Albert Einstein, Up Close and Personal, Now Online

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem this week began posting its extensive collection of private letters, postcards and research notes written by famed physicist Albert Einstein, a project that ultimately will include about 80,000 documents.

The items at alberteinstein.info include a rare manuscript wth the formula Einstein proposed in 1905 to explain the theory of relativity, E=mc2, where E (energy) equals mass (m) times the speed of light in a vacuum (c) squared.

The collection also includes Einstein's love letters to his mistress, who later became his second wife, and a proposal for bringing about peace in the Middle East.

"This is going to be not only something to satisfy the curiosity of the curious,” former Hebrew University president and archive overseer Hanoch Gutfreund said during a press conference. "It also will be a great education and research tool for academics."

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Einstein was one of Hebrew University's founders. He bequeated his papers and the rights to the use of his image to the school upon his death in 1955.

Initially, the Einstein Archives Online website includes about 2,000 documents, or 7,000 pages, covering Einstein’s personal and professional life through 1921. The rest of the collection, which includes 14 notebooks with research notes, fanmail and private correspondences with his lovers, will be posted over the coming years.

Along with scans of the original documents, the bulk of which are in Einstein's native German, the university will publish English translations and notes.

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The project is part of an initiative with Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology to publish annotated scholarly work on all of Einstein's papers.

The Polonsky Foundation UK is backing the digital archive, a follow-on to a similar initiative to digitize Sir Isaac Newton's writings. That project, undertaken by the University of Cambridge, attracted 29 million hits in its first 24 hours.

"We have every reason to believe that the launch of the expanded Einstein website will attract as much attention as the Newton papers," Polonsky said in a statement. "Clearly, there is a pent-up demand for open access to these intellectual treasures."

(Image: The Nobel Prize-winning physicist at his home in Princeton, NJ, in 1949. Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life magazine) 

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