Q: How does your work as an editor at the Einstein Papers Project compare to, or inform your work as an author?
A: My work as an editor and former curator of the Einstein Archives has given me amazing access to and great familiarity with the materials over many years. As an author, I can express my opinions on the subject matter, whereas as an editor I need to be as objective as possible in selecting, presenting, and annotating the materials.
Q: In a book replete with detail and historical accuracy such as The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922-1923, what do you edit out of the book?
A: The major exclusion from the book are the 20 pages of calculations Einstein wrote at the other end of the diary (he turned it upside down and started noting them there). We included those in Vol. 13 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein but not in this edition, which is for a popular audience. Similarly, I only included quotes and titles in English in the annotations instead of in the original languages. In addition, this book contains a smaller collection of auxiliary materials (letters, speeches, articles) from the period.
Q: What are the ethics of writing about a historical figure?
A: In previous eras, biographers viewed a historical figure's private life as completely off-limits. I don't subscribe to that point of view. A historical figure's personal life can provide some of the most fascinating insights we can gain about these famous personalities. The intention is not salacious but rather a genuine attempt to understand what makes such celebrities tick. This is particularly pertinent in Einstein's case, where there is such a great discrepancy between the public image and the actual historical individual. Few studies manage to gain a deeper insight into the interrelations between private lives, public personae, political activities, and scientific and intellectual output. Consequently, I don't think there are no-go areas when it comes to the private life of an individual such as Albert Einstein.
Q: Are you planning other books about Einstein or other subjects?
A: I'm currently working on a study of the relationship between Albert Einstein and his second wife Elsa. It will examine topics such as Einstein's masculinity, emotionality, and sexuality through the lens of this crucial relationship; Elsa was also his first and second cousin. It will place the relationship in the context of gender and men's studies, the social history of family and couple relations, and the history of emotions.
Q: Are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
A: I think I have been moving more towards an examination of Einstein's private life with each book. Increasingly, with each publication, I have tried to reach some conclusions about Einstein's personality and how our public image of this celebrity squares up or juxtaposes with the private man. 6-6-18
Photo Credits: Ze'ev Rosenkranz's latest book The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922–1923; book design by Chris Ferrante of Princeton University Press. Sketch by Ippei Okamoto, "Albert Einstein or The Nose as a Reservoir for Thoughts," on train journey to Nikko, Japan, 4 December 1922.
“An eye-opening collection of travel diaries from the legendary scientist and thinker.” Kirkus Reviews
"By the fall of 1922, Albert Einstein was among the most famous people in the world, a scientific celebrity who was about to win the Nobel Prize. This fascinating diary shows his human side as he travels to Japan, China, Singapore, Palestine, and Spain. The diligent and wise Einstein Papers editor Ze’ev Rosenkranz provides an annotated version that puts each entry into context and creates a treasure for scholars and Einstein fans.” Walter Isaacson, Tulane University and author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
SYNOPSIS: In the fall of 1922, Albert Einstein, along with his then-wife, Elsa, embarked on a five-and-a-half-month voyage to regions that the renowned physicist had never visited before. Quirky, succinct, and at times irreverent, the entries record Einstein's musings on science, philosophy, art, and politics, as well as his immediate impressions and broader thoughts on such events as his inaugural lecture at the future site of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a garden party hosted by the Japanese Empress, an audience with the King of Spain, and meetings with other prominent colleagues and statesmen. (Click for Full Press Release link to provided PDF)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Einstein wrote a total of six travel diaries while on five overseas trips, using two different notebooks on his last trip. Commissioned by PUP to edit all of Einstein's travel diaries, the basis for the first book in the series is work I carried out for Volume 13 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. I've added to that a long historical introduction which necessitated more original research for this edition.
The introduction provides a radical new departure in the analysis of Einstein's political views. In previous studies, Einstein's public views have sometimes been deemed naïve, uninformed and/or overly idealistic. In my analysis, I attempt an examination into the unknown darker side of Einstein's opinions, prejudices, and stereotypes, especially about the members of foreign nations. These haven't been studied or presented in this fashion before. 5-21-18
Photo Credits: Cover by book designer Chris Ferrante of Princeton University Press.
One thing that excites me about Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein is turning its pages. I state this without facetiousness. The tactile interactivity inherent in book reading is a pleasure for me, and the pages in this volume have a velvety glide to their surface. The weight of the paper is lighter than in previous volumes, a measure taken by our press to adapt to the quantity of information contained in the book. The written content of the volumes seems to grow exponentially with each passing publication. There is much to pack in. The editors are diligent in their culling and presentation of material. The book is, as an object, made to present its contents in an elegant and organized manner. The paper could be viewed as a mere substrate for the printed matter—the important information—but it is an integral part of how I experience the book's contents.
The "presence of the hand" is a term used by artists to describe work where one can see the mark of the maker. In the diagram illustrating this post we see the marks of a thinker. A sketch by Einstein—an idea shared with a friend—in a letter he wrote to Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe. Facsimiles of hand-drawn diagrams visually punctuate the 528 full text documents in Volume 15. While one must transcribe hand written documents to make them more accessible to readers, the diagrams can serve as a window into the materiality of the original letter. Thanks to the work of colleagues at the Albert Einstein Archives, Einstein Papers Project staff have beautiful digital images of Einstein’s original papers to work from. In these images, one can see drips and smudges, hesitant touches of pen to page, and how lines lighten up as ink runs low in a pen—indicating the direction the pen was moved.
Seeing how something has been written or drawn can reveal the intimacy of a shared idea. Sharing an idea, like turning the pages of a book, is something everyone can understand even as we struggle to understand Einstein. 5-14-18
Photo Credits: The image of Einstein’s hands is a detail from the dust jacket of Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. (Courtesy Leo Baeck Institute, NY) The diagram as seen here in the original document can be found in a letter to Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe by Einstein, written 31 August 1925 and published as Document 57 in Volume 15 of the CPAE.
What I like most, in Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, is how Einstein grapples with the intellectual challenges he faces and how he uses more solvable problems as a mental salve.
When faced with apparently insurmountable fundamental problems in theoretical physics, such as the unification of gravitation and electromagnetism, or the wave-particle dualism of light, Einstein's only hope to find a light at the end of tunnel was to turn toward experiments and observation.
In the case of unification, he proposed to check whether rotating neutral bulk mass has a peculiar electric charge, a "ghost" charge, which could possibly reveal a deep connection between mass and electric charge. In this, he received help from the experimental physicists Teodor Schlomka and Peter Pringsheim.
In the case of the corpuscular or wave nature of light, he proposed an experiment that would decide whether excited atoms emit light instantaneously (in quanta), or in a finite time (in waves). Einstein expected quantum emission to be confirmed. In this, the experimentalist Emil Rupp gave him a hand – and in the process forged his experimental findings to please Einstein. Rupp repeatedly wrote that he had experimentally proved what Einstein wanted to see, and Einstein responded with detailed criticism, pointing out how the experimental setup ought to be modified before the results could be trusted. Einstein came to believe that the experiment proved that the wave theory prevailed after all. Colleagues criticized both Einstein's proposed experiment and the data. (For more detail see: "Of Waves and Particles: The Emil Rupp Affair", Section VII of the Introduction to Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, available here.)
The light at the end of the tunnel remained as elusive as before.
But Einstein continued to be interested in various useful gadgets, such as constructing refrigerators, a project he engaged in with Leo Szilard. These preoccupations look, to me, like periods of relaxation meant to relive his days at the Bern patent office 20 years earlier, where as a young man he had rocked the cradle of relativity. 5-8-18
Photo Credits: Photo of manuscript transcribed and published as Document 240, CPAE Volume 15. This diagram is on Page 2 of a letter written by Albert Einstein to Emil Rupp, dated 31 March 1926. (Courtesy The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
In Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, two sets of correspondence, the teenage Einstein with Marie Winteler and, thirty years later, the mature Einstein with teenage son Eduard, highlight Einstein's relationship with and lifelong attitude toward music.
As a lovelorn sixteen-year-old, Einstein expresses to Marie in highly romantic and sentimental terms his despair at not being able to make music with her during their separation. He refers to his neglected violin as his “child” which "no longer wants to escape with me from the fumes of ordinary life." He writes that Marie has taken its "soul" away with her. (Vol. 1, 15a.) He later writes to her, "music has so wonderfully united our souls" (Vol. 1, 16g.) Granted, these are the emotional love letters of an adolescent boy, but similar language recurs when he writes as an adult to his son about music.
In January 1926, Einstein writes didactically to his fifteen-year-old son that "music ultimately exists for the soul and not for the intellect" and that he "has little regard for intellectual cleverness in music" (Doc. 184). Eduard does not embrace this binary, either-or approach. He is generally fond of playing the music of the baroque and classical composers favored by his father, but exhibits an intellectual curiosity in his exploration of "more modern composers," such as Reger and Debussy (Doc. 159). There's an interesting passage in Doc. 379 in which the now sixteen-year-old Eduard disagrees with his father's dislike of Arnold Schoenberg and tries to convince him that he should take an interest in Schoenberg's music and theories.
Despite their heated debate during this same period regarding Eduard's professed disregard for the value of intellectual endeavor, in the case of music, Eduard shows himself to have a more forward-thinking and intellectual approach than his father, who limits himself to an emotional and spiritual relationship with music. Perhaps it is necessary for Einstein to think of this favorite pastime as a retreat from intellectual pursuits given the intense nature of his scientific work; for him, music remains purely an escape for the soul. 4-30-18
Photo Credits: Photo of manuscript transcribed and published as Document 159, CPAE Volume 15. This text represented here is on Page 2 of a letter written by Eduard Einstein to Albert Einstein, dated 10 January 1926. (Courtesy The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
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 equations of motion from the gravitational field equations 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)
The two weeks I spent in an office of the Bernisches Historisches Museum in Switzerland were the most exciting I had during preparations of Volume 15.
Two years earlier, the museum had received a previously unknown collection of private letters from the Swiss Winteler family. Many letters in the collection had been torn and available only as fragments, which the museum staff scanned and catalogued. But a museum's mission and interest is different from that of an archive’s. While a few of the letters from the collection were exhibited, others that were just as significant for scientists and historians remained behind closed doors.
The 34 documents from this collection, now published in Volume 15, reveal Einstein’s earliest romantic love for the eighteen-year old Marie Winteler, daughter of his hosts in Aarau when he was a high school student. Prior to the release of this new correspondence, only one letter by Einstein to Marie and two letters by Marie to Einstein were known to scholars.
So there I was trying to decipher, understand, combine, and transcribe the partly and sometimes almost impossible to read bits and pieces left from the outpourings of affectionate and playful sentiments for Marie written by the seventeen-year-old Albert some 125 years ago.
I think these letters, now published in Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, offer novel glimpses into the evolving personality of the young man. The letters reveal Einstein’s attempt to reestablish a close relationship with Marie Winteler some 15 years after their initial teenage romance. These documents seem to confirm what I have suspected for a long time, namely, that Einstein’s marriage to his first wife Mileva Marić was in shambles as early as 1909/1910, two to three years before Elsa Einstein, who would become his second wife, entered the scene. 4-16-18
Photo Credits: Marie Winteler, Aarau, Switzerland, ca. mid-1890s. (Courtesy of Benvenuto Bandi and Franziska Rogger)
Autograph Letter, Fragment held at the Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland, Nachlass Familie Winteler, item number 62822. The transcription is found on page 10 of Volume 15 CPAE; the document is labeled: Vol. 1, 16j. To Marie Winteler.
ON FACEBOOK, Princeton University Press's most popular post of the month was, by far, the announcement of Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The post reached almost 400,000 people organically across the social media platform, making it one of the Press's most popular posts of all time. 4-13-18
In Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Einstein is confronted with the final chapter in the debate over the principle of relativity, which began with the Michelson-Morley experiment. Michelson's successor, Dayton Miller, reported that he had found evidence for an ether drift at altitude on Mount Wilson in California. What piqued the interest of many physicists was that Miller made an effort to tie in his experiment with the latest findings on the motion of the solar system in the galaxy, which he learned about from contact with astronomers at the observatory on Mount Wilson. Einstein corresponded with many fellow scientists who conducted experiments to check Miller's controversial findings. He was particularly close to Auguste Piccard of Brussels who replicated the experiment on a balloon. Piccard and many others found no evidence to support Miller's claims. Piccard's subsequent balloon experiments earned him undying fame, not least through his incarnation as the archetypal absent-minded Professor Calculus of the Tintin comics. By the conclusion of the volume, Einstein feels confident in declaring Miller to be firmly rebutted. 4-9-18
Photo of manuscript transcribed and published as Document 87, CPAE Volume 15. This diagram is on Page 4 of a letter written by Auguste Piccard to Albert Einstein, dated 14 October 1925. (Courtesy The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
During the period covered by Volume 15 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Einstein faces dramatic challenges in his role as a father. He is deeply concerned with the wellbeing of both his sons, albeit for entirely different reasons.
In the fall of 1925, his elder son Hans Albert expresses his intention to marry Frieda Knecht, a former Zurich neighbor and nine years his senior. Einstein immediately opposes the planned wedding, citing both Knecht's age and alleged "unfavorable hereditary factors," particularly on her mother's side. He fervently hopes that Hans Albert abandon his plans as they would be a "pity for the good breed!" In his opinion, it would be "a crime" for Hans Albert to have children with Knecht — everything should be done to avert "a catastrophe." Einstein temporarily even breaks off ties with his elder son, yet a visit by Hans Albert to Berlin in early 1927 softens his father’s stance. He eventually resigns himself to the planned betrothal as long as the couple refrains from having children.
The intellectual development of Einstein's younger son Eduard, as reflected in the correspondence with his father in this volume, is truly remarkable. Their exchanges reveal Eduard's increasingly probing mind and, at times, agonized self-analysis. Einstein is both obviously delighted at his son's intellectual growth, yet deeply concerned for the boy's emotional resilience and "delicate nervous system." Eventually, Eduard begins to express beliefs that may well have been intended to provoke. In his opinion, the importance of the mind was "overrated." In reaction, Einstein strongly disagrees "about the worthlessness of intellectual production." He also confides in Eduard that his letters remind him of his own adolescence, and recalls having similarly alternated between despondency and self-confidence. He tries to allay Eduard's pessimism and nihilism, rooted in his fear of worthlessness, and assures his son that he brings him "great joy" since he does not "go through life apathetically but rather as a seeing and thinking being." 4-3-18
Photo Information and Credit: Einstein with his sons, Hans Albert and Eduard, Huttenstrasse 62, Zurich, ca. 1925. (Courtesy The Albert Einstein Archives, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein: Volume 15: The Berlin Years: Writings & Correspondence, June 1925–May 1927, Documentary Edition is the latest collection published as a collaboration between Caltech's Einstein Papers Project, Princeton University Press, and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Einstein aficionados, take heed. Caltech's Einstein Papers Project is set to release its latest curated volume of Albert Einstein's scientific and personal papers.
The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein: Volume 15: The Berlin Years: Writings & Correspondence, June 1925–May 1927, Documentary Edition focuses on a period in Einstein's life when he wrestled with new and competing models of quantum mechanics, fell victim to an academic fraudster, and continued his work as an ambassador for post-WWI European peace efforts. The book will be available April 6 through Princeton University Press.
Diana Kormos-Buchwald, Robert M. Abbey Professor of History at Caltech and director of the Einstein Papers Project, says the latest volume describes the two years as an "extraordinarily busy, engaged, and, at times, turbulent" period in Einstein's life. Despite having won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 for work he produced nearly two decades earlier, Einstein remained busy at the front lines of scientific research and academia.
"We find him working daily on the latest developments in modern physics; engaging with his colleagues and perfect strangers in considerate discussions; being a referee for scientific journals; applying for grants; administering funds and institutions; grappling with personnel issues; and being bored in meetings," Kormos-Buchwald says. For this volume, the international team of collaborators at the Einstein Papers Project collected, transcribed, translated, and researched around 100 writings by Einstein and about 1,400 letters.
The mid to late 1920s were a dynamic time in the world of physics. A new theory of quantum mechanics, which describes the properties and behavior of atomic and subatomic particles, was beginning to emerge. One model, matrix mechanics, was championed by German physicists Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, and Pascual Jordan. Meanwhile, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger was developing his own model of wave mechanics. Einstein's papers show him favoring the latter, though the models were later shown to be equivalent.
Einstein also found himself in the company of Emil Rupp, a well-respected German physicist whose experiments seemed to support Einstein's hypothesis that excited atoms emitted light over a short amount of time rather than instantly. The two men collaborated, but Rupp was eventually revealed to be a fraud who had fabricated much of his work and findings.
While the new volume focuses on the years 1925–27, it also includes newly discovered letters from the late 1890s between Einstein and Marie Winteler, the 18-year-old daughter of a family he lived with while he attended school in Switzerland. Winteler is described by the editors as perhaps his "first romantic love."
"We are always asked, 'Is there anything we don't know about Einstein after all these years?' And as editors of the Einstein Papers Project, we always reply, 'Yes, there is a lot that we are learning and discovering,'" Kormos-Buchwald says.
The first volume of The Collected Papers was published in 1987. When completed, they will comprise nearly 30 volumes and will contain more than 14,000 documents. The project is located at Caltech, and supported by Caltech, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Princeton University Press. 3-19-18