New Einstein papers: He feared for his safety

CALTECH (US) — A newly released volume of Einstein’s papers covers a turbulent 15 months in his life and includes previously unpublished letters, some expressing desire for “a normal life.”

In the fall of 1922, when Albert Einstein’s Nobel Prize in Physics was announced, the already-famous physicist was on a steamer headed for Japan.

The detailed and poetic travel diary he kept during his journey to Japan, Palestine, and Spain is among the documents included in the latest volume in the Einstein Papers Project, The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein: Volume 13: The Berlin Years: Writings & Correspondence, January 1922–March 1923 (Documentary Edition), which is scheduled for release today, September 25.

Einstein and his wife Elsa aboard the SS Kitano Maru en route to Japan, October 1922. (Credit: Caltech)


The scientist’s writings convey a feeling of restlessness and a strong desire to escape the demands of his increased fame and heightened visibility.

His diary entries paint a vivid picture of an Einstein who, fearful for his safety following the assassination of his friend the German foreign minister Walter Rathenau, decided to leave his home in Berlin and contemplated leaving academic life entirely, but who thoroughly enjoyed the sights and peoples he encountered for the first time on his six-month long voyage.

“This latest volume is extraordinarily rich, and illuminates in great detail Einstein’s scientific work and his exchanges and collaboration with many scientists in Europe, Japan, and the US,” says Diana Kormos-Buchwald, the general editor of the series, a professor of history at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the director of the Einstein Papers Project.

“Most striking is seeing Einstein so thoroughly engaged in numerous professional and political activities while in private worrying about his own safety, given the rather violent atmosphere in Berlin at the time,” adds Kormos-Buchwald.

The volume contains 36 scientific writings by Einstein, including a paper written with Paul Ehrenfest, which anticipates the quantum measurement problem. During this time, Einstein also began investigating the possibilities and restrictions that relativity implied for a unified field theory of the gravitational and electromagnetic fields.

Published beginning in 1987, the first 12 volumes of The Collected Papers cover Einstein’s life beginning with his early years up until his 44th birthday. By series’ completion, the Papers will comprise nearly 30 volumes and will contain more than 14,000 documents.

Sponsored by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Princeton University Press, the project is located at and supported by Caltech.

Source: Caltech