AMSTERDAM, Netherlands – The manuscript of a paper Albert Einstein published in 1925 has been found in the archives of Leiden University’s Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics, scholars said Saturday.
The handwritten manuscript titled “Quantum theory of the monatomic ideal gas” was dated December 1924. Considered one of Einstein’s last great breakthroughs, it was published in the proceedings of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in January 1925.
High-resolution photographs of the 16-page, German-language document and an account of its discovery were posted on the institute’s Web site.
“It was quite exciting” when a student working on his master’s thesis uncovered the delicate manuscript written in Einstein’s distinctive scrawl, said professor Carlo Beenakker. “You can even see Einstein’s fingerprints in some places, and it’s full of notes and markups from his editor.”
“We’re going to keep it as a reminder of his visits here, which is quite a fond memory for us,” he said.
The German-born physicist, who was Jewish, taught in Berlin between 1914 and 1933, fleeing to the United States after Adolf Hitler’s rise. .
Einstein was a frequent guest lecturer at Leiden in the 1920s due to his friendship with physicist Paul Ehrenfest, among whose papers the manuscript was found.
The paper predicted that at temperatures near absolute zero – about 460 degrees below zero – particles in a gas can reach a state of such low energy that they clump together in one larger “mono-atom.”
The idea was developed in collaboration with Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose and the then-theoretical state of matter was dubbed a Bose-Einstein condensation.
In 1995, University of Colorado at Boulder scientists Eric Cornell and Carl Wiemann created such a condensation using a gas of the element rubidium and were awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 2001, together with Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Beenakker said the student who found the manuscript, Rowdy Boeyink, was painstakingly reviewing documents in the archive for a thesis on Ehrenfest when he came across the Einstein manuscript and immediately recognized its importance.
He said Boeyink had found other interesting documents during his search, including a letter from Danish physicist Niels Bohr, and was all but certain to receive top marks on his thesis.