the EPP has produced scholarly annotations and translations for some 1,000 records. The database of 80,000 records constitutes a level of detail not available for any other archival holdings—and certainly not for any other scientist—she says.

Users can request copies of documents they find interesting; high-quality images of 2,000 documents are now available, and the remainder of the archive will eventually be scanned and made available to the public. Previously an important resource for scholars and historians, the searchable database is now a research tool for everyone, Kormos-Buchwald says. "Everything that we know," she says, "everybody else can know now."

The archive is available at www.alberteinstein.info . To view selected documents, including the ones described here, visit www.alberteinstein.info/gallery/index.html .

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Benni
1 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2012
Thank you Hebrew U. & CalTech.

Einstein was my boyhood icon. He was the second most influential factor in my drive for higher education in high tehnology engineering, only my father exceeded his influence in that regard. Hopefully this site will raise his iconic status to such a higher level that he truly deserves.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2012
Einstein was my boyhood icon. He was the second most influential factor in my drive for higher education in high tehnology engineering
The Einstein's sectarians should organize somewhere else. The irony is, just Mr. Einstein opposed many concepts, which are considered as a solid part of Einsteinian religion, like the expanding universe, black holes, gravitational waves, space-time metric or even dismissal of aether. And vice-versa: many Einsteins insights regarding the quantum theory, which Einstein opposed whole his live did become the fundamentals of quantum physics later.
Benni
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2012
@Cal:

You AWT sectarians should organize somewhere else in a science fiction site. Einstein's spherically closed universe does not allow for the infinity parameters of your silly non-scientific AWT & that is intensely displeasing to you. If you'd just take a course in Thermodynamics, pass it, take a final exam in it & get a grade like I did, then maybe your posts would have even the slightest modicum of value.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2012
Einstein's spherically closed universe does not allow for the infinity parameters
It doesn't allow anthropic landscapes of 10E 500 of string theory solutions as well. And it's not spherically closed - it's just one of many Friedman's solutions of this spherical bastard..
Benni
1 / 5 (2) Mar 29, 2012
.... And it's not spherically closed - it's just one of many Friedman's solutions of this spherical bastard..


As classic an example of science fiction as can be conjured up by the denialists of reality.....
Dileep_Sathe
1 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2012
Although he developed General Theory of Relativity, he had missed a point in the study of motion - that is motion opposite to normal direction, called retrograde motion. Such moons of Jupiter and Saturn were discovered in the first quarter of the 20th century - but their number is still small, compared to normal moons. More over, Einstein's attention was diverted from General Relativity, I guess, due to two world wars and global political problems. But now the retrograde motion is again catching attention of physicists due to discovery of retrograde planets, which are not in our solar system. In fact, some astrophysicists feel that these exo-planets are challenging existing planetary theories. Therefore I hope, as a researcher in physics teaching, that a new Einstein of 21st century will come up in near future to meet challenges of such moons and exo-planets and reform the teaching basic physics in a suitable way.
Iourii Gribov
1 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2012
Dear Albert Einstein, imagine, you have discovered in your miracle SR de facto- the pure spatial 4D-physics in the thin 3D-waveguides, with Diracian-like matter/antimatter periodicity Gribov periodical Multiverse (GPM), instead of the global 4D-spacetime icon of Minkowski you are like legendary Columbus, who discovered unknown 4D-America-Multiverse, but thought that it was space-time of known 3D-India! See:: http://www2.hu-be...ibov.pdf ). It explains the interconnected nature of DE&DM&SUSY& flatness & accelerating expansion & the bubble large-scale universe structure, with the estimated theoretical ratio DE/(DM + Ordinary Matter) ~74%/26% being evidences for the GPM; (2) No Higgs, No el. sparticles; (3) Antigravity CERN and Mills lab prediction for antimatter!