Auction No. 100

Rare and special items

June 20, 2017
Opening $ 500
Estimate $ 2,000 - $ 3,000
Sold for $ 10,980
Including buyer's premium

* Copy of a letter from Prof. Albert Einstein to Prof. Max Born, Princeton, New Jersey. September 7, 1944.

Specifications: [2] pages, paper. 25x20 cm. Typewritten letter, not signed. A number of corrections, apparently in the professor's handwriting.

Content: Einstein reminisces with Born about their trip 25 years ago on a tramcar to the Reichstag, convinced that they could turn the German lawmakers into honest Democrats. He can only laugh about their naiveté back then! "We both did not realize how much more sits in the spinal cord than in the cerebrum, and how much tighter it sits." They should remember this lesson in order to prevent a repetition of the tragedies that occurred. It's not surprising that (most) scientists are no exception; the exceptions don't operate through their special intellectual powers, but through their humanity, such as Laue [Max von] [who publicly opposed the Nazi policies]. Einstein notes that it was interesting to watch his sense of justice lead him to step by step detach himself from the influence of the crowd, due to his strong sense of justice. Men of medicine have no success adopting their "ethical code" and the chance of ethical conduct amongst scientists is even smaller, due to their mechanized and specialized way of thinking.

Understandings about right and wrong, develop and die, like a tree, without much influence from the fertilization they receive. The only thing an individual can do is serve as a clean personal example, courageous enough to advocate seriously his ethical convictions in the society of cynics. Einstein testifies that he himself tried to act in this manner for a long time (with changing success).

He is not overly excited by Born's feelings that he is too old; he knows these feelings. He notes that one can confidently let nature turn him slowly into dust, unless she prefers a faster process. Einstein expresses his confidence that it is impossible to destroy "Jewish Physics."

Einstein concludes with the fact that they both moved to radically opposing positions in regards to their scientific expectations. "You believe in the dice-throwing G-d and I believe in complete order in a world of objective existence which I am trying to catch in a wildly speculative way." The monumental initial success of the quantum theory could not persuade him to believe "in the fundamental dice playing."

Background: Prof. Max Born (1882-1970) was a Jewish, German-born physicist. He earned his doctorate from the University of Gottingen. He taught in the universities of Berlin and Frankfurt and in the new Institute for Theoretical Physics in Gottingen. After the Nazi rise to power, he moved to England and taught in Cambridge and Edinburgh. He returned to Germany in 1953, and received the Nobel Prize for physics a year later.

* Letter from Prof. Albert Einstein to Prof. David Bohm. Princeton, New Jersey. October 28, 1954.

Specifications: [1] page, letterhead. 27x21 cm. Typewritten letter, signed by Prof. Einstein. The signature became wet and blurred.

Content: Einstein expresses his opposition to the reprinting of his scientific writings, as new advancements in science nullified their significance.

"You know very well that even those publications which had value at the time of their appearance have lost to later progress of science their actual interest."

He is very happy to hear about Bohm's good health and scientific success. He notes that recently a number of experiments were attempted to complete the quantum theory, but he thinks that they are still far from a satisfying solution. He himself tried to solve the problem by generalizing the law of gravitation. But, he has to admit that he still hasn't found an explanation for the atomistic character of nature, and he has "not the slightest idea what kind of elementary concepts could be used in such a theory."

* Letter from Prof. Albert Einstein to Prof. David Bohm. Princeton, New Jersey. November 24, 1954.

Specifications: [1] page, letterhead. 27x21 cm. Letter typewritten and signed by Prof. Einstein. The signature was wet and has blurred.

Content: Prof. Einstein instinctively opposes the approach of Bohm and many of the physicists of his time, even though they successfully supported their theory with an impressive series of empirical findings. He does not believe in micro-and-macro-laws, but only in laws of general vigorous validity."I believe that these laws are logically simple, and that reliance on this logical simplicity is our best guide." It would be sufficient to start with a small number of facts. If nature is not arranged accordingly, then there is very little hope of understanding it more deeply.
Einstein presents the difficulty with the using logical simplicity as a guide and he admits to the limitations of the mathematical methods existent at the time which prevent empirically-testable conclusions based on his scientific experiments.
Einstein isn't trying to convince Bohm, but only to explain how he reached his own scientific attitude. He notes "that by using a semi-empirical method, one would never have arrived at the gravitational equations of empty space."

Condition: Fine. Rubbed ink stains.

letters by Professor Albert Einstein and Colleagues