Science, Tech & Environment

Albert Einstein's archives going online

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Albert Einstein gives a lecture in 1921. Einstein was a famous theoretical physicist known for his theory of relativity. (Portrait from Ferdinand Schmutzer via WikiMedia Commons.)

The archive of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein are being posted online by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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The complete archive, including manuscripts, letters, theoretical musings, and personal correspondences, total more than 80,000 pages. Before this week, only 900 pages of Einstein's work were available to the public.

"Well, now they'll be able to see the manuscripts — the different drafts that Einstein did before he published works," said Greg Good, the director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics. "When we look at the published materials, we only get to see the finished products, and the most interesting thing is how a scientists gets to that finished product, what kind of questions they were asking, what kind of confusions they were going through on the way."

But despite the now-public availability of the documents, the documents may not be comprehensible to all.

"For the high school physics student, it might overwhelm them a bit, especially since most of it is going to be in German," Good said.

Not all the documents are focused on Einstein's physics theories and processes of crafting them. Good said the documents will also give insight into Einstein's life at the patent office, as well as his personal life. Einstein also had a well known political view, after his involvement in World War II.

"He had a political side to him going back at least into the 1910s and 1920s, but it really came to the fore after World War II," Good said. "He did write that famous letter, at the request of some of his physicist colleagues, to F.D.R. After the war, he became a very vocal advocate of a single world government and certainly was a supporter of the founding of the the state of Israel and the founding of the United Nations."

According to the Huffington Post, about 2,000 documents totaling near 7,000 pages are currently available in the archive, with the remainder of the archive to be uploaded throughout the coming years.

The push to make Einstein's archive public came from the Einstein Papers Project at the California Institute of Technology and Princeton University collaborating with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Physicists and scholars alike hope the documents will give a greater insight into one of history's most famous scientists.