Lot 331

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Einstein Superb Scientific Letter Dispelling Competition to Theory of Relativity: “'Geometrization' is something fundamental. It is nothing more than a donkey's bridge for discovering numerical laws."

EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed, "A. Einstein", 1p, in German, on a postcard measuring 3.5" x 5.5". Addressed on the verso in Einstein's hand to Dr. Hans Reichenbach in Stuttgart, Germany. Postmarked April 7, 1926 in Berlin, and again, on April 8, 1926 in Stuttgart. Two punch holes at top corners. Some show-through from postmarks, not affecting legibility of text. Slight smudging to red ink on verso. Light toning and foxing. Overall, in very fine condition.

Einstein writes concerning Reichenbach's recent work on geometrization of the magnetic field, as well as his criticism of Hermann Weyl's similar theory. Einstein's letter, translated in full, "Dear Mr. Reichenbach / You are absolutely right. It would be incorrect to assume that 'Geometrization' is something fundamental. It is nothing more than a donkey's bridge for discovering numerical laws. Considering this a theory for 'geometric' representation would be just an inconsequential matter of personal preference. Fundamentally new is that Weyl, by subjecting the transformation formula in addition to invariance to a new requirement, namely the ('calibration invariant'). However, this advantage is neutralized because switching to equations of the fourth order will be necessary, which in turn means a substantial increase of the arbitrary factor. / I am sending best regards / Yours A. Einstein." He then adds a postscript, "If there is anything I can do for you, do let me know."

At the time of this letter, Reichenbach and Einstein, still living and teaching in Berlin, were communicating about the former's construction of a theory establishing a connection between electricity and geometry, which he believed was as effective as that of general relativity connecting gravitation and geometry. Reichenbach concluded, however, that his theory was less successful than that of general relativity, and he informed Einstein in a prior letter that based on his experiments, evidence proved that geometrization of a physical field cannot be considered a significant advancement. In the here offered letter, Einstein appears to agree with Reichenbach, while at the same time criticizing Hermann Weyl's own theory on geometrization of the electromagnetic field. 

Hans Reichenbach (1891-1953) was born in Hamburg, Germany, to a half-Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, studied civil engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Stuttgart, and then studied physics, philosophy, and mathematics in Berlin, Munich and Göttingen. His doctoral dissertation, The Concept of Probability in the Mathematical Representation of Reality, was completed in 1915. 

After serving in the German army from 1915 to 1917, Reichenbach returned to Berlin, where he attended Albert Einstein's lectures on relativity and statistical mechanics. He was greatly influenced by Einstein and became a life-long friend of the Nobel Laureate. He wrote several popular articles defending Einstein, especially in the context of the observations of the solar eclipse of 1919 confirming the predictions of the general theory of relativity. In 1920, he published The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge, which demonstrated the influence of Einstein's work. Reichenbach taught natural philosophy at the University of Berlin from 1926 to 1933, when he was forced to flee Germany under the Hitler regime. He subsequently taught in Istanbul, Turkey, and at UCLA in the United States. Reichenbach obtained his American citizenship in 1943.

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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November 2, 2022 11:00 AM EDT
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