Albert Einstein (1879–1955), one of the foremost scientists and public figures of the 20th century, revolutionized our views of time and space, matter and light, gravitation and the universe.
The Einstein Papers Project is engaged in one of the most ambitious scholarly publishing ventures undertaken in the history of science. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein provides the first complete picture of Einstein’s massive written legacy.
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein series now covers Einstein's life and work up to his 46th birthday. It presents, as annotated full text, 400 writings by Einstein and 3,450 letters written by and to him. An additional 2,654 documents appear in abstract.
There are two equations at the very heart of General Relativity (GR): The Einstein field equation, which governs the dynamics of gravitational fields, and the equation of motion of bodies subject to gravitational fields, the geodesic equation. In his first review paper on GR in 1915, Einstein was very careful to introduce both equations as separate assumptions, as the two pillars on which the rest of GR was to be built.
We know that, from early on, Einstein wondered whether he really had to introduce both equations as separate assumptions; but he never addressed the issue in print until twelve years later. In Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Einstein addresses "the problem of motion" of GR for the first time: the question whether it might be possible to derive the equation of motion from the gravitational field equation after all.
Imagine how amazing that would be: one could derive the motion of bodies from knowing nothing but the gravitational field that surrounds them. Up until our work on volume 15, it was a puzzle as to why Einstein waited twelve years to address this possibility in print. But now we understand that Einstein just did not know a way to address the problem in a way that he found satisfactory.
The key to understanding why all this changed was hitherto unknown correspondence with the mathematician G.Y. Rainich, included in this volume. In Einstein's correspondence with Rainich we see how he changed his mind about what really was, as he put it, the "cardinal question" in gravitational theory, and how, during their correspondence, Einstein finally sees the light: a possible solution to the problem of motion.
Those who want to read more about this should read section II of the introduction to Volume 15, available here, or one of the research papers on the topic that came about as a result of working on the volume, available here. 4-23-18
Photo Credits: First page of Einstein's draft for "General Theory of Relativity and Equations of Motion". The published version is Doc. 443 in Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. (Courtesy The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)