Lot 383

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Einstein in English on Science and Military “means of mass destruction”, Mentions Faraday and Rutherford Too, Fantastic Letter!

Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Typed Letter Signed, "A. Einstein", 1p, on his blind-embossed personal stationery, 8.5" x 11", Princeton, February 18, 1949. To Australian pathologist Alton R. Chapple (1907-1999). Expected mailing folds with light creasing and scattered foxing, none of which affects the bright, bold signature. Ex-Sotheby’s.

In this important, timeless letter, Einstein observes, "that in all countries the power is in the hands of power-loving persons who know very little restrictions when it comes to the realization of ambitious goals", stating that this is true of the dictatorial as well as the democratic system. As to whether "self-restraint from the part of productive thinkers and explorers could not prevent further development of means of mass destruction", Einstein believed that no salvation can be expected for such behavior, for three main reasons: 

“1): The already generally known means of destruction are effective enough to bring about total destruction. 

2): People really devoted to the progress of knowledge concerning the physical world like Faraday or Rutherford have never worked for practical goals, let alone military goals. And nobody could know in advance what kind of application might be developed on the basis of their discoveries.

3): People of technical skill are so numerous and so dependent economically that they cannot be expected to refuse employment offered them by the state or private industry, even if they were able to clearly recognize that their work will lead to disaster on a worldwide scale.”

Einstein concludes, “Hope can only be based only in the intellectual and moral independence of a sufficient number of people the world over who can resist all the nefarious influences brought to bear upon them...Honesty and courage of the individual to stand up for his convictions on every occasion is the only essential thing.”

Throughout the duration of the Second World War, Albert Einstein remained steadfast in his insistence on forceful, aggressive action against Nazi Germany. Immediately after the conclusion of the war, and once the full extent of the horror caused by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was revealed, he again advanced, just as vociferously, the pacifist agenda he had subscribed to through most of his life, and quickly became one of the world's leading proponents of nuclear disarmament.

In the ominous shadow of the Soviet-American nuclear arms race, and with the terrifying specter of nuclear holocaust rendered more palpable than ever, Dr. Alton R. Chapple turned to Einstein with a passionate entreaty to hear words of leadership and hope from the renowned scientist.

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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March 15, 2023 11:00 AM EDT
Wilton, CT, US

University Archives

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