Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
Autograph letter signed (‘A. Einstein’) to [Wilhelm Wien], Berlin, 18 March 1916.
In German, half page, 222 x 143mm. Provenance: by descent from the recipient.
The triumphant finalisation of the general theory of relativity. Einstein sends to Wien as editor of the Annalen der Physik the final, comprehensive paper in the series that established the general theory of relativity: ‘You will find enclosed with this my complete revision of the general theory of relativity for the Annalen. As I have entrusted the printing of the offprint to Ambr[osius] Barth, the publication should not encounter any further difficulties; I therefore take the liberty of sending you the paper without first waiting for your reply to my earlier enquiry’.
Einstein’s theory of general relativity is frequently referred to as not only the most important but also the most beautiful theory in modern physics: he had sketched out the idea as early as 1911, but it was not until his magisterial series of papers in November 1915 that Einstein overcame its significant technical challenges. His April 1916 article in the Annalen summed up and corrected those papers, providing the definitive statement of his greatest creation. Ambrosius Barth was the publisher of the Annalen, and Max Planck had requested that Einstein give him first refusal on the offprint of the paper, in spite of the latter’s initial request to be given a free hand in his choice. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, ed. Robert Schulmann, A. J. Kox, Michel Janssen, and József Illy, vol. 8, no. 203.