'Rewrite of physics' by Einstein on display

Annals of a genius

'Rewrite of physics' by Einstein on display

Albert Einstein rewrote the laws of physics in a sparsely furnished central Berlin apartment nearly a century ago and the resulting manuscript, profoundly human and surprisingly moving, has been put on display here for the first time.

Each of the 46 pages, laboured over between November 1915 and May 1916, has its own case, each lighted dimly in a room that has been darkened to protect the paper. On Page 1 is the now familiar title in German: “The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity.”

The display of the work, which forced a redefinition of gravity, predicted the existence of black holes and illuminated how galaxies are formed, is at the centre of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. It will be up only for the next three weeks.

“We have set it up like the Dead Sea Scrolls, to protect them but also to give the feeling of entering a kind of holy of holies, which is how we view it,” said Hanoch Guttfreund, former president of the Hebrew University and curator of the exhibition. Einstein’s wife Elsa donated the manuscript to the Hebrew University on the occasion of its opening in 1925.

And outside the room where the theory of general relatively is on display, are a few more of his papers, including a postcard he sent to his mother in 1919 after a British astronomer confirmed during an eclipse one of Einstein’s key predictions. It too offers a poignant mix of the celestial and personal. “Dear Mother!” it begins, “Today some happy news. Lorentz telegraphed me that the British expeditions have verified the deflection of light by the sun.” So sorry, he adds, to hear that you are not feeling well.

Einstein’s relationship to Israel was complex. A self-described universalist, he became a Zionist when he witnessed anti-Semitism in Europe. Walter Isaacson, who wrote a biography of Einstein, said that Einstein wanted Jews to move here but did not back a separate Jewish nation-state.

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