While Einstein’s theories and work continue to shape reality as we know it, one anonymous enthusiast was recently able to walk away with a bit of the famous physicist in the form of pages of notes penned in his own hand.
Christie’s auction house in Paris offered the coveted 54-page document which included 26 pages written by Einstein as he worked through his theory of general relativity, 25 pages written by Einstein’s close friend and Swiss engineer Michele Besso and three pages that seem to have been authored by both.
The pages were likely written from 1913 to 1914, according to the Washington Examiner, and Einstein’s section contains mistakes but illustrates how he worked through the complexities of his theory.
The notes are one of two copies in existence. The other handwritten copy is from 1915 and corrects the mistakes present in the first set of notes.
Besso was Einstein’s close friend and confidant, one of the few people who could keep up with Einstein and hold his own in the scientific topics they both loved.
Einstein passed away a few weeks after his friend, but before that in a letter to Besso’s family, he expressed his sentiments in the way only he could.
“Now he has again preceded me a little in parting from this strange world,” Einstein wrote of his late friend. “This has no importance. For people like us who believe in physics, the separation between past, present and future has only the importance of an admittedly tenacious illusion.”
In 1905, Einstein named Besso and Besso alone as collaborator in a series of papers that went on to change the world — making the document Christie’s recently auctioned an example of not only scientific rigor but the two men’s deep and lasting friendship.
In fact, Besso is the sole reason this manuscript was even available in the first place. Einstein often destroyed his work, but Besso held on to this copy, saving it for posterity.
In a statement, Christie’s revealed that the 54 pages of notes were unequaled amongst their Einstein offerings. They were originally estimated to go for a staggering $2 to $3.5 million euros (or $2.2 million to $3.95 million in U.S. dollars), according to ABC News.
“This is without a doubt the most valuable Einstein manuscript ever to come to auction,” the statement read.
French astrophysicist Etienne Klein elaborated in a video shared by Christie’s, according to ABC News.
“Even today, in 2021, when we study cosmology, or even when we study fusions of black holes, gravitational waves, pulsars, we still use Einstein’s equations,” he said.
“Over a century after being laid down on paper by Einstein, they are still the right equations for describing any gravitational phenomenon.”
And on Tuesday the relic sold for an astounding $13.3 million euros, which is over $15 million U.S. The winner bid by phone and wished to remain anonymous — but they certainly have a one-of-a-kind piece in their collection now.
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