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Lot #199
Albert Einstein

Using laymen’s terms, Einstein disproves a philosophical interpretation to his Theory of Relativity

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Using laymen’s terms, Einstein disproves a philosophical interpretation to his Theory of Relativity

Incredible ALS in German, signed “A. Einstein,” one page, 8.5 x 11, December 26, 1936. A rejection letter to a gentleman who had submitted a manuscript for Einstein’s review and hopeful recommendation for publication. In full: “I cannot recommend your manuscript for publication, because it does not relate to the essence of the theory. Indeed, it is even wrong that it was named Relativity Theory. The term is justified only as it refers to movement in a sense of movement relative to something else, and that the considerations are based on consequent application of this simple fact. However, the matter has nothing to do with the superficial declaration ‘everything is relative.’ To begin with, it is correct that every reasonable statement expresses a relation. This is even evident from the linguistic construction of every sentence. However, the relation expressed in a (complete) statement always requires absolute meaning. This actually is a matter of fact. Naturally, this also applies to the Theory of Relativity and all statements contained therein. It is not at all a philosophical theory, but a purely physical one. It is an attempt to theoretically describe a certain group of phenomena in a more satisfactory manner than implied by earlier theories. The talk that this theory is particularly difficult to grasp is also pure nonsense, originally introduced by superficial journalists. I regret not being able to fulfill your request and remain with best regards.” Accompanied by the original mailing envelope. In fine condition, with scattered light toning and foxing, as well as a few minor creases.

Einstein’s main argument in this letter is that popular culture is misrepresenting his Theory of Relativity. When he states that people have tendency to use the term “everything is relative” to apply to their philosophical ideas, it suggests an applicability of “relativity” to morality and other philosophical areas, an application not intended by the physical theory. Einstein meant his theory to be purely mathematical and not subject to any opinions or assumptions. This was a bone of contention with Einstein as he disapproved of the press’s misrepresentation of his Theory.

Einstein’s handwritten letters are quite scarce, and letters with direct reference to his famed Theory of Relativity are few and very far between. This combination of the two, with Einstein’s rare and very personal insight into his famous Theory, is one of the finest Einstein letter we’ve encountered. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RRAuction COA.

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  • Dates: #353 - Ended January 23, 2010

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