Thousands of Einstein Documents Are Now a Click Away
By DENNIS OVERBYE
Starting on Friday, when Digital Einstein is introduced, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to share in the letters, papers, postcards, notebooks and diaries that Einstein left scattered in Princeton and in other archives, attics and shoeboxes around the world when he died in 1955.
The Einstein Papers Project, currently edited by Diana Kormos-Buchwald, a professor of physics and the history of science at the California Institute of Technology, has already published 13 volumes in print out of a projected 30.
The published volumes contain about 5,000 documents that bring Einstein’s story up to 1923, when he turned 44, in ever-thicker, black-jacketed, hard-bound books, dense with essays, footnotes and annotations detailing the political, personal and cultural life of the day. A separate set of white paperback volumes contains English translations. Digitized versions of many of Einstein’s papers and letters have been available on the Einstein Archives of the Hebrew University.
Visitors to the new Digital Einstein website, Dr. Kormos-Buchwald said in an email, will be able to toggle between the English and German versions of the texts. They can dance among Einstein’s love letters, his divorce file, his high school transcript, the notebook in which he worked out his general theory of relativity and letters to his lifelong best friend, Michele Besso, among many other possibilities. Einstein, who like many other 20-year-old college students did not lack for a sense of self-dramatization, once wrote to his sister, Maja, “If everybody lived a life like mine, there would be no need for novels.” As it would turn out, he did not know the half of it.
The 14th volume, with more than 1,000 documents, is due in January. The digital versions are available at einsteinpapers.press.princeton.edu.
Albert Einstein writing out an equation relating to the density of the Milky Way at the Carnegie Institute in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 14, 1931. Einstein left a scattered collection of letters, notebooks and diaries. (CreditAssociated Press)