California Institute of Technology
Einstein Papers Project




December Highlights

This week, while Einstein's "God letter" sold at auction for a record-breaking sum, the Einstein Papers Project marked four years since we launched the Digital Einstein Papers (DEP). Since its launch, over 460,000 new users have visited the site to view the digital versions of our Collected Papers volumes. The site mirrors the layout of our physical books; its embedded links enhance their functionality multifold. Users can move smoothly from documents in German to their English translations and back again with mere clicks.

Each full text document, on paper and online, is annotated. Each document has an archival ID. In the DEP that ID is linked to our publically accessible database. As of last month, high resolution images of manuscripts used in Volume 14 of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein are visible to the public, via the database and links in the DEP.

This example, archive item 29-375, is a birthday letter Einstein wrote to his uncle, Caesar Koch. In it, the contrite nephew hints at his aversion to letter writing, reminisces about childhood visits with his uncle and sketches a gift he once received from Koch. Below are the high-resolution images from the database and here is a link to its English translation on the DEP: Document 229, Volume 14.

The DEP provides free access to our published volumes. The letter featured in this post may not be as dramatic as the so-called "God letter," but it might provide other insights. Even world-famous icons have favorite uncles and send birthday greetings. The more than 3,000 letters to and from Einstein, that we have published so far, can be explored in the DEP. The deeper one can explore, the fuller a picture one can gain, in any subject.

The How To page on the DEP is a good place to start if you have not searched on the site. For a detailed explanation of the site’s function and form see this video created when the DEP first launched. 12-6-18

Photo Credits: Einstein Papers Project and Albert Einstein Archives

A Letter Coming up for Auction

We move forward through time, but the ephemera we generate becomes disorganized. Ongoing research projects obtain historical materials out of chronological order. Einstein moved and traveled a great deal throughout his lifetime. Consequently, he generated and dispersed correspondence and work from various points on the globe. Even with an established archive, long-term publishing projects, such as ours, continually find new materials. Frequently we learn of items long after our volumes, covering the periods to which they belong, have been published.

For such dilemmas, we have an Editorial Method. The method appears in the front of each of our volumes, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein; it includes the following: "Documents that have come to the attention of the editors after the publication of the volume in which they would have appeared chronologically are presented at the front of a subsequent volume."

In house we call these items "catch-up". What we refer to as "Volume 13, Document 323a"—a catch-up item, to be included in Volume 16 of the CPAE—is a letter by Einstein, written to his sister Maja, in August of 1922. The Associated Press website currently features that same letter in Aron Heller's article: Letter shows a fearful Einstein long before Nazi's rise. Senior Editor and Assistant Director of the Einstein Papers Project, Dr. Ze'ev Rosenkranz commented on the letter for Heller's article. Rosenkranz contextualizes the letter, revealing a pattern to Einstein's modus operandi for dealing with pressures from the outside world. 11-12-18

Photo Credits: Christie’s generously provided high quality images of its spring 2018 lot of Einstein materials to the EPP earlier this year.

Berlin Retreat, Part 2

In addition to the library tour, discussed in the previous post, the EPP retreat meetings continued in the Dahlem neighborhood, where Einstein first lived after moving from Switzerland to Berlin in 1914 at the age of thirty-five. Jürgen Renn hosted us for two days at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. We had the opportunity to meet new and old colleagues. Felix F. Schäfer presented MPI’s digitization project designed to chronicle the Max Planck Society’s history, and Alexander Blum shared an overview of the Final Theory Program’s genesis and plans. Our Friday afternoon shifted from 20th to 19th century history when we attended Caltech Professor Jed Buchwald’s talk on Thomas Young and the Decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphs in the Harnack House.

In the village of Caputh near Potsdam, we followed a quiet path along a pebble-strewn road to see Einstein's summer home, designed by the architect Konrad Wachsmann and built on a plot purchased by Einstein himself in May 1929. We, and our traveling companions, enjoyed the docent talk in the garden. Continuing our tour afield, we went to Telegrafenberg in Potsdam and explored key sites in the Albert Einstein Science Park, particularly the 1921 Einstein Tower, designed by Erich Mendelsohn, and meant to confirm the gravitational redshift predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1916. 9-26-18

Photo Credits: All photos by Emily Araújo.

EPP's Berlin Retreat, Part 1

A core group of the EPP works year-round in Pasadena, while other editors, researchers and contributors work from abroad with periodic visits to our Caltech offices. Every other year, project colleagues gather in one location for a multi-day retreat. This summer we met in Berlin, Germany. We collaborate across many time zones on books that take several years to complete from the earliest stages of research through final publication. Meeting all together, biannually is a great way to strengthen ties, hash out ideas, prioritize and plan details, and enjoy extra curricular activities. Day one, we gathered at Restaurant Grosz—named for the Dadaist artist, George Grosz. The location, steeped in history, was a gorgeous setting for a full day of meetings.

(From Left: Esther Chen, Barbara Wolff, Diana Kormos Buchwald,
Tilman Sauer)

Our second day we met colleagues in the neighborhood of Dahlem at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. Esther Chen, Head of Library, led us on a tour and showed us materials from the special collections. One item editors examined was an Einstein draft written circa March 1917. The draft is of a plea made by Einstein to Emperor Karl I on behalf of Friedrich Adler (1879–1960), secretary of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, who assassinated Austrian Prime Minister Count Karl von Stürgkh on 21 December 1916. Adler was in detention, awaiting trial, and expecting the death penalty. For an English translation of the letter see Volume 8, Document 300a: To Emperor Karl I in the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein online.

Our editors, deeply familiar with Einstein's writings and diagrams, were intrigued by the doodles at the top of the draft. Some were traced over to such a degree that the ink bled through the page. The quality of the graphics, especially the perfectness of the spheres, struck them as unusual. Taking a brief second look at the calculations on the verso, Dennis Lehmkuhl noted that they involve spherical coordinates, typically used to describe heavenly bodies like planets or the Sun, and their gravitational fields. The doodling around the salutation "Your Majesty" highlights the greeting with decorative line work. The drawings could well be schematic allusions to heavenly bodies. Perhaps, the drawings are a witty visual nod to the concept of the king as a majestic being, god like. What is more god-like than the power to decide a person's fate? On the other hand, the editors surmised that the doodles might not have been drawn by Einstein at all. Another puzzle to solve. 8-29-18

Photo Credits: Photos by Emily Araújo except group photo at Restaurant Grosz. Click here for the Max Planck Institute’s library catalogue information on the draft discussed in this post.

EPP Heralds Release of Two New Books

imageOur esteemed colleague: A. J. Kox, Senior Editor at the Einstein Papers Project, Visiting Associate in History at Caltech and Emeritus Professor at the University of Amsterdam, has released his latest book with Springer The Scientific Correspondence of H.A. Lorentz. Volume 2, the Dutch Correspondents. A historian of modern physics, Professor Kox is a veteran member of our project, having started his work on The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein in 1985.

This is the second and final volume of Dutch physicist Hendrik Antoon Lorentz’s scientific correspondence with Dutch colleagues, including Pieter Zeeman and Paul Ehrenfest. The 294 letters cover multiple subjects, ranging from pure mathematics to magneto-optics and wave mechanics. They reveal much about their author, including Lorentz's surprisingly active involvement in experimental matters in the first decades of his career.

imageimageDr. Judith Goodstein, historian of science, Caltech’s first archivist and a treasured colleague of the EPP, has released her latest book, published by the American Mathematical Society: Einstein’s Italian Mathematicians: Ricci, Levi-Civita, and the Birth of General Relativity.

The book chronicles the lives and intellectual contributions of Ricci and his brilliant student Tullio Levi-Civita, including letters, interviews, memoranda, and other personal and professional papers, to tell the remarkable, little-known story of how two Italian academicians, of widely divergent backgrounds and temperaments, came to provide the indispensable mathematical foundation—today known as the tensor calculus—for general relativity. 8-13-18

Photo Credits: Photo of A.J. Kox by Henriette Schatz.

Emily Araújo Represents EPP at 2018 Association for Documentary Editing Conference

Emily Araújo imageI had the pleasure of being invited by EPP Executive Committee Member, Professor Barbara Oberg, to participate on a panel at the Association for Documentary Editing (ADE) Conference, hosted in Olympia, Washington in late June. Professor Oberg credits her colleague, J. Jefferson Looney, current ADE President and Jefferson scholar, with the panel concept: Why didn’t I Think of That Before?: ​Ah Ha! Moments in Documentary Editing; Oberg assembled a robust group of panelists for the final presentation of the conference. I was honored to participate.

It was a lively panel including senior editors offering both accumulated wisdom gathered over decades of work in documentary editing and surprising anecdotes involving potential mobsters and, unrelated—the impact of a US congressman’s passion for history on a historical project. Those of us with fewer war stories honed in on specific examples of learning from daily revelations to pivotal moments in our work life. I focused on the fact that my art career, which I had always kept separate from my “day job,” had been a key factor in my gaining footing at the EPP. Among other duties, I am responsible for preparing textual images, diagrams, and photographic illustrations for high quality print production on paper and online. In fact, preparing the brief talk helped me to organize my thinking about my tasks for current work and future volumes—an unexpected and pleasurable bonus! 7-30-18

Work Session

Photo Credits: Emily Araújo presenting at ADE in Olympia, Washington; photo by Whitney Smith, Assistant Editor of the Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Edition. Photo by Emily Araújo of ADE conference reception in bucolic Olympia, Washington.

Sini Elvington Represents EPP at ADE's 47th Annual Editing Institute

SiniI am very fortunate to have participated in this year’s 47th Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents in Olympia, Washington. The five-day intensive workshop is for individuals new to historical documentary editing and covers the numerous tasks of documentary editing: collection and cataloging, selection and digitization, transcription and encoding, annotation and contextualization, proofreading and verification, organization and layout, copyediting and Work Sessionindexing. Broader concerns that most projects face are also addressed in the workshop: planning and budgeting, funding and promotion, book production and web design, teaching and curriculum development, as well as outreach and advocacy.

The group was quite interesting; most of them being very experienced editors. It was a tough program and the wide range of interesting projects presented was exciting. I will benefit from the perspective I gained on different topics. The spotlight presentations and practice sessions on transcribing, annotation, and indexing were most enlightening.

The Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents is administered by the Association for Documentary Editing under a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, an affiliate of the National Archives and Records Administration. 7-16-18

Work Session

Photo Credits: Sini Elvington presenting at the Institute for the Editing of Historical Documents. Editing Institute in session. Editing Institute participants with workshop instructors.

A Unique Project Invites Unique Opportunities

Einstein's wide appeal draws attention from and to many areas. Recently, our editors have had the opportunity to host, and be hosted by, some distinguished figures.

In mid-May EPP Director Diana Buchwald, discussed Einstein's relationship to Belgium with a small, deeply engaged audience. Present at the meeting were Belgian Secretary of State for Foreign Trade Pieter De Crem; Belgian Ambassador to the U.S. Dirk Wouters; Consul General of Belgium in Los Angeles Henri Vantieghem; Investment & Trade Commissioner Raphaël Pauwels; and General Counsellor Ivan Van den Bergh. Caltech President, Thomas Rosenbaum greeted our guests. Editors Ze'ev Rosenkranz and Dennis Lehmkuhl contributed to the wide-ranging conversation.

Last week, Scientific Editor Dennis Lehmkuhl, together with Philip Stamp of the University of British Columbia, and Matt Visser of Victoria University at Wellington, collected over 20 hours of oral history from Roy Kerr, the mathematical relativist who in 1963 found what we now call the Kerr solution to Einstein’s field equations. The Kerr solution describes rotating black holes, and is a generalization of Schwarzschild's 1916 solution, which describes static black holes. Physicists had searched for such a generalization to Schwarzschild's solution for decades. Part of the aim of these recent interviews with Kerr was to understand how he had managed where so many others had failed. 6-20-18

Photo Credits: Two photos taken by Emily de Araújo in the Einstein Papers Project conference room: one, Pieter De Crem and Thomas Rosenbaum and two, Diana Buchwald presenting material on Einstein and Belgium. Photo of Roy Kerr by Bengt Nyman found on Wikimedia Commons.

June 6th: Princeton University Press Releases Ze’ev Rosenkranz’s latest book The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922 – 1923

ImageQ&A With The Author:

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?
CaricatureA: 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.

EPP Senior Editor and Assistant Director Ze’ev Rosenkranz's latest book The Travel Diaries of Albert Einstein: The Far East, Palestine, and Spain, 1922 – 1923 will be released next week, June 6, 2018

“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

Image 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.

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.

The Presence of the Hand

Image 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, ImageEinstein 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.

Solutions: Elusive and Otherwise

Image 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)

For Einstein, Music “Exists for the Soul”

Lehmkuhl Draft 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)

The Genesis of Einstein’s Work on the Problem of Motion in General Relativity

Lehmkuhl Draft 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)

Two Fascinating Weeks Filled with Puzzles and Mysteries

Marie Winteler 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.

Torn LetterSo 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

The Miller Rebuttal

Aguste Piccard LetterIn 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)

A Concerned Father and his Sons

Cover imageDuring 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)

Caltech and Princeton University Press Release 15th Volume of Einstein Papers

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.

Cover imageEinstein 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