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Albert Einstein online archive puts a genius at our fingertips

March 19, 2012 |  8:12 pm

Einstein private library

It’s the ultimate resource to Albert Einstein, the mighty brain behind E=mc2, and now it's all online.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has expanded its vast online Einstein catalog. The enhanced website “sheds light on every aspect of Einstein’s life and on his times,” the first half of the 20th century, the director of the university’s Einstein Center told The Times on Monday.

And it’s not only science, but also personal correspondence that may make readers consider Einstein in a new light.

With 80,000 documents "now listed, categorized, cross-linked and cross-referenced online," according to professor Hanoch Gutfreund, readers have a “panoramic view of the scope of topics and issues in which Einstein was involved.”

There’s a letter to Einstein's 24-year-old mistress, among other lovers; a postcard to his sick mother; even mail about his wild hairdo.

Einstein kept a missive from a 6-year-old girl that reads, in part: "I saw your picture in the paper. I think you ought to have your hair cut, so you can look better."

There also is a 1929 letter to the editor of an Arab newspaper suggesting a solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict: a “secret council” of Jews and Arabs that would hold regular meetings and debate shared issues.

Einstein, who received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1921, died in 1955 and bequeathed all his writings and intellectual heritage to the university. Einstein founded the school in 1918 with a group of individuals including the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud; Jewish philosopher Martin Buber; and Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel.

There’s also a California angle to the enhanced website.

It links up with the Caltech Einstein Papers Project. About 2,000 documents, Gutfreund said, can be seen “in high resolution and linked to the transcribed, annotated and translated version, which appears in the EPP.”

The online project is part of a longer-term effort by Hebrew University, along with Caltech and Princeton, to document scientific history by publishing “The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein,” a massive undertaking.

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Photo: A small statue of Albert Einstein sits in his private library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. On Monday, the university unveiled its enhanced website, where original documents can be accessed. Credit: Menahem Kahana / AFP/Getty Images

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