Albert Einstein’s co-authored manuscript featuring the theory of relativity was sold at €11.7 million euros (around US$13.1 million dollars) on Tuesday. It broke the record for an autographed scientific document by Einstein.
The manuscript is one of two papers that the world-renowned physicist’s workings on his great scientific breakthrough. Published in 1915, the General Relativity theory transformed humankind's understanding of space, time and gravity.
According to sources quoted by various media, the buyer who purchased the Einstein manuscript was Hong Kong’s property tycoon, Li Ka-shing.
The 54-page manuscript was co-authored by Einstein and his colleague, Besso
World-renowned physicist, Albert Einstein
The auction was jointly organised by Christie's and Aguttes in Paris.
Comprising of 54 pages, the document was handwritten between 1913 and 1914 by Einstein and his Swiss colleague, Michele Besso. 26 pages were in Einstein’s handwriting, 25 pages in Besso’s and 3 pages with entries of both collaborators.
There are two manuscripts on general relativity written by Einstein in the world. One is currently in the Einstein Archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, while the other appeared at this auction. Christie’s experts explained that Einstein did not keep his drafts, and it was thanks to his close friend and academic partner, Besso, that the documents are preserved to this day.
The manuscript is full of calculations and formulas, and it has many traces of two people revising the calculations. From the manuscript, it can be understood that Einstein and Besso tried to use the former's early version of the field equations to explain the anomaly of Mercury's orbit.
The manuscript has many traces of revised calculations
The related formulas can be regarded as an important step for Einstein to move from Special to General Relativity.
Simply put, the Special Relativity theory describes the state of matter when it moves at a constant velocity. Matters move at a constant velocity when there is no external force. On Earth, all matters are affected by gravity and have different accelerations, which makes it difficult to apply special relativity.
But he did not stop there, and wanted to understand how special relativity deals with acceleration. So, in Eistein's new theory, called General Relativity, the world-renowned physicist formulated the movement of matter in a gravitational field.
Through this theory, physicists successfully determined the phonemona of the orbit of Mercury, which challenged scientists for many years.
Li Ka-shing, reportedly the manuscript's buyer, is a property tycoon in Hong Kong
Einstein's God Letter was sold for US$2.8 milion dollars at Christie's New York in 2018
The manuscript was estimated at €2 to 3 million euros, which attracted bidders from all over the world. In the end, the manuscript was sold at a record-breaking €11.7 million euros (around US$13.1 million dollars) – far exceeding expectations.
Christie’s did not announce the buyer’s identity. But according to a number of Hong Kong media outlets, the buyer is Li Ka-shing – a property tycoon in Hong Kong and one of the most influential businessmen in Asia.
This manuscript last appeared in auction in 2002, when Christie’s New York sold it for approximately US$560,000 dollars. Its value has risen by more than 20 times in almost 20 years.
Einstein's manuscript auction record was previously set in 2018. The God Letter he wrote to German-Jewish religious philosopher, Eric Gutkind, a year before his death was sold for US$2.8 million dollars at Christie's New York.