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Now on the Web: A Peek Into Einstein's Thoughts

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein's signature
Albert Einstein

By Dennis Overbye
The New York Times
May 20, 2003

SLIS Summary

When Albert Einstein died in 1955 in Princeton, N.J., he left behind several thousand documents, such as letters, manuscripts, speeches and political writings.

For the last 40 years, historians and physicists have been publishing these papers under the auspices of the Princeton University Press and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the copyright to Einstein's works. So far 8 densely annotated volumes have been issued, and more than 20 are expected.

A chunk of Einsteiniana is now available on the Internet. Yesterday the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University and the California Institute of Technology, headquarters of the Einstein Papers Project, launched a new site:

It contains digitized images of some 900 Einstein papers as well as a searchable list of 43,000 documents. The Web site was inaugurated in connection with a recent meeting of Einstein scholars at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The online collection includes all 230 original scientific manuscripts and drafts that were in his possession when he died, said Dr. Diana Kormos Buchwald, a historian of science at the California Institute of Technology and the director of the papers project. Among them, she said, is a notebook in which he worked out his general theory of relativity.

As Dr. Gerald Holton, a historian and an Einstein expert at Harvard, gazed at a projection of pages from Einstein's notebook at the museum yesterday, he said, "I've been waiting for this for a long time."

Most manuscripts posted online have not yet appeared in the printed volumes, Dr. Buchwald said, explaining that many of the papers from Einstein's early years had been destroyed. As a result, most papers on the Web site are from the 1920's and later. Those that have already been published will be presented on the Web site with full annotations and translations that have been published. The others will be Einstein unvarnished, in the original German.

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Posted May 23, 2003