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Lot 0013
Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Autograph postcard signed ('A. Einstein') to Wilhelm Wien, Prague, 27 January [1912].

In German, 1½ pages, 89 x 141mm. Provenance: by descent from the recipient.

An error with regard to residual rays and a controversy about the theory of gravitation. Einstein has discovered that his paper on residual rays ('Zur Theorie der Reststrahlen') 'cannot be upheld in this form. If it is possible, I ask you to prevent the publication of the article so that I can modify it and then resubmit it in an altered form'; but if editorial rules demand that the article be published as it stands, he would like to publish a corrective postscript. A postscript notes that 'I have a dispute with [Max] Abraham concerning his theory of gravitation. This does not, in truth, account for a curvature of light-rays'.

Einstein's abortive paper 'Zur Theorie der Restrahlen' was an attempt 'to base his theory of specific heats on a model, in which a solid is treated as an aggregate of damped resonators (instead of undamped ones, as he had done earlier...)' (Collected Papers, vol.5, no.313n). Einstein withdrew and ultimately abandoned the paper after criticisms from Heinrich Rubens. The letter dates from Einstein's short tenure as a professor in the German University in Prague, which he had taken up in April 1911: he was to return to Switzerland to take up a position at the Zurich Polytechnic in July 1912. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, ed. Martin J. Klein, A. J. Kox, and Robert Schulmann, vol. 5, no. 395.

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On residual rays, and a controversy about gravitation

Estimate £5,000 - £8,000May 23, 2019
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New York, NY, USA
Auction Curated By:
Sophie Hopkins
Associate Director, Specialist, Manuscripts & Archives