University Archives


Albert Einstein TLS Re: Reflections on the 200th Anniversary of Sir Isaac Newton's Death

A superb 1p typed letter in German signed by Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the much-admired German theoretical physicist, as "A. Einstein" at lower right. Written in Schöneberg, a locality of Berlin, Germany, on March 19, 1927, just a day before March 20, 1927, the 200th anniversary of the death of British physicist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). With expected paper folds and light scattered foxing, else near fine. 8" x 11."

In this letter to German philosopher Dr. Paul Feldkeller (1889-1972), Einstein states that he had been besieged by requests from the scholarly community to reflect on the fast approaching death bicentenary of Sir Isaac Newton.

Translated in part: "As far as the Newton article is concerned, you can imagine that such requests have reached me in large numbers. I have written a long-promised article for 'Naturwissenschaften' that you can reprint, if you deem it appropriate, but only with the note 'reprinted from Naturwissenschaften'…"

Einstein's "Newton article" referred to his "Newton's Mechanics and Its Influence on the Formation of Theoretical Physics." The article was published a week later, on March 25, 1927, in Issue 15 of "Naturwissenschaften," or "Natural Sciences," the German scientific periodical. Nor was this the only tribute which Einstein wrote about his predecessor: his "Greetings for the Commemoration of Newton's Bicentenary" appeared in the March 26, 1927 issue of "Nature," and his "On the 200th Anniversary of Isaac Newton's Death" was published in the March 1927 issue of "North and South: Monthly for International Cooperation." Einstein's retrospective "Isaac Newton" also appeared in the "Smithsonian Institution Annual Report" for the year ending June 30, 1927. In these articles, Einstein discussed the merits and limitations of Newton's scientific contributions, as well as connected them to his own investigations of general relativity.

Einstein's widely recognized status as one of the leading physicists of the twentieth century qualified him to speak about Newton, his seventeenth century predecessor, whose fundamental discoveries in gravitation and mechanics influenced Einstein's own work.

Einstein's correspondent Paul Feldkeller was a German philosopher whose diverse interests led him to write about art history, criminal law, war journalism, and psychology among other subjects.

The content of this letter--drawing a connection as it does between two of the greatest scientists of all time--alone makes it extremely valuable. Yet other passing references are also of interest.

For example, Einstein mentions Felix Eberty (1812-1884), one of his favorite writers, in the opening sentence of this letter, in the context of writing a foreword for a new edition of Eberty's works published in 1923. Eberty was writing about traveling at the speed of light as early as 1846. Einstein used themes from Eberty's popular works to introduce his complicated scientific ideas to lay audiences.

In the letter, Einstein also refers to Arnold Berliner (1862-1942), the founder of "Natural Sciences," who also served as its editor-in-chief between 1913-1935. Berliner, a fellow German physicist, had established "Natural Sciences" in 1913 to compete with its English language equivalent "Nature." "Natural Sciences" is still published today, though under a different name: "The Science of Nature."

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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