Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Einstein Archives, talks to the press after the event. Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Einstein Archives, talks to the press after the event. Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Einstein Archives, talks to the press after the event. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Einstein Archives unveil 110 never-before-seen items

Among the remarkable findings are letters to his best friend, the basis for lasers and a page that had been lost for nearly 90 years.

The Albert Einstein Archives are usually a place of quiet and deep thought, but it was abuzz with excitement on Wednesday as 110 new documents were unveiled to the public for the first time. The never-before-seen cache were recently acquired from a collector in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

A cake in the shape of Einstein was made for the occasion. A cake in the shape of Einstein was made for the special occasion. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Curators from the Einstein Archives set up the display of new documents prior to the event. Curators from the Einstein Archives set up the display of new documents prior to the event at Hebrew University. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Among the new items was what's known among Einstein-philes as "The Elusive Page 3," a document that has not been seen since 1930. It was then that the Nobel Prize-winning physicist published an article about his unified field theory with an appendix attached. Page 3 of that appendix had gone missing and was thought lost until now. "This is a rare find," exclaimed Dr. Roni Grosz, the curator of the Albert Einstein Archives. "And we couldn't be an important collection without original material."

Einstein devoted to the last 30 years of his life to unified field theory. Above, the back and front of the missing appendix page. Einstein devoted to the last 30 years of his life to unified field theory. Above, the back and front of the missing appendix page. (Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The 100 new documents will be added to the more than 82,000 items already stored at the archives in Jerusalem. Also among the new papers were:

  • 84 sheets of mathematical calculations written between 1944 and 1948. The research notes in this collection give an unedited insight into one of the most creative minds in the history of science.
  • 4 letters from 1916 that Einstein wrote to his best friend, Michele Besso, three of which discuss the basis for laser technology. In the fourth letter, Einstein confesses that after 50 years of thinking about it, he still does not understand the quantum nature of light.
  • A 1935 letter from Einstein to his son, Hans Albert. The 26-year-old was living in Switzerland at the time and his father was writing him, concerned about the impending war. "I read with some apprehension," Einstein wrote, "that there is quite a movement in Switzerland, instigated by the German bandits."

All of the new items will be digitized so that the general public can have access to it. There are also plans for the papers to embark on traveling exhibits around the world.

Einstein worked on these mathematical calculations with his assistant, Ernst Strauss, who studied at Hebrew University. Einstein worked on these mathematical calculations with his assistant, Ernst Strauss, who studied at Hebrew University. (Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

A postcard that Einstein wrote to his close friend and fellow scientist, Michele Besso. A postcard that Einstein wrote to his close friend and fellow scientist, Michele Besso. (Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama/The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The event was held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a school that Einstein helped establish in the first part of the 20th century. He served on the school's Board of Governors and, upon his passing in 1955, bequeathed his personal and scientific writings to the university. Plans are currently underway for a multi-story Einstein museum on the campus, which will be open to the public. One of the people helping with that project is Shuki Levy, the co-creator of the "Power Rangers."

On hand for the event in Israel on Wednesday was Karen Cortell Reisman, a cousin of Einstein, who flew in from Texas for the festivities. "When I got married, instead of a Tiffany bowl or a crystal vase, I asked my family for a gift that would be much more meaningful to me: a July 1949 letter that Einstein wrote to my parents," she recalled, as she showed the correspondence to the gathered crowd.

"The only thing I inherited from Albert Einstein is his hair texture – the frizzy hair," she said. "I yearn for days of low humidity."

The event captured the attention of the world, as media outlets from as far away as Germany and the United States attended a press conference announcing the new collection. It's the first of many activities the university has planned for 2019, which celebrates the 140th anniversary of Einstein's birth. (His birthday itself is next week on March, 14.)

From left to right at the press conferemce: Dr. Roni Grosz, curator of Einstein Archives; Karen Cortell Reisman, Einstein's cousin; and Dr. Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the archives. From left to right at the press conferemce: Dr. Roni Grosz, curator of Einstein Archives; Karen Cortell Reisman, Einstein's cousin; and Dr. Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the archives. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Dr. Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the archives, skipped with boyish excitement at the event. "This is the best birthday present that one could imagine," he said. Looking out across the spread of baked goods and treats served at the event, Gutfreund laughed, "We're doing all this and Einstein's not even here to see it."

More than sixty years after his passing, the fascination with the man remains. “Einstein's face is the most recognizable face worldwide,” said Gutfreund. "The interest in Einstein does not fade into history. If anything, if one can say anything about this, the interest in Einstein increases with time. It's greater now."

Images of Einstein can be seen throughout the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Images of Einstein can be seen throughout the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

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Einstein Archives unveil 110 never-before-seen items
Among the remarkable findings are letters to his best friend, the basis for lasers and a page that had been lost for nearly 90 years.