Science

Rare Einstein manuscript fetches record €11.6m at Paris auction

Einstein, who died in 1955 aged 76, was lauded as one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time.
Einstein, who died in 1955 aged 76, was lauded as one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time. TIMOTHY A. CLARY AFP

Albert Einstein's handwritten notes for his theory of relativity, which contain preparatory work for the physicist's signature achievement, fetched a record 11.6 million euros at an auction in Paris on Tuesday.

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The manuscript had been valued at around a quarter of the final sum which, is by far the highest ever paid for a manuscript by the genius scientist. It went under the hammer at the prestigeous Aguttes auction house in Paris.

Calling the notes "without a doubt the most valuable Einstein manuscript ever to come to auction", Christie's – which handled the sale on behalf of the Aguttes auction house – had estimated it would fetch two to three million euros.

Previous records for Einstein's works were $2.8 million for the so-called "God letter" in 2018, and $1.56 million in 2017 for a letter about the secret to happiness.

Screen grab from the Aguttes catalogue describing the Einstein-Besso document that went under the hammer on 23 November 2021.
Screen grab from the Aguttes catalogue describing the Einstein-Besso document that went under the hammer on 23 November 2021. © Screengrab Aguttes catalogue

Anomaly

The auction was first reported by Spanish news agency Efe on 2 September.

The manuscript was written in 1913, when Einstein worked in Zurich with the Swiss physicist Michele Besso.

The paper shows attempts to offer an explanation for an anomaly in the orbit of the planet Mercury, which was a mystery to scientists at the time.

Einstein and Besso proposed calculations to show that the anomaly could prove the theory of relativity.

The Einstein-Besso manuscript, a 54-page working manuscript written jointly by Albert Einstein and Michele Besso between June 1913 and early 1914, which documents a crucial stage in the development of the general theory of relativity, is displayed at Christie's auction house in Paris, France, November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Antony Paone
The Einstein-Besso manuscript, a 54-page working manuscript written jointly by Albert Einstein and Michele Besso between June 1913 and early 1914, which documents a crucial stage in the development of the general theory of relativity, is displayed at Christie's auction house in Paris, France, November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Antony Paone © REUTERS/Antony Paone

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