Original Einstein manuscripts are going online for first time

By Daniel Estrin

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 19 2012 10:34 p.m. MDT

This image made distributed by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Monday, March 19, 2012 shows part of a newly revealed archived document, one of only three existing manuscripts which contain Einstein's famous formula describes the relationship between energy (E), mass (m) and the speed of light (c), which derives from Einstein's special theory of relativity. Einstein's complete archives are being uploaded to the internet for the first time. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the famed scientist's original papers, is slowly uploading high resolution photographs of his handwritten manuscripts, including ones in his own handwriting which outline his groundbreaking theory of relativity. (AP Photo/Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Anonymous, Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Albert Einstein's complete archives — from personal correspondence with half a dozen lovers to notebooks scribbled with his groundbreaking scientific research — are going online for the first time.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the German Jewish physicist's papers, is pulling never-before seen items from its climate-controlled safe, photographing them in high resolution and posting them on the Internet — offering the public a nuanced and fuller portrait of the man behind the scientific genius.

Only 900 manuscript images, and an incomplete catalog listing just half of the archive's contents, had been posted online since 2003. Now, with a grant from the Polonsky Foundation UK, which previously helped digitize Isaac Newton's papers, all 80,000 items from the Einstein collection have been cataloged and enhanced with cross referencing technology.

The updated web portal, unveiled Monday, features the full inventory of the Einstein archives, publicizing for the first time the entirety of what's inside the collection and giving scholars a chance to request access to items they previously never knew existed.

"Knowledge is not about hiding. It's about openness," said Menachem Ben Sasson, president of the Hebrew University.

Einstein, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose theory of relativity revolutionized science, was one of the founders of the university. He contributed the original manuscript of his famed theory to the university when it was founded in 1925, four years after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. He bequeathed the rest of his papers — and the rights to the use of his image — to the university upon his death in 1955.

The portal now offers a close look at an initial 2,000 documents, or 7,000 pages total, from Einstein's personal and public life up to the year 1921. In the coming years, archivists will slowly upload the remainder of the collection.

The online project is part of an initiative with Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology to publish annotated scholarly work on all of Einstein's papers.

The Hebrew University's Einstein collection includes 14 notebooks filled with research notes in small cursive handwriting, letters to Einstein's contemporaries on his physics research, and a handwritten explanation of his theory of relativity and its summarizing equation EMC2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared).

It also includes lesser-known papers, including a postcard to his ailing mother, private correspondence with his lovers, and a pile of fan mail Einstein received about his wild hairdo.

"I saw your picture in the paper. I think you ought to have your haircut," one 6-year-old girl wrote in large block print.

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