According to reports, the total number of people who have ever lived on Earth exceeds 100 billion. Out of all of them, only a handful have been more influential than Albert Einstein.
Einstein: Life & Career
Born in the Spring of 1873, the young Albert grew up in modest circumstances with a strive to reach greatness. Einstein’s first profession out of college was as a patent clerk at the Swiss Federal Office for Intellectual Property in Bern. Einstein later fondly remembered the patent office where he” hatched his most beautiful ideas.” At the age of 16, Einstein submitted his first scientific essay, and it wouldn’t be the last. The annus mirabilis of Einstein’s life and career was arguably 1905. In that year, Einstein published four groundbreaking papers, one of which: The Special Theory of Relativity.
Einstein established himself as one of the finest physicists in the world. Along with being awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, Einstein became an international celebrity. Everyone knew of his existence. Only Charlie Chaplin was more famous, which is remarkable since Einstein was a physicist and mathematician. Even today, Einstein is a mainstream name; even so that his name is synonymous with greatness.” You’re an Einstein” literally means you’re smart. The impact that the great Albert Einstein made on the world and for generations to come is unprecedented. He is, arguably, the most extraordinary human being of the 20th century. And undoubtedly, one of the greatest in all human history.
Due to Einstein being so historically significant and relevant in today’s culture, there’s no surprise that there’s a massive international interest in collecting items connected to him. There are many types of Einstein-related items that are highly collectible, and some examples are original photographs of him, first editions of his books and publications, and items that’s been personally owned by Einstein. The latter category is generally very expensive. Some examples of items owned by Einstein that have been sold at auction are his Longines wristwatch which sold for $596,000 in 2008, his leather jacket that sold for $141,000 in 2016, and his violin, which sold for $516,000 in 2018.
Einstein: Handwritten & Signed
There’s, however, one category that hasn’t been mentioned yet – and this is arguably the most interesting category in terms of Einstein memorabilia. I’m referring, of course, to handwritten material. Einstein wrote very frequently. Everything from personal letters to friends and family to mathematical and physical manuscripts. The quantity of handwritten and/or signed material by Einstein is somewhat high. Just his signature on a paper cut would cost you around $3,000 to $6,000, depending on the condition, while a signed photograph typically costs $5,000 up to $25,000. There are some exceptions, though. If the photograph itself is remarkable, e.g., the famous photograph of Einstein sticking out his tongue, the price would exceed $100,000. Another exception would be a signed photograph with a remarkable inscription to, let’s say, J. Robert Oppenheimer or Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The most expensive handwriting by Einstein doesn’t even have to include his signature. A signature is always a great feature, but it’s all about the content. A scientific manuscript about The Theory of Relativity or the famous E = mc² formula is, of course, of very high interest. The same goes for handwritten letters regarding his thoughts on peace, the Second World War, Nuclear weapons, the Nobel Prize, etc. What differentiates a $10,000 manuscript by Einstein from one that costs a million dollars is simply the content. The same could be said about any historical figure. A handwritten letter by Richard Nixon regarding the Watergate scandal or the Apollo XI spaceflight is obviously more interesting and hence more valuable than a letter where Nixon writes about his dogs.
Looking at books, autographs, and manuscripts auctions around the world, it’s not seldom to see that the top lot of the auction is an Einstein item. Over the years, there have been many impressive auction results for spectacular handwritten manuscripts, notes, and letters by Albert Einstein. Here are some examples.
$14,672,000 – “The General Theory of Relativity”
A 52-page handwritten manuscript with early calculations of one of the world’s most important breakthroughs in physics. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity is the current description of gravitation in modern physics. With this being an early draft, Christie’s estimated the lot to sell for close to $3 million, but the market showed the actual value of this remarkable manuscript.
$1,560,000 – “The Theory of Happiness”
A short handwritten note that Einstein gave as a tip to a courier in Japan in 1922. The note reads in full: “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” According to the Israeli auction house Winner’s Auctions, the handwritten note was expected to sell below $10,000, but the hammer price shocked all.
$1,243,000 – “E = mc²”
A handwritten letter to a fellow physicist in 1946, which features the most famous scientific formula of all time. Prior to the auction in 2021, which was held by RR Auction, this was the only known example of “E = mc²” handwritten by Einstein in private hands.
The Theory of World Peace
A highly remarkable manuscript that isn’t listed above is Albert Einstein’s “Theory of World Peace”. The 3-page manuscript contains elements of both of Einstein’s lifelong pursuits: research in astrophysics and the almost impossible goal of achieving world peace! A courageous and politically revealing dissertation, along with some compelling equations in electromagnetics written out in longhand by Einstein.
On June 22, 1940, after becoming a citizen of the United States, Einstein attended a historically significant radio interview in which he spoke about his political viewpoints regarding world peace. The manuscript in question is much probably a draft of the radio interview as it contains much similar content. The year” 1940″ is also written on the first page, strengthening the fact that the manuscript is connected to the interview. Below is a full transcript of the manuscript, which was originally written in German.
“The old League of Nations has failed because it was not founded on a partial renunciation of sovereignty by its member states and because it lacked any kind of executive power. A world state can only ensure peace if its constituent states hand over all their military resources to it.”
“I am convinced that an international political organization is not only possible but even if the situation for human beings on our planet is not to become simply unendurable.”
“Exaggerated nationalism is an artificially created emotional state that is bound up with the need to be prepared for war that is dominating the states at present. This exaggerated nationalism would quickly disappear with an end to the danger of war. I also consider it incorrect to suppose that the unequal geographical distribution of raw materials must necessarily lead to wars. As long as a nation is not kept from obtaining the materials needed for its industrial development, it can perfectly well hold its own economically, as countries like Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, and Norway, which were among the most thriving in Europe before the war, clearly prove. Ensuring the unimpeded distribution of raw materials and free access to markets would naturally be one of the important functions of an international order. As far as the solution to the internal economic-social problems is concerned, however, this would be something that could mainly be left to the political-social development of the individual states, all the more so since staging a war as a means of distracting from popular dissatisfaction would be ruled out.”
“I believe that this is understandable enough. Scholars and artists have indeed often had lasting influence through their works, including in the political sphere. In order to directly influence the course of political events, however, a person needs to have the gift of immediately influencing people’s actions. Such influence is usually based more on the art of arousing and skillfully making use of feelings and personal trust than on the ability to clearly recognize connections. Intellectuals, therefore, usually have few prospects of making an impression on a gathering of people. They also usually lack the gift of making quick decisions.”
“Among the important statesmen of America, Wilson is probably the clearest representative of the intellectual type. He, too, appears to have been no master of the art of dealing with people. On a superficial glance, his greatest work, the League of Nations, looks today like a fiasco.”
“But in my opinion, this work, which was mutilated by his contemporaries and found no understanding among his own countrymen, will come back to life later on in a new, more viable form. Only then will the significance of this great innovator be generally recognized.”
“Doesn’t a statement express an impermissible optimism? Is it possible to strive for an international order based on justice while on the other side of the Atlantic, brute force is crushing one democratic country after another?”
“I’m far from being optimistic, and I did restrict what I said by the clause “if the situation for human beings on our planet is not to become simply unendurable.” No one will dispute that we are now much further from the stated goal than seemed to be the case ten years ago. This did not have to happen if the democratic states had developed the spirit of sacrifice and the solidarity that are now becoming evident in the hour of need. However, a spirit of sacrifice, solidarity, and keen foresight is most effective precisely when the hour of bitter necessity has not yet struck. May our America, through the resolute action of its citizens and its statesmen, be spared such an hour!”
The manuscript was written during an ongoing war. The war also happens to be the biggest and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries. Einstein criticizes the current world status, especially The League of Nations, and implies that a new international organization is “absolutely necessary”. Much of what Einstein writes goes together with the foundation of the United Nations, which was founded in 1945 after the Second World War ended. Einstein’s powerful opening also refers to the fact that the new international organization (“world state”) shall have military resources, which is the case with the United Nations.
Besides his iconic appearance, the most important factor of why Einstein is so important, influential, and relevant today is that his scientific theories still are current and correct. The same could be said about his Theory of World Peace. Although there have been many wars in the world after the Second World War, it hasn’t been a Third World War. The United Nations is arguably the most crucial player in that achievement. And five years before the UN was founded, Einstein wrote this manuscript; hence being a very historically important manuscript.
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