A letter written by Albert Einstein in which the famed Jewish-German physicist discusses some of his early work on an elusive single theory to explain all the forces of nature is to go up for auction in Jerusalem next week.
The handwritten and signed single-page document, “which includes complex details of evidence regarding his efforts” to discover the so-called unified field theory, will be offered by the Kedem Auction House on December 3, with bids starting at $20,000, the auctioneers said in a statement Thursday.
“I am glad that you are working so hard on the question of compatibility,” Einstein wrote in the letter. “But I do not think your concerns are justified. I would like to formulate the proof so that your letters are taken into account.”
The missive was sent June 15, 1950, to mathematician Ernst Gabor Strauss, who was Einstein’s assistant and research partner. The German-language letter contains Einstein’s response to Strauss’s critiques of his work, which had been communicated earlier, “providing an interesting glimpse into the ongoing work of the two,” Kedem said.
According to the auction house, at the time Einstein was working on his “unified field theory,” which aimed to describe all fundamental forces in nature in one framework.
Einstein covered various points in the letter, using brief references to concepts that were apparently familiar to Strauss but perhaps less so to the general reader.
“There occur in the solution (apart from the freedom of representation due to the free choice of coordinates) 16 freely chosen intersection functions (degrees of freedom),” he wrote, and that “the so-specialized solution of (Ia) is the solution of the (strong) system of equations (I) and (apart from the choice of coordinates) is the general solution of (I).”
Meron Eren, co-owner of the Kedem auction house, said the document is “a historical item of extraordinary value. This letter deals with the unified field theory, an incomplete theory. However, Einstein’s contribution to science in this field is one of the most important in the field of science.”
In March a 1939 letter by Einstein calling for solidarity as Jews were fleeing Nazi Germany sold at auction for $134,343. The bidding had started at $12,000.
Strauss was Einstein’s assistant at at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Research from 1944 to 1948 and worked with him on the unified field theory. They published three papers together.
Strauss is known for his contribution to the Ramsey Theory in mathematics, dealing with the conditions needed for order. Born to a Jewish Zionist family, he fled Germany to British Mandatory Palestine in 1933, the auction house said.
After studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem he emigrated to the US, finishing his studies at Columbia University.
Einstein never completed his unified field theory and although many others have also researched the concept, no such completed theory has yet been accepted by physicists.