Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Einstein Online: His Work, Life, and Loves

Yesterday, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem started uploading digitized documents from its massive Einstein archive. With over 80,000 documents, the archive includes scientific correspondences, letters that Einstein wrote to family members and even love letters.

Hebrew University announced that they had uploaded 2,000 documents to the archive's online home. In addition they've included a more selective gallery divided into different sections (e.g. science, personal life, and Nobel Prize documents).

Eventually, the university aims to put all of their thousands of documents online. But today, people from across the globe can catch a new glimpse into Einstein's life.

Poor Student? Maybe Not

For instance, the archive released Einstein's Swiss high school certificate yesterday, including his excellent grades. Contrary to popular belief, Einstein actually excelled in most topics during high school. Here's a list of some of his scores from his report card (this school graded on a 1-6 scale, with 6 equating to an "excellent" grade).

Physics - 6
Geometry - 6
History - 6
Artistic Drawing - 4
French - 3

Despite his low score in French, Einstein presented a lecture in fluent French two years later, according to the archive's website.

Science and Beyond

In addition to papers related to his education, the archive contains numerous other documents related to Einstein's personal life. One letter to Einstein's mother, for example, reveals his excitement about Arthur Eddington's experiment measured the gravitational effect of the sun on other stars' light during a solar eclipse. With his results, Eddington provided a crucial positive test supporting Einstein's theory of general relativity.

Despite this joyous occasion, Einstein also expresses concern over his mother's health and depression. Einstein wrote:
Maja has written me that you're not only in a lot of pain but you also have gloomy thoughts. How I would like to keep you company again so that you're not left to ugly brooding.

While several of the documents relate to Einstein's personal life, the lion's share of the material relates to his work in physics. The archive includes scribbles of his famous E=mc^2 equation, a manuscript on his general theory of relativity and a transcript of a lecture to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

When I tried digging through the rest of the archive, I encountered a number of problems with the digitized documents. Apparently, there's still some problems accessing the documents outside of the small "gallery" selection provided by the university.

Nonetheless, the university should work out the bugs in the coming months, and more content will be uploaded over time thanks to the new grant money. So keep an eye on this archive for more insights into the life of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century.

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