Rare Einstein Manuscript on Calculations Leading to Theory of Relativity Fetches Over $15M in Christie’s Auction - The Jewish Voice
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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Rare Einstein Manuscript on Calculations Leading to Theory of Relativity Fetches Over $15M in Christie’s Auction

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Edited by: TJVNews.com

A rare manuscript by Albert Einstein that changed the course of modern science was just sold for over 13.3 million euros (over $15 million), including fees, beating all predictions.

The 54-page, handwritten document outlines calculations that led to his theory of relativity. One of two existing copies went on sale at Christie’s auction house in Paris on Tuesday evening. It was expected to fetch $2.4 million to $3.5 million. The manuscript was being sold as part of a judicial sale, and had to be handled by a special judicial commissioner. It was bought over the phone by an anonymous buyer.

British auction house Christie’s told NBC News they will not be disclosing who won the final bid. CNN reported that on its website, Christie’s calls the theory “one of the single most important ideas in modern science” and says it is “often described as the most beautiful theory in physics.”

NBC News reported that the manuscript was preserved by Swiss-Italian engineer and Nobel Prize winning scientist Michele Besso, who worked on the calculations with the Nobel Prize winner. CNN reported that it was written jointly in Zurich by Besso and Einstein. Besso was Einstein’s collaborator, lifelong friend and confidant.

It contains 26 pages by Einstein and 25 by Besso, along with three pages of entries written by both, and is also considered a valuable record of the German scientist’s relationship with Besso, according to the CNN report.

CNN reported that the manuscript, written between June 1913 and early 1914, contains calculations made by Einstein and Besso on the theory of specialized relativity and the issue of an anomaly in the orbit of the planet Mercury. But it was populated by unnoticed errors and was eventually set aside by Einstein, Christie’s said.

In a press release, Adrien Legendre, director of the Books and Manuscripts Department at Christie’s said, “We are delighted that Christie’s will be able to promote this extraordinary manuscript to its international network of collectors for our Exceptional Sale. Einstein’s autographs from this period, and more generally from before 1919, are extremely rare.”

Legendre added: “As one of only two surviving manuscripts documenting the genesis of general relativity… it provides a remarkable insight into Einstein’s work and a fascinating dive into the mind of the greatest scientist of the 20th century.”

CNN reported that the publication of Einstein’s theory of relativity was key in making him a household name in the world of science. Six years later, in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize in physics.




Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, the former president of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told NBC News in a phone interview on Tuesday that, “It was one of the most important documents on Einstein’s road to general relativity.”

Einstein helped found Hebrew University, which is home to the Albert Einstein Archives, as was reported by NBC.

Gutfreund said the manuscript was crucial to Einstein’s “intellectual and scientific journey towards the general theory of relativity,” as was reported by NBC News.

“He developed this theory, he almost reached the correct formulation, he misinterpreted it, he put it aside,” he said. But, eventually, Einstein would get it right, making his early work a “very important step” in his discovery.

The pages are filled with sprawling calculations and crossed-out symbols, mainly written in ink, as was reported by NBC News.

In May, a letter in which Einstein wrote out his famous E=mc2 equation, was sold through Boston-based auction house RR Auction for more than $1.2 million — three times the expected amount.

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