(Image Credit: Taton Moise/Unsplash)
Better keep better notes of your work! Could be a piece of historical importance some day.
On November 23rd, Albert Einstein and Michele Besso’s rare 54-page manuscript was sold to an unnamed private individual at an auction for a record-shattering $13 million. Christie’s auction house said this sale sets a new record for the most expensive scientific document. Christie’s also noted that the auction grabbed interest from worldwide buyers.
Sometime between June 1913 and early 1914, both Einstein and Besso wrote the document while testing equations that eventually turned out to be the foundation of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Each calculation is written on squared paper and yellowed leaves of foolscap. Einstein wrote 26 pages of the document, while Besso wrote twenty-four. Three pages were written together by the two. Most pages even include margin notes, such as “stimmt!”, translated to “it works!” in English, written by Einstein beside an equation.
This is an exception manuscript, especially because Einstein rarely held onto his drafts. Thankfully, Besso decided to keep most of their work intact for future generations. Due to Besso’s preservation efforts, this is one of the two manuscripts that demonstrate the foundation of general relativity.
Einstein’s letter to an opposing physicist also sold for $1.2 million at an auction in May 2021. Additionally, Einstein's two notes for a Tokyo hotel bellboy sold for $1.5 million in 2017. Christie’s Eureka! Auction sold Thomas Edison’s work toward the completion of his lightbulb design. The papers show experiments he performed between 1880 and 1886. At this point, Edison was working to improve his incandescent bulb. The auction also sold Stephen Hawking’s black hole paper.
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