Astronomical auctions? One of the preparatory manuscripts for Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, estimated between two and three million euros, will be auctioned on Tuesday, November 23 in Paris. “This is undoubtedly the most valuable Einstein manuscript ever offered for auction,” Judge Christie’s in a press release, where the sale for Aguttes will take place. The document is an autograph manuscript of 54 pages written in 1913 and 1914, in Zurich (Switzerland), by the famous physicist of German origin and his collaborator and confidant, Michele Besso.
According to Christie’s, it is thanks to this Swiss engineer that “the manuscript has, almost miraculously, come down to us: Einstein probably would not have bothered to keep what appeared to him to be a working document”. After his special theory of relativity, which made him demonstrate in 1905 the famous formula E = mc², Einstein began to work on a theory of general relativity.
This theory of gravity, finally published in November 1915, revolutionized our understanding of the universe. Died in 1955 at the age of 76, Einstein has become a symbol of scientific genius as much as a pop figure, with the famous 1951 photo where he sticks his tongue out. At the beginning of 1913, he and Besso “tackle one of the problems that the scientific community has been facing for decades: the anomaly of the orbit of the planet Mercury”, recalls Christie’s. The two scientists will solve this riddle.
It is not in the calculations lying on this manuscript, which count “a certain number of errors which have gone unnoticed”. When Einstein spotted them, he no longer cared about this manuscript, taken away by Besso. “Einstein’s scientific autograph documents from this period, and more generally from before 1919, are extremely rare,” says Christie’s.
“Being one of only two working manuscripts documenting the genesis of the theory of general relativity to have survived, it is an extraordinary testimony to Einstein’s work and allows us a fascinating dive into the mind of the greatest scientist. of the twentieth century, “continues the auction house. The other known document of this crucial period in the physicist’s research, known as the “Zurich notebook” (late 1912, early 1913) is in fact in the Einstein archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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