The physics department at Hebrew University, a school co-founded by Einstein, threw a birthday party for him today. The physics department at Hebrew University, a school co-founded by Einstein, threw a birthday party for him today. The physics department at Hebrew University, a school co-founded by Einstein, threw a birthday party for him today. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Albert Einstein turns 140 with epic birthday bash

The physicist's legacy lives on with Hebrew University's unveiling of new manuscripts, a relative's surprise visit and more.

Albert Einstein may have passed away in the spring of 1955, but his legacy lives on forever. Nowhere was that more prevalent than on the campus of Hebrew University this week, home to the official Albert Einstein Archives.

To celebrate what would've been Einstein's 140th birthday week – Thursday, March 14, to be exact – the university kicked off a week of celebrations by hosting the international media for a press conference last Wednesday. It was there that the archives unveiled 110 new pages written by Einstein, including mathematical equations and letters to loved ones, that they had recently acquired from a collector in North Carolina.

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 archives.

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: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Einstein was one of the founders of Hebrew University and bequeathed his papers to the institution in his will. The new cache of documents were letters that he had sent to others and were therefore not included with the 82,000 other documents already on file at the archive in Jerusalem – including the original copy of the theory of relativity and his Nobel Prize medal.

Plans are currently underway for a multi-story Einstein museum on the campus, which will be open to the public. The new 110 pages will be part of that collection.

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)

The festivities continued on Saturday night with a VIP dinner and private exhibit of the new documents. Also on display were a replica of Einstein's famous pipe and leather jacket. "This is the best birthday present that one could imagine," said Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the archives. Looking out across the crowded room, past the waiters and gourmet catering, Gutfreund laughed. "We're doing all this and Einstein's not even here to see it."

Karen Cortell Reisman, Einstein's cousin, flew in from Dallas for the festivities in Israel. Karen Cortell Reisman, Einstein's cousin, flew in from Dallas for the festivities in Israel. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

Einstein's cousin, Karen Cortell Reisman, flew in from Dallas for the festivities. She relayed the story of how on Einstein's 72nd birthday, the paparazzi photographed Einstein sticking his tongue out in what is now an iconic picture. The physicist loved the photograph so much that he had several copies made and sent them to friends and family – including to Karen's grandmother. On it, he scribbled, "This tongue I give the world, not just you. – Your Albert."

Reisman admitted that she couldn't explain the theory of relativity, but that "I do have a relative's theory on Einstein's human side."

The birthday week celebrations brought out an emotional side to Susan Sacks, who lives about an hour away from the archives and knew Einstein when she was a child. Her dad and Einstein were close friends and she and her two sisters often visited the absent-minded professor at his home in Princeton, N.J.

She showed a visitor a photo of her and her sisters with the world's favorite genius. Shortly after Einstein's passing, her parents gave birth to a boy. They named him Albert.

On Thursday, the birthday itself, students from the Hebrew University physics department will be hosting a special celebration for their scientific muse and school founder.

Asked what he plans to do for Einstein's 150th birthday in 2029, Asher Cohen, the current president of Hebrew University, was stumped. "That's a good question. I have to think about it," he said. "I can say this, we'll do something good."

A mural of Einstein greets visitors to the campus of Hebrew University, a school he helped establish. A mural of Einstein greets visitors to the campus of Hebrew University, a school he helped establish. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

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Albert Einstein turns 140 with epic birthday bash
The physicist's legacy lives on with Hebrew University's unveiling of new manuscripts, a relative's surprise visit and more.