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1   Albert Einstein  $20000 $20000 $22000 1 You must login to place a bid.

#1 - Albert Einstein

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Einstein’s brief history of physics:“It became even clearer that light is an undulatory phenomenon”
Description                           Estimate: $100,000+          

ALS in pencil in German, signed “A. E.,” one page both sides, 8.5 x 11, January 7, 1954. Letter to J. W. De Haas, patiently chronicling the history of ether theory. In part (translated): "Originally, the physicist tried to make do with space, time, and material particles. Everything else should have been derivable from these. Real difficulties arose, however, when it became even clearer that light is an undulatory phenomenon. In the case of water waves, waves were clearly recognized as a condition of something else (a wavelike movement of material). It is no wonder that one felt it necessary to understand light in an analogous manner—a view that was, at first, increasingly successful. For this reason, physicists decided, (not without internal hesitation), to accept as possible the existence of a material that could not be perceived (Ether), and to understand light as a wavelike movement of such. When, through Faraday-Maxwell, the science of the electromagnetic field and of light were discovered and increasingly better understood, then it was no longer difficult to conceive of light as a motion. Instead of counter-posing a mass to it, one was even more forced to give the electromagnetic field an independent existence alongside of material particles. This transition (of thought) was almost brought to a conclusion by Lorentz, insofar as he understood that the (electro-magnetic) field with it abiding law was completely independent from material particles. The only thing retained from the earlier mode of thinking was the idea that the field was necessarily understood as a (not further analyzable materially-based) quality of something else. That one makes oneself unnecessarily heavy through such prejudice of vision, was something that no-one at first thought of. Gradually, however, this Ether disappeared by its theoretical vagueness, for the sole reason that it had no role in theory. As long as things stand as such, there is no sense in schlepping Ether into your thinking. For this reason your plan seems to me to be as if a psychologist were trying to prove the existence of ghosts through a thorough study of dreams.” In very good to fine condition, with intersecting folds and some smudging to the text affecting a few words.

This remarkable letter harkens back to the earliest days of Einstein’s study—while in Italy at just 16 years old in 1895, he wrote what is generally considered his first scientific paper, entitled ‘On the Investigation of the State of the Ether in a Magnetic Field.’ This study stemmed from the late 19th century idea that light was propagated through a ‘luminiferous aether,’ a concept used to explain its wave-like qualities. Here, Einstein discusses the ether theory proposed by Hendrik Lorentz between 1892 and 1904, which introduced a strict separation between matter and ether in a model in which the ether is completely motionless. Ultimately, it was Einstein’s own theory of special relativity that dealt the death blow to the ether concept—a step in its history that he neglects to mention here, a testament to his humility. Epitomizing Einstein’s professorial simplicity and vast knowledge of scientific history, this letter exists as one of the finest Einstein pieces we have encountered. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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