Rare Einstein manuscript on the theory of relativity, auctioned for over $ 15 million in Paris

It was written with his lifelong friend, the Swiss engineer Michele Besso.

LONDON – A rare manuscript by Albert Einstein that changed the course of modern science was just sold for over 13.3 million euros (over $ 15 million), including fees, which beat all predictions.

The 54-page, handwritten document outlines calculations that led to his theory of relativity. One of two existing copies went on sale at auction house Christie’s in Paris on Tuesday night. It was expected to bring in $ 2.4 million to $ 3.5 million. The manuscript was sold as part of a court sale and was to be handled by a special court commissioner. It was purchased over the phone by an anonymous buyer.

“This is without a doubt the most valuable Einstein manuscript ever put up for auction,” Christie’s said in a pre-sale statement.

The iconic German physicist co-wrote the manuscript with a lifelong friend, Swiss engineer Michele Besso, in Zurich from June 1913 to early 1914, according to Christie’s, who is hosting the sale on behalf of Agutte’s auction house.

Although this copy is not the final draft, the Einstein-Besso manuscript shows the sample and error that went into the calculations. When equations about the relativity of rotational motions proved to be correct, Einstein wrote enthusiastically in the margin on one of the pages: “Voice!” It’s German for “It works!”

Although the document contains errors, it ultimately led to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which states that gravity is not a force that occurs between objects in space, but rather a deformation of space and time geometry. The final theory was published in 1915, about a year after the Einstein-Besso manuscript.

The manuscript consists of 26 pages of Einstein’s manuscript, 25 pages of Bessos and three pages that appear to have been written together. Some parts are crossed or torn out, and pages have rust stains, according to Christie’s, who described the document as depicting “a crucial stage in the development of general relativity.”

“Even today, in 2021, when we study cosmology, or even when we study fusions of black holes, gravitational waves, pulsars, we still use Einstein’s equations,” French astrophysicist Etienne Klein explained in a video on the Einstein-Besso manuscript, published. of Christie’s prior to the sale. “Over a century after being written down on paper by Einstein, they are still the right equations to describe any gravitational phenomenon.”

Einstein and Besso met for a concert while both were students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where Einstein studied physics and Besso engineering. Friends for Life, Besso described their collaboration as one between an eagle (Einstein) and a sparrow (Besso), saying that the sparrow could fly higher under the eagle’s wing, according to Carl Seelig’s 1956 biography of Einstein.

Einstein, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1921, was known for ruining most of his work. But Besso preserved the manuscript for posterity.

“A good scientist is someone who makes mistakes, discovers and corrects them,” Klein said in Christie’s catalog of sales.

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