JERUSALEM – Albert Einstein’s complete archives – from personal correspondence with half a dozen lovers to notebooks scribbled with his groundbreaking scientific research – are going online for the first time.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which owns the German Jewish physicist’s papers, is pulling never-before seen items from its climate-controlled safe, photographing them in high resolution and posting them on the Internet – offering the public a nuanced and fuller portrait of the man behind the scientific genius.
Only 900 manuscript images, and an incomplete catalog listing just half of the archive’s contents, had been posted online since 2003. Now, with a grant from the Polonsky Foundation UK, which previously helped digitize Isaac Newton’s papers, all 80,000 items from the Einstein collection have been cataloged and enhanced with cross-referencing technology.
The updated Web portal, unveiled Monday, features the full inventory of the Einstein archives, publicizing for the first time the entirety of what’s inside the collection and giving scholars a chance to request access to items they previously never knew existed.
“Knowledge is not about hiding. It’s about openness,” said Menachem Ben Sasson, president of the Hebrew University.
Einstein, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist whose theory of relativity revolutionized science, was one of the founders of the university. He contributed the original manuscript of his famed theory to the university when it was founded in 1925, four years after he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. He bequeathed the rest of his papers to the university upon his death in 1955.
The portal now offers a close look at an initial 7,000 pages from Einstein’s personal and public life up to the year 1921. In the coming years, archivists will slowly upload the remainder of the collection.