Early handwritten letter by Prof. Dr. Planck to his former pupil: "I have a great deal to do with student papers right at this time"
ALS in German, signed “M. Planck,” one page, 5.5 x 8.75, June 12, 1896. Handwritten letter to Dr. Ludwik Silberstein, in full (translated): "I have received your friendly letter of the 3rd of this month. However, I ask your forgiveness if it is not possible for me to fulfill your wish and suggest several topics for your friend to work on. The main reason is that I do not know the gentleman in question at all and therefore also do not know what preparation he brings to the task in question. It is surely not just a matter here of the wording of the topic, but rather of more detailed explanation, indication of the best methods, and ongoing interest in the course of the execution. I am unable to take all this on in this case, however, and still less so as I have a great deal to do with student papers right at this time. I hope that you will understand my reasons." In fine condition, with a few tiny stains.
Silberstein earned his doctorate at Berlin’s Friedrich Wilhelm University in July 1894, where Max Planck was a professor and his PhD examiner in physics. Of Silberstein's dissertation, a paper on 'mechanical conception of electromagnetic phenomena in insulators and semiconductors,' Hermann von Helmholtz wrote: 'Mr. Silberstein’s work shows clear understanding of difficult and abstract problems and aptness for mathematical treatment. I propose its assessment as: 'sollertiae et ingenii specimen laudabile.'' Planck supported this judgment, noting: 'I agree in all points.'
In this instance, it seems that Silberstein reached out to his old professor to ask for suggestions for a friend's research. Planck, not knowing the person's depth of knowledge and besieged by enough student papers, declines to comply.
Click here to read the full translation.
From the collection of physicist Ludwik Siberstein.